Money Matters: Holiday shopping starting early

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Retail trends are all pointing to an early holiday shopping this year – one that’s already well underway.

This year, there are 6 fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in 2018, leading to the shorted possible traditionally holiday shopping season.

But according to retail surveys, the holiday shopping is becoming less important overall, reflecting a lower percentage of the year’s retail sales than it used to.

Sixty percent of people plan to start before Thanksgiving, with 40% of holiday shoppers now saying they start shopping before Halloween – and 19% started in September or before.

One reason people are starting their shopping earlier is that they’re spending more time looking for deals. Discounted prices, surveys show, are the biggest driver of holiday shoppers’ buying decisions. As online shopping grows, too, there are more ways than ever to compare prices and find deals, from cashback apps to deal-finding browser extensions, deal alert services and price negotiation sites.

But watch out – research shows that those who start shopping earlier actually tend to spend more overall on holiday gifts.

All’s not lost for last-minute shoppers. More retailers are offering buy online, pick up in store options to help late shoppers. If buyers are willing to risk the most popular items being sold out, prices for toys are usually best in the last 10 days before Christmas. And for those willing to wait until after the holidays, there may be steep discounts in January if holiday sales continue the trend of slower growth and retailers have excess merchandise to offload.

For those looking for extra cash for the holiday season, now is also the time to look for seasonal jobs. In fact, more businesses have started hiring seasonal staff even earlier, or keeping back-to-school hires on through the holiday season. In addition to traditional seasonal retail jobs, delivery services and restaurants are two industries hiring more seasonal workers.

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education.