Finance 101
October 5, 2021

Safe Holiday Shopping Tips during COVID

With the holiday season right around the corner, retailers and shoppers would normally be gearing up for major in-store events, like Black Friday.

But the COVID-19 pandemic means things are a bit different this year — for stores and customers alike.

As you make your holiday gift list, and check it twice, here’s how to keep yourself safe and healthy while shopping this season.

Shop from the comfort of home

Nearly half of Americans plan to complete most of their holiday gift buying online this year, saying they'll be doing so for safety reasons. For perspective, e-commerce sales made up just over 14% of total retail in the 2019 holiday season.

While that’s good news for reduced crowds, this major uptick in online shopping traffic could mean inventory and shipping backups as the holidays get closer.

To ensure you get everything on your list and avoid being left empty-handed, you’ll want to get an early start.

Just remember that as you shop the web for deals, be cautious of scammers looking to gain access to your personal and credit card information. Check out the best ways to avoid holiday shopping scams here.

Don’t wait for Black Friday

Many retailers have announced plans for earlier and longer-lasting discounts to keep crowds at bay.

Both Target and Amazon, for example, said they would launch holiday sales starting in October. Walmart followed suit, promising to offer savings earlier with more deals available online.

Opt for curbside pickup

Many retailers have begun offering curbside pickup for customers who’d prefer to keep their visits extra short and sweet.

Curbside pickup provides shoppers the option to buy online, and pick up their orders at the front of the store or have it brought out directly to their cars. This helps shoppers and retailers limit person-to-person exposure and can help you save on shipping charges and wait times, too.

According to the New York Times, curbside pickup has been increasingly popular because Americans love the experience of getting in their cars and driving to a store. If you're looking for an excuse to get out of the house, but want to avoid the exposure of browsing isles, curbside pickup could be a great option for you.

Some large retailers currently offering curbside pickup include Apple, Best Buy, Home Depot, Kmart, Nordstrom, Target, and Old Navy.

Give DIY gifts a try

Do-it-yourself gifts are always fun to receive because they’re thoughtful and made with love. Handmade cards, IOU vouchers, and homemade baked treats are all sweet gifts to give.

Those who enjoy being even more crafty could tie-dye a pair of cozy socks, decorate a mug, build or create a small craft, personalize a picture frame, or even knit a sweater. Check out the latest DIY holiday gift ideas or search Pinterest for tutorials of your favorites.

Best of all, homemade gifts are a great way to help you save on your holiday budget, too.

Think outside the giftbox

There are also a lot of non-physical, meaningful gifts out there. E-gift cards, streaming service subscriptions, meal kits or boxes, charity donations on behalf of the gift recipient, or Book-of-the-Month subscriptions can be great choices for even the most particular family members and friends.

Choosing immaterial gift options eliminates shipping worries or putting yourself at risk among the shopping crowds. As an added convenience, the recipients can choose to use the gifts whenever and however works best for them.

In-person shopping safety

Retailers are taking action to make shopping safer for those who still plan to visit in-person. Some stores are implementing scheduled appointments and extending holiday sales to help spread out the number of shoppers at once.

If you must go into the actual store for a “classic” shopping experience, take optimal safety precautions. Also, try to shop during off-peak hours and consolidate your trips.

And as always, follow recommended health and safety guidelines to remain at least six feet away from other shoppers, wear a mask or face covering, and carry hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes.

While the pandemic has changed much of how we live, it doesn’t have to ruin holiday shopping. With a little creativity, you can have a great experience and still ensure you stay safe and healthy this season.

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