Trying to Avoid the “Out of Stock” Blues This Holiday Season? You’re Not Alone.
Three in 5 Americans feel pressure to shop for the holidays earlier than they normally would this year.
October 27, 2021
Americans who were negatively impacted financially by the coronavirus (78%) are more likely to feel pressure to shop earlier than they normally would compared to those who were not negatively impacted financially (47%).
78% of parents of kids under 18 say they feel pressure, with 39% of parents feeling a great deal of pressure, to holiday shop earlier than they normally would.
Among those feeling pressure to shop for the holidays earlier this year, 47% say they feel pressure because they are worried about prices going up, with worries about shipping delays (44%) a close second.
More than half of Americans (53%) will pay for holiday purchases with a credit card this holiday season.
Black Friday has long marked the unofficial start to the U.S. holiday season, but that date has shifted up — more so in 2021 than any year prior. Many Americans have experienced COVID-related shipping delays and price inflation throughout the year, which is likely why many feel pressured to shop for the holidays earlier than usual, including gifts, decorations and supplies for holiday meals. Fears of seeing “out of stock” is on many Americans’ minds. This is especially true for Americans who were negatively impacted financially by COVID-19.
A recent Tally survey of 2,019 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, conducted online by The Harris Poll, found that 60% of Americans say they feel pressure to shop for the holidays earlier than they normally would. Only 33% felt no pressure at all, while another 7% said they do not shop for the holidays.
Who’s feeling under pressure?
Americans who were negatively impacted financially by the coronavirus (78%) are more likely to feel pressure to shop earlier for the holidays this year than those who weren’t negatively impacted financially (47%). Among those who were negatively impacted financially by the coronavirus, the most common ways they were impacted include: spending most or all of an emergency savings fund (47%), accumulating new credit card debt (35%), losing income because they lost their job, were furloughed, lost hours or had a pay cut (28%).
A third of parents of children under 18 who were negatively impacted by the coronavirus (33%) say it was because they had to quit their job or cut their hours to care for their children.
Under pressure: parents and younger adults, in particular, are feeling the heat
Young children’s parents and guardians often feel a lot of pressure to make the holidays magical and memorable. This seems especially true in 2021 after they may have spent the previous holiday season social distancing.
More than 3 in 4 parents of children under 18 (78%) say they feel pressure to shop earlier for the holidays this year than they normally would. As for the degree of pressure, 39% say they feel a great deal of pressure and another 39% say they feel a little pressure. Meanwhile, 19% of parents of children under 18 feel no pressure and 2% don’t plan to shop for the holidays at all.
Across generations as well, there was a notable trend in younger adults feeling pressure to holiday shop earlier this year. 78% of Gen Zers (ages 18 to 24) and 73% of millennials (aged 25-40) say they feel some level of pressure to shop for the holidays earlier than they normally would this year. In comparison, only 62% of Gen Xers (ages 41 to 56) and 47% of Baby Boomers (ages 57 to 75) say they feel any sort of pressure to holiday shop earlier than normal this year.
Parents and younger adults aren’t alone, however, in feeling the obligation to kick-off holiday shopping right away. About 1 in 4 (24%) Americans, overall, say they feel a great deal of pressure to shop for the holidays earlier than they normally would this year.
What’s driving the pressure: a global wildcard of pricing, delays and supply chain woes
Many people expect the price inflation, shipping delays and supply-chain issues that have plagued much of 2021 to continue into the holiday season. The top reasons among those who feel the pressure to start holiday shopping sooner this year than normal include:
Worries about prices going up (47%)
Worries about shipping delays (44%)
Believing that recent supply-chain issues will cause massive shortages (42%)
Additional reasons for feeling pressure stemmed from a list of personal anxiety: 31% say they want to make sure they get everything on their gift list and 23% are worried they won’t be able to purchase items they need to host a holiday gathering.
Others cited external influences: 28% say they heard experts in the media recommend they shop earlier and 15% heard their friends and family were shopping earlier this year.
For Americans who don’t feel pressure at all to shop earlier for the holidays this year, discretionary income could be a factor, as 43% of those who weren’t negatively impacted financially by the coronavirus say they feel no pressure at all, much more so than those who were negatively impacted financially by the coronavirus (19%).
Charge it: credit cards are the payment method of choice
More than half of Americans (53%) will pay for holiday purchases with a credit card this holiday season. Another 47% say they’ll pay with a debit card, while 45% plan to pay with cash for their holiday buys.
Amongst younger adults, specifically Gen Zers, only 36% say they will use a credit card to pay for holiday purchases this season, while 61% say they will use a debit card and 54% plan to pay with cash.
In contrast, older adults are more likely to say they’ll use credit cards for their holiday purchases this year (54% of millennials, 53% of Gen Xers and 59% of Baby Boomers). While Gen Zers are more likely than Gen X and Boomers to feel pressure to shop earlier, these findings suggest these younger adults may also be more wary of taking on credit card debt.
3 tips for holiday spending in 2021
So what are the financial questions you should be asking yourself? Are there steps you can take to avoid credit card debt and still get into the holiday spirit? Tally’s personal finance expert Bobbi Rebell CFP® offers the following advice:
Set a budget: While you may want to be generous, can you really afford it? Before you make your list and check it twice, figure out how much money you want to spend. Not per gift, but in total. Then, divide that amount by the number of people you want to buy gifts for. While you are unlikely to get gifts of equal value for everyone, this per-person estimate will help you gauge how much to spend on each gift.
Go potluck-style for your holiday meal: Grocery prices have gone up, there is pressure to provide a fancy meal and have your home perfectly decorated. That gets expensive. Ask everyone to bring their favorite dish they made in quarantine. You can provide the main dish and then assign people sides, desserts, beverages and more. It will be a fun experience for everyone to try everyone’s quarantine favorites together.
Focus on gifts that will never be out of stock or delayed: Take control of your spending and consider the following gift options where inventory is no concern and no shipping delays are in sight. Plus, you often have the choice to select the duration of a membership or opt into a gift card for the recipient to sign up for what they would like, allowing you to set the budget you are most comfortable with. Worry-free gift ideas include audiobook subscriptions, gift certificates to restaurants, annual memberships to local zoos or museums, meal subscription services or a national parks annual pass.
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Tally from October 12 to 14, 2021 among 2,019 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.