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Shop Smart, Shop Early and Shop with a Budget

Ideas from UT Extension for Holiday Shopping Amid Pandemic Delays

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The 2021 holiday season is set to be different from previous years and will present unique challenges when compared to past holidays. To assist consumers, University of Tennessee Extension consumer economics specialist Christopher Sneed provides tips and ideas to remove the hassle from the holiday shopping.

“By this point in the pandemic, we’re all familiar with empty store shelves, delayed arrivals of online orders and higher prices due to a mismatch between supply and demand,” states Sneed. “But the key is to avoid panic. With a little planning and a head start, you and your family will be all set to ring in the most festive time of year, but the time to start those holiday preparations is now.”

Sneed comments that much of the holiday shopping crunch is due to the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a reduced workforce unable to meet the production, shipping and stocking demands of consumers. But consumers, fresh out of a long period of lockdown, have greater demand and in some cases more money to spend as the pandemic led to reduced travel costs and other decreased expenses.

“Altogether, it’s a perfect storm of mismatched supply and demand, with unmet expectations at every turn,” adds Sneed.

As bleak as this situation may sound, there are several steps consumers can take right now to enter into the pandemic holiday season ready to celebrate fully.

  • Plan – It is imperative that consumers start their holiday shopping and shipping now. Waiting could mean a lack of choices as the peak holiday season nears or delays in those packages arriving at their final destination in time for celebrations.
  • Make a Budget (and stick to it) – Strain between high consumer demand and low or unavailable stock has led to significant price increases, and consumers should keep this in mind as they shop and mark items off their list. Sticking to a budget may mean adjusting purchases, and going into debt in order to buy gifts should be avoided.
  • Get Creative – Gift giving does not always mean a trip to the store or purchases from large online merchants. Instead, some of the best gifts can be those that you create yourself. Consider surprising loved ones with homemade gifts and treats. Involving children or other family members in the creative process can help create both gifts and treasured holiday memories.
  • Shop Small and Local – Supporting small and local businesses is always in season. You may find that perfect and unique gift waiting at your local store. Shopping small and local is an especially good idea this year as these purchases avoid the dreaded question of estimated shipping time and potential delays.
  • Be realistic – The holidays of 2020 are past. Don’t try to make up for last year’s missed family time or altered holiday plans by spending more or purchasing more elaborate gifts this year.

Through its land-grant mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.

Media Contact

Christopher T. Sneed

UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences