Traversing the Holiday Landscape

The advice – back in the summer – for the upcoming holidays was to stock up early. The main culprit, courtesy of COVID-19 and its various variants, was supply-chain problems: 

  • Shipping costs from China to the U.S. were up about 500% and rising.
  • A number of manufacturing facilities had to close because of COVID outbreaks or employee shortages.
  • Pent-up demand was selling out many holiday destinations, 
  • Domestic shippers – FedEx and UPS – were projecting major holiday slowdowns because of demand and worker shortages.

Shopping strategies

If you still have shopping to do and holiday plans to make, the best advice is to be flexible and grab opportunities as they arise. But don’t be too disappointed if your options are limited. 

If you do find a gift that you want, buy it now and don’t wait for a better price after Thanksgiving. Many shelves will probably be empty. One of the developments during COVID-19 has been increasing the world’s transition to online purchases and delivery services. It’s obviously safer to sit at home and order stuff on a computer, but supply and transportation problems are still a significant barrier. 

Last year, UPS, FedEx and the USPS were overwhelmed with holiday deliveries. This year, they are trying to hire thousands of additional workers. But when pushing and shoving packages through the system, there will be delays and higher costs. The best advice: order now and cross your fingers.

Budgeting

Inflation is already here – and items that are in high demand are dramatically exceeding inflation percentages.  Probably more than any other Christmas, you need to look closely at the money you can spend and plan to stick to your budget.

In past years, many people overspent and took on higher-than-recommended credit-card debt. But many felt confident that their jobs were stable and that they would get out from under the debt. Now, the economy, job security and debt are much trickier. This is not the year to arrive in January with excessive holiday debt. 

Budgeting strategies

  • Look at your holiday receipts from 2020 and 2019. Determine how much you spent and what holiday categories – gifts, travel, parties and restaurants – the dollars represent.
  • Decide, looking at your current bank account, how much money you can safely spend in each category.
  • For gifts, assign a dollar to each person on your list.
  • Do the same for travel, restaurants, parties and miscellaneous items.
  • Once you have the numbers, do everything you can to stick to your budget.

If you follow this strategy, you will arrive at January and February with your holiday bills under control and you’ll be better prepared for 2022.

Travel

Unless you’ve already booked a significant trip – Hawaii, Caribbean or an expensive resort – you are probably out of luck. People who want to get away have already reserved many of these trips and they are fully booked or the prices for the remaining slots are rising each day.

But if you want to get out of the house, regional road trips or family gatherings in a home are much easier to arrange. In this region, the beach, mountain towns or cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, Columbia, Charlottesville, Chattanooga and Richmond may offer fun and interesting travel opportunities.

Parting thoughts 

Staying flexible and keeping a sense of humor are the best counters to deal with the unexpected and difficult circumstances that the world, the U.S. and our local communities are facing. If you can keep your own corner of the world safe, happy and secure you and your family will be in a much better place during the holidays and beyond.

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