It’s always a good idea to get your holiday shopping done early, but this year it’s more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a microchip shortage and supply chain issues. This means electronics, toys and other products will be (or already are) in short supply, which leads to fewer holiday bargains and higher than normal prices.

“Because of the microchip shortage, it will be more difficult to stick to a budget,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “It will also be more difficult to find certain items on your list, so shopping early and getting creative will be essential.”

To make a success of your holiday shopping this year despite the challenges, BBB recommends the following:

Know what products stores might run out of. Millions of everyday products use microchips to function. Computers, gaming systems, smart appliances, cameras, and toys that feature light, sound, motion, or any kind of tech all use microchips, meaning many manufacturers are already struggling to keep up with the demand for their products. Think through your holiday list and identify must-haves which are impacted by the shortage.

Start shopping earlier than usual. Don’t wait until Black Friday to start holiday shopping this year. Certain products may already be sold out by November, according to some retailers.

When you find a good deal, don’t wait to buy. Good deals will be harder to find this year, so if you find a product in stock at a good price, take advantage right away.

Budget your holiday shopping without expecting sales. Supply chain problems mean many retailers have had to pay more than usual for inventory and can’t offer the same bargain prices they did last year. In fact, many products that use microchips have already gone up in price, so plan your budget accordingly. This might mean buying fewer presents or organizing a secret Santa style gift exchange.

Have a backup plan. Because so many household items use microchip technology, some retailers already have products backordered into 2022. Try to stay flexible this year. If you absolutely can’t get a gift you had in mind, you may need a Plan B. For example, if the toy you wanted for your kids is not available or too expensive, keep in mind that the present shortages only affect certain kinds of gifts. Plush toys, outdoor toys, and action figures sans electronic features should stay in stock and reasonably priced this year.

Watch out for scams. Whenever a product is in high demand like the hottest toy of the holiday season, scammers try to take advantage of consumers. Remember, deals that sound too good to be true probably are. In addition, keep an eye out for sketchy sellers that may be selling counterfeit products. Finally, always research vendors you are unfamiliar with to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate business before you make a purchase or give them your personal information, such as your credit card number.

For More Information

Read the BBB Tip: Smart Shopping Online and visit BBB.org/Holiday-Tips for more ways to get your holiday shopping done safely this year including making purchases from businesses which follow BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust.

If you come across a scam while holiday shopping, help others from falling prey by reporting it to BBB Scam Tracker. For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer or to share your experience with a business, go to bbb.org.

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— BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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