As if holiday shopping isn’t stressful enough, this year the inflation boogeyman has a lot of us worried about how much we can spend—or how much we’ll have to spend. With all this uncertainty, it might feel like your holiday budget is a moving target. No wonder almost 40% of consumers Ally surveyed said they were planning to start saving for the holidays earlier this year.
You might assume that saving earlier automatically means spending earlier. And it may make sense to start watching for deals now. But this year, there’s a chance that spending later could mean you’ll be able to stretch your dollar further. Procrastinators rejoice!
Here’s the case for waiting:
- Inflation is already starting to cool. We’re actually seeing prices start to drop on some items, including smart home assistants, TV’s, jewelry, some clothing, some kinds of furniture, and more. Gas prices have fallen significantly since the spring, and of course, gas prices have a significant impact not only on your wallet, but also on the cost of other goods that have to be transported. If these trends continue, the prices of many goods could fall in the coming months.
- Overstocking might drive discounts on hot ticket items. With all the supply chain issues and shift in consumer spending trends from goods to services, it’s been a rough year for retailers trying to get the right goods, and the right amount of those goods, on the shelves for shoppers. Some stores ended up overstocked this summer, and if that issue isn’t resolved by the time holiday shopping season starts, it could mean discounts are here to stay.
Believe it or not, this may also be true for the hot ticket items. Consumers have become quite price conscious and view holiday shopping as less important this year than in the past, which means retailers will have to be competitive on prices for even the hottest ticket items.
- Fewer supply chain issues benefit prices. It was supply chain concerns that drove most of us to holiday shop online or in store much earlier last year. Most of us still have that mindset, and the thought of higher prices adds to the anxiety. Take a deep breath, there are signs the supply chain issues are moving further behind us. Shipping gridlocks are easing, logistics are improving, workers are returning to help. If the gifts can flow smoothly, that will benefit prices.
- Last-minute shopping gives you more time to save for the gifts you want to purchase. Plus, the longer you wait, the more you’ll know about how much you’ve spent on food and other necessities (let’s hope gas prices keep falling!), and the more clarity you’ll have about your final budget.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that gifts will be cheaper in December than October. It’s possible that retailers that ended up overstocked over the summer will be more conservative buying inventory for the holiday season—in which case, they may even run out of some popular gifts.
Your best bet may be to spread your shopping out over the next few months. Keep your eyes out for deals and buy when you spot a good price. And remember, you can always buy gift cards at the last minute. They’re a perennially popular gift for a good reason—over 80% of consumers say they like receiving gift cards. And a gift card recipient gets the added bonus of shopping the post-holiday sales!
Lindsey Bell, Ally’s chief markets & money strategist, is an award-winning investment professional with a passion for personal finance and more than 17 years of Wall Street experience. Bell’s unique ability to connect the dots between data and real life and craft bite-sized money ideas that people can use and apply stems from her deep background as an analyst, researcher and portfolio manager at organizations including J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank. She is known for demonstrating why and how an understanding of all things money improves a person’s finances and overall well-being. An ongoing CNBC contributor, Bell empowers consumers and investors across all walks of life and frequently shares her insights with the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Kiplinger’s, Forbes and Business Insider. She also serves on the board of Better Investing, a non-profit focused on investment education.