Why You'll Want to Do Your Holiday Shopping Extra Early This Year

Supply chain disruptions and shipping delays mean that waiting for Black Friday might be too late.

If you've done any online shopping over the course of the pandemic, then you may have already experienced firsthand the effects of COVID-related supply chain disruptions. Maybe the sofa you had your heart set on was backordered for six months, or perhaps the new thriller novel you were excited to read had its publication date pushed back. These minor inconveniences may have been the ripple effects of larger issues throughout the global supply chain. Now, as shopping picks up as we near the holiday season, the problems are becoming more pronounced. To understand why the most coveted holiday presents may be impossible to get this year, ensure that your gifts arrive in time, and avoid overspending, consider some of the holiday shopping strategies below.

Why are there supply chain shortages?

COVID-related factory closures and factories working at reduced capacity has lead to a supply shortage. Not only are less products being produced, but issues in transportation mean they're taking longer to get to their destination. When trucks cross the border into a new country or when a ship arrives at a port, the transport workers have had to respond to both changing vaccine requirements at checkpoints, as well as sudden port closures resulting from COVID cases. With countries requiring different vaccinations or documentation, these border restrictions have caused bottlenecks and long delays. Poor treatment, including long hours for truck drivers and extended time aboard cargo ships for seafarers, is prompting many transport workers to leave the industry. During the peak of the crisis in 2020, some seafarers had to stay aboard their ship for as long as 18 months beyond their initial contract. In turn, this worker shortage puts increased strain on the system.

On October 13, the White House said in a press call that it's working to alleviate the bottleneck of goods arriving in the U.S. "Tomorrow, three of the largest goods carriers in the country—Walmart, FedEx, and UPS—will make commitments toward moving to 24/7, working during off-peak hours," a senior administration official said during the call. "Just UPS and FedEx alone, combined, shipped 40 percent of American packages by volume in 2020. By taking these steps, they're saying to the rest of the supply chain, 'You need to move, too. Let's step it up.'" The plan could put increased pressure on transport workers as companies scramble to deliver holiday purchases with pre-pandemic speediness.

So how do you make sure you still have thoughtful holiday presents delivered on time for the special day without adding to the last-minute crunch? Option one: Shop earlier than ever—as in, right now. Not only will shopping early ensure your presents arrive in time, but you can select a less urgent shipping method, so you'll save money while putting less pressure on the transport system. Here are some tips and strategies to keep in mind when holiday shopping this year.

Rethink those hard-to-get gifts

Due to a global semiconductor chip shortage, a wide variety of electronics and appliances—from computers and the new iPhone 13, to video game hardware and washing machines—are in short supply. This ongoing chip shortage means that certain popular holiday presents, like the latest smartphone or gaming system, may not arrive in time, even if you order right now. Plus, as you may remember from your economics 101 class, short supply and increased demand is leading to higher prices.

Consider swapping out these gifts and setting expectations with your kids or other family members early. Alternatively, you can tell your kids they'll get the highly coveted present (hello, PS5), but not until after the official holiday. But if you're really serious about getting these tech devices before Christmas, consider joining Best Buy's new Totaltech plan. For $200 per year, you'll get first dibs on hard-to-find products, along with 24/7 tech support and free two-day shipping. If you're interested in buying a PS5 console directly from Sony, there's a new sign-up site that will alert you via email when it's your turn in line to purchase.

Shop local

It may sound obvious, but shopping local small businesses—whether in person or using curbside pickup—is a foolproof way to ensure your gifts are ready to go. There's no waiting for a shipment or wondering when that item will be restocked. Plus, by shopping small businesses, you're more likely to discover special finds others aren't likely to have. Lean into the theme with gifts that are representative of your local area. Jam from a nearby farm, locally made hot sauce, or a mug crafted by a local ceramicist all make for much-appreciated stocking stuffers that support small businesses at the same time.

Track prices and be ready to buy

For big-ticket items, like the Frame TV from Samsung, track the price and be ready to buy as soon as the price dips. To set up price alerts, search for the item under the "Shopping" tab on Google. Click on an option, then scroll down until you see the "Track Price" toggle. You'll also see charts that follow the price history over time, as well as how the option you selected stacks up to the prices listed on competitor sites. As supply shortages and increased demand lead to elevated prices, a little informed shopping will make sure you're taking the leap at the right time.

Take note of holiday shipping deadlines

If you're sending gifts to friends and family, you'll not only want to pay attention to holiday shipping deadlines, below, but also add in some extra buffer time. UPS has continued to suspend its service guarantee due to COVID-19. The takeaway: ship those gifts as early as possible. Here are the last possible days to ship gifts in order for them to arrive by December 24.


For continental U.S.:

  • December 15: USPS retail ground service
  • December 17: First-class mail service
  • December 18: Priority mail service
  • December 23: Priority mail express service

For Alaska and Hawaii:

  • December 17: First-class mail service and priority mail service to and from Hawaii
  • December 18: First-class mail service and priority mail service to and from Alaska
  • December 21: Priority mail express service to and from both Alaska and Hawaii


  • For ground shipping, get a quote
  • December 21: 3-day select
  • December 22: 2nd-day air
  • December 23: Next-day air


  • December 9: Ground economy
  • December 15: Ground and home delivery
  • December 21: Express saver
  • December 22: 2Day and 2Day AM
  • December 23: Standard overnight, priority overnight, and first overnight
  • December 24: Same day
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