This Is Exactly How Soon to Start Holiday Shopping This Year

Our editors share their guide for holiday shopping like a pro.

October 02, 2020
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Photo by: mallmo/Getty Images

mallmo/Getty Images

One of the biggest questions when it comes to holiday shopping is when to start. Some shoppers are early birds and have gifts wrapped before Thanksgiving rolls around. Others believe the holiday season — and shopping — doesn’t start until after the turkey dinner. Our shopping editors have learned that a blended strategy of both early and last-minute shopping generally works best for everyone. Get the big-ticket items you really want early and on-sale, allowing yourself time to get creative with stocking stuffers and sentimental gifts throughout the holiday season. Below, we break down holiday shopping into an easy-to-remember timeline, so you can shop stress-free and give every gift right on time.

Don't forget to check out our holiday gifts guides for everyone on your list before you shop.

When to Shop Sales

You might be accustomed to waiting until Black Friday and Cyber Monday to snag large discounts on holiday shopping, but this year we’re shopping sales on a rolling basis. Amazon’s Prime Day will offer super-low prices during the two-day sale on October 13 and 14, making it the perfect opportunity to get started on holiday shopping earlier than normal. Plus, other brands are jumping on the early-fall sale trend, too. Target has announced its Deals Day will also take place on October 13 and 14, which they've promoted as their kick-off to holiday shopping.

If you’re really eager to get your holiday shopping started, you can get great deals on kitchen goods right now during Kohl’s Friends and Family Sale, which ends October 4, Sur la Table’s Anniversary Sale, which ends October 5 and Macy’s VIP sale, which runs through October 6.

When to Shop Online

Finish placing online orders about two weeks before the holiday you’re celebrating. Online shopping success is dependent on shipping time, and brands have been experiencing shipping delays throughout the pandemic. What used to take a couple of days to make it to your front door, may take a whole week (or longer) now. Keep in mind, also, that this is an election year, and because of COVID-19 concerns, more people than ever are voting by mail. Items sent via the United States Postal Service may experience more delays than other shipping methods during late-October and early-November.

Walmart and Bed Bath & Beyond have announced next-day and same-day shipping repsectively, and we wouldn’t be surprised if other major retailers follow suit for the holidays. Before relying on same-day shipping methods from any retailer, make sure you’re located within the same-day delivery radius. We also recommend planning to place your final same-day shipping orders a week before the holiday you’re celebrating in case of unexpected shipping delays or stocking issues.

Finally, if a product you’re looking for is out of stock online, give customer service a call to find out when it will be restocked or if a unit can be shipped to you from a nearby store. Sometimes you may even get free shipping or an in-store discount for your trouble.

When to Shop In-Person

We recommend leaving in-person shopping for after November 1 when holiday collections are fully stocked at most retailers. However, unlike years past, this is not the time to head to the crowded shopping mall on Christmas Eve to get a last-minute gift. This year, in-person holiday shopping will need to be much more efficient, so have a list of stores to visit and specific products to buy — and time. Some stores may limit the amount of customers in the store at one time, which means you could be waiting in line to get inside for anywhere from minutes to hours.

Another option for an almost-in-person shopping experience is store pickup. Major retailers like Target and Walmart offer store pickup year-round, and we anticipate similar offerings this year for the holidays. If you still want to have a quick look at stocking stuffers or holiday pajamas, order big-ticket items for pickup to give yourself an extra 20 minutes to browse some smaller gifts that, let’s be honest, are way more fun to buy anyway.

When to Shop Small Businesses

Right now, small businesses need our support more than ever. We encourage you to shop small as much as possible, and this holds especially true during the holidays. This year, getting started early is important for a few reasons. First, many small businesses are still struggling to stay open due to lack of revenue for rent, PPE and other pandemic necessities. Simply put, waiting a couple months to buy gifts at your local shop might be too late.

And, since the U.S. Postal Service is expecting delays, shipping might take longer than usual, especially from a small-owned business which may only make drops to the post office a couple of times a week. Shopping early will give your gifts plenty of time to arrive. And, lastly, as more small business move online, inventory sells out fast, so you should buy gifts when you see them in stock to avoid missing out on the perfect gift for your loved ones.

Holiday Gift Guides: There's Something for Everyone

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