3 Good Reasons to Start Your Holiday Shopping Now -- If You Haven't Already

Don’t miss out on must-have items that could sell out long before Black Friday.

Couple at a store holiday shopping.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Retailers big and small have had to revamp their approaches to the holiday shopping experience due to the pandemic. They'll be catering more to online shoppers and offering Black Friday deals well in advance of November 27.

Consumers, too, will need to adapt to win the 2020 holiday shopping season. To score the best deals, the old adage "the early bird gets the worm" applies. If you wait until the last minute, there's a strong chance you won’t find important items on your gift-giving list.

The smart-shopping experts we regularly speak with are warning consumers not to hold out for better deals on Black Friday this year. Here are three good reasons to start your holiday shopping now:

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In-Store Shopping on Black Friday (November 27) Will Be Inefficient, Maybe Even Impossible

If you’re used to store-hopping on Black Friday to knock out your gift list in one fell swoop, 2020 is the year to seriously consider shopping online. Brick-and-mortar retailers will be restricting the volume and movements of shoppers to limit the risk of spreading the coronavirus, says Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst for DealNews.com (opens in new tab). Among the changes that will slow you down: one-way aisles and limits on the number of shoppers allowed in-store at a given time. So brace yourself for long lines and waits outside.

At other stores, you may simply find the doors locked on Black Friday this year. For instance, selected Macy's locations will be closed to the public that day for use instead as online-order pickup points and shipping fulfillment centers.

Many of Black Friday’s in-store doorbuster deals will be available early online -- while they last (see 7 Ways Holiday Shopping Will Be Different This Year). Check your favorite retailers’ weekly circulars or websites to find out when their holiday sales will launch and what products will be discounted. A good resource to use is BlackFriday.com (opens in new tab), which compiles weekly holiday-sale ads from big-box retailers and specialty stores -- from Best Buy to Sam's Club.

Hot Items Will Sell Out Much Faster in 2020

To limit in-store crowds during the Black Friday shopping weekend, many retailers are already promoting holiday sales (that will start earlier than ever in November). For example, Walmart's Black Friday online sale began November 4. Consumers can shop bargains on everything from 65-inch smart TVs to Instant Pots three weeks in advance of Black Friday. With so many people expected to take advantage of these early Black Friday deals, in-demand products such as small kitchen appliances, fitness equipment and electronics are expected to sell out, warns Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com (opens in new tab).

In fact, 53% of people surveyed by the National Retail Federation (NRF) say they will shop earlier than usual in 2020 if the deals are too good to pass up. So here's our three-step plan to snagging popular items -- and saving big:

  • Make your shopping list early, with a special focus on specific products and brands -- say, a Nintendo Switch for your son or a FitBit for Mom and Dad. Check prices, and set a budget.
  • Register for e-mail or text sale alerts from your favorite retailers, and enable your favorite price-comparison apps. (See our list of 16 great deal sites and online-shopping tools to make saving easy.)
  • Be ready to buy as soon as you're alerted to a below-budget deal, even if it means a less-exciting Black Friday later this month.

If you miss out, you may have to resort to paying marked-up prices for desired items from a third-party marketplace such as eBay after they've sold out at big-box retailers, James warns.

Spread Out Your Holiday Spending to Stay on Budget

The NRF says that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $650 on gifts this year.

A big advantage of early, weeks-long access to Black Friday deals is that it gives you a chance to spread out your spending over a few weeks versus a few days, says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch (opens in new tab). "Spreading out gift purchases allows you to manage your cash flow better," explains Woroch. "It's a smarter alternative to trying to save money every week [in advance of a Black Friday spending spree], which is something that many people aren’t as disciplined about."

Andrea Browne Taylor
Online Editor, Kiplinger.com
Browne Taylor joined Kiplinger in 2011 and is a channel editor for Kiplinger.com covering living and family finance topics. She previously worked at the Washington Post as a Web producer in the Style section and prior to that covered the Jobs, Cars and Real Estate sections. She earned a BA in journalism from Howard University in Washington, D.C.