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What will holiday shopping look like in 2020?

How planning ahead might save you money while making the season bright.

This year’s Black Friday season is shaping up to be as unusual and, yes, unprecedented, as nearly everything else that’s happened this year — which means that if you want to take advantage of holiday deals and ensure your gifts arrive on schedule, you’re going to need to plan ahead and follow some necessary holiday shopping tips.

What aspects of holiday shopping are likely to change in 2020? Experts anticipate that more people will be shopping online this year, due to concerns about in-store coronavirus transmission — but an increase in online shopping isn’t going to be the biggest game changer this holiday shopping season. “I think every year, Black Friday sets an online shopping record that beats the previous Black Friday,” says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com. “If this were a normal year, we’d still expect to see an increase in that.”

Instead, the biggest holiday shopping shifts are going to center around the way Black Friday deals are presented to consumers. Here’s what you can expect during the 2020 holiday shopping season — and how you can save money as you shop for holiday gifts.

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Black Friday may last a full month

As you might have already noticed, Black Friday 2020 is not going to be limited to a single day — or even a single week. In fact, it might be more like Black Fri-month. Retailers are no longer expecting an influx of in-person shopping, so they’re using this opportunity to stretch out their sales.

“I expect Black Friday to encompass all of November and possibly the first week of December,” Ramhold says. This extended Black Friday season will give retailers the opportunity to offer a series of deals, both in-person and online — and give shoppers the opportunity to spread out their purchases.

If you do plan on shopping in-store for holiday gifts, a full month of Black Friday sales allows you to schedule your shopping during a time when there are unlikely to be crowds of people. If you are planning on doing most of your shopping online, the extended sales will give you the ability to research prices in advance, comparison shop and let an item sit in your shopping cart until you’re ready to make an online purchase.

“The best way to get a good deal on an online purchase is to do your research, so you know if that price is good or not,” says Ramhold. This year’s holiday shopping should give you plenty of time to get that research done — and give retailers plenty of time to offer really good deals.

Expect fewer doorbusters — but more deals

If you usually spend your Black Friday getting up early and waiting in line for doorbusters, it’s time to make other plans. This year, retailers don’t want crowds of people packing their stores the day after Thanksgiving with overflowing shopping carts — so there aren’t likely to be a lot of doorbusters worth waiting in line for. Instead, many retailers are choosing to put their best deals online.

“We’re used to seeing doorbusters that are really popular, limited quantity, limited time, you’ve got to be there to get one,” Ramhold told us. “This year that’s just not what we’re seeing advertised. Those really good deals are going to be online-only, which is just a complete flip from what they normally do.”

Does this mean that retailers won’t be offering any in-store-only deals for holiday gifts? Not necessarily. Ramhold anticipates that some retailers will still offer in-store exclusives, but these in-store-only deals will be on smaller items like books and media — the kind of items that retailers don’t find cost-effective to ship, for example. “They aren’t going to be the kinds of things that people will be running into the store to buy.”

Save money by planning ahead

What’s Ramhold’s biggest tip for 2020 holiday shoppers searching for gifts for their loved ones? Plan ahead. This is good advice before any holiday shopping season — but it becomes even more important during a year in which many people are shopping on reduced budgets. It’s also one of the best ways to navigate a Black Friday shopping frenzy that could last for a month or longer.

“Before you even start looking at the ads, figure out what your budget is and who you’re shopping for,” Ramhold explains. “Look at what the prices are now, before the Black Friday sales start. That way you’ll know whether or not it’s a good deal when you see it.”

Putting in the extra work now could pay off later, when you start comparing standard retail prices to Black Friday deals. If you’re worried that making a purchase early in the holiday shopping season might mean missing out on a better deal down the line, Ramhold suggests looking for retailers that offer price matching. Target, for example, offers a price match guarantee that lasts up to 14 days after purchase.

Ramhold also suggests taking advantage of any opportunity to save a little money, no matter how small those savings might seem. “If you have a rewards credit card, use that — as long as you can pay it off, because I don’t want to advise anyone to go into credit card debt,” she says. “Use the cash back apps like Rakuten. You’re making the purchase anyway, you might as well get something back for it. It may be, like, $1.20 on a $50 purchase, but if you use these things consistently, the rewards will add up. You’ll end up spending less than you would if you didn’t use them.”

Don’t procrastinate on major purchases

Just because this year’s Black Friday season might last a full month doesn’t mean you should procrastinate on purchasing the gifts you really want to buy. This year, it’s extra-important to make your major purchases as soon as they go on sale — because hesitating on holiday shopping might keep you from getting the items you hoped to give.

“This might not be the year to risk waiting, because of shipping delays and supply chain disruptions,” says Ramhold. “If you see a good deal, get it.”

Shipping delays and supply chain issues aren’t the only factors that might complicate your holiday shopping. If you tried to buy a swimming pool this summer or a fire pit this fall, you already know that there’s a real risk that you might not end up with what you want. Any popular item, especially if it is offered at a significantly reduced price, is likely to sell out — so if there’s a special present that you really want to give someone, make sure you grab your gift early.

“This might not be the year to risk waiting, because of shipping delays and supply chain disruptions. If you see a good deal, get it.”

—Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst

Keep local businesses in mind

A lot of us will be doing our online shopping at major retailers like Amazon, Walmart or Target — but keep in mind that many local businesses (including Black-owned businesses) offer online shopping as well, and often sell artisanal or otherwise hard-to-find gifts your loved ones might treasure. If you can do at least some of your shopping with small businesses, the gifts you purchase will also give back to your community.

“People are more aware that local businesses need their support,” explains Ramhold. You might also want to consider putting some of your holiday dollars towards local restaurants that offer curbside pickup. This year, some local restaurants may even offer to cook your entire holiday dinner for you — which could be one option for families that are unable to travel home for the holidays but still want to enjoy the traditional holiday feast.

Support organizations that reflect your values

Here’s one more shopping tip for the holiday season — in a year when a lot of us are asking ourselves serious questions about how to advocate for social and environmental justice, and how to put our energy towards the change we want to see in the world, it’s worth asking yourself whether you should put at least part of your holiday budget towards organizations that reflect your values.

“Do your research and find a cause you want to support,” Ramhold advises. “Make a donation, or buy something from a retailer who is offering up the proceeds from an item towards an organization you want to support.”

Black Friday, after all, is traditionally followed by Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday — and although this year’s Black Friday shopping season is likely to last an entire month, Giving Tuesday will not. Don’t let this year’s unprecedented succession of holiday shopping deals distract you from taking the time — and the money — to support your favorite charities and causes this holiday season. If you don’t already have a few good organizations on your list, consider a coronavirus relief fund.

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

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