Clark Howard’s Holiday Shopping Predictions for 2021

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Every year, money expert Clark Howard shares his holiday deal predictions which include the specific dates that deals will likely start and end.

However, Clark says this Christmas shopping season is going to be like none in recent memory: “I wish I could give you my normal formula for ‘this date and this date and these are going to be the best deals.’ We have none of that this year.”

While Clark doesn’t have his typical list of dates, here are a few of his key takeaways for shoppers.

Why You Need To Start Holiday Shopping Now

Although it can be difficult to think about holiday shopping before Halloween, it’s time to start.

“You want to start shopping extra early and be as scientific as you can about prices as we move through the Christmas shopping season.”

This year, because of supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Clark says you can’t expect normal shopping patterns.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), a retail trade association, recently released insights that support Clark’s prediction:

“We’re seeing issues ranging from port closures in Asia to ships lined up waiting to dock at U.S. ports,” says NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. “That’s creating continuing challenges as retailers work to supply enough inventory to meet demand.”

There Will (Probably) Be Deals in November

There will still be really great advertised specials during Thanksgiving week, but there’s a catch: Inventory may not be available in all locations.

According to the NRF, “August is the beginning of the ‘peak season’ when retailers stock up on holiday merchandise each year.” However, the waiting time for cargo ships to unload in ports is delaying some shipments by weeks.

If you see a great deal advertised, try calling the retailer before you drive to the store to make sure the item is in stock at the location near you.

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December Is Still a Bad Time To Shop

This prediction from Clark remains the same year after year:

“This year, like any other, the period of timing leading up to the 10 days or two weeks before Christmas, that’s when prices go up, up and away.”

Key Shopping Tip: Track Prices To Find Deals

The biggest piece of advice for saving money this holiday season, unfortunately, falls on us instead of the retailers:

“It’s up to you and me to do more legwork than we have in the past online and in person, tracking prices and availability of goods,” Clark says.

Luckily, there are a few free ways to see if you’re really getting a great deal:

  • Honey is an extension that you install on your web browser. While you shop, Honey searches for discounts and promo codes you can use to get the best prices.
  • Google Shopping lets you search prices on products across numerous retailers. To use Google Shopping, type in an item’s name to see a list of prices from around the web. In order to get the best result, use the item’s model number so you get a true comparison across retailers. Learn more here.
  • Camelcamelcamel is a free tool that tracks historical prices on Amazon. You can look at popular products, recent price drops or search for specific items by entering the direct Amazon URL. Learn more here.
  • Clark Deals is hyper-focused on finding the very best deals every day. Each deal is hand-picked and price compared to make sure it’s really a good price. Sign up for the free deals newsletter to see the best bargains every day.

Final Thought

Clark does have one clear prediction that’s a real win for our wallets:

“I predict people will spend less because there is going to be a smaller number of goods available, and people may do less overbuying this Christmas.”

While a potential decrease in post-holiday debt makes us happy at Team Clark, temptations to overspend may still grab your attention. Here are several ways to help you keep your spending on track this year:

  • Create a shopping budget (if you can afford gifts this year).
  • Make a list (and stick to it!).
  • Shop early (start now!).
  • Track and compare prices (and check for coupons!).
  • Opt for curbside pickup (if available) to avoid shipping charges and delays.
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