While this year’s holiday season may mean the return of long-delayed family gatherings, there’s one thing that could remain the same: frustration over getting your gifts on time. Because of lingering supply chain disruptions, experts are expecting shortages, shipping delays and fewer deals than usual.

But don’t let that discourage you. With a little planning ahead — and some tips from consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch — you’ll have your presents purchased, wrapped and ready to give without the hassle. 

Tips to help you with your holiday shopping

Shop for in-demand items early

Shipping delays and decreased supply issues mean many people have already started their holiday shopping — and many retailers are planning early sales as a result. If there are items you know you want to buy, it may be worth doing ASAP. The more in-demand they become, the less likely it is that they’ll be on sale later.

Woroch says that this year the most popular toys will be L.O.L. Surprise Dolls and sets, Barbie Dreamhouse, LEGO sets and Star Wars items. Other popular (and potentially scarce) items will be anything with a computer chip, like appliances, smartphones and video game consoles. Shipping delays may also make big items like large-screen TVs, furniture, rugs and even faux Christmas trees harder to get.

Track price drops

While shopping during sales can help you save money overall, Woroch explains that you may not save on the items you want to buy, depending on what the sale covers (and doesn’t). Instead of shopping sales events like Black Friday for specific gifts, she suggests tracking prices on those items instead.

“Using price-tracking tools that alert you when something goes on sale is the easiest and most efficient way to scoop up holiday gifts at a discount,” she says. “Chances are, if a product was recently sold for less, but is currently listed for a higher price, it will go back on sale sometime from now through the holidays.”  

To take advantage of price drop services, add your gifts on CamelCamelCamel.com for Amazon items, or to Honey’s DropList, which spans multiple retailers. You’ll receive an email if and when one of those items goes on sale. 

Earn cash back while shopping

You can earn money just by shopping through certain sites or apps. Rakuten (formerly Ebates) provides platforms for various popular stores (like Macy’s and Sephora) where you can earn up to 10 percent cash back on your purchases.

Woroch also suggests Slide, a cash back app that helps you earn extra money back on purchases when you pay using the app. Link your debit, credit card or digital wallet to receive 4 percent back each time you pay with the app at a partner retailer.

Take full advantage of credit card rewards

The average credit card user misses out on more than $1,000 in cash back rewards by using the wrong card, according to credit card recommendation site GigaPoints. Since you’ll likely spend more over the holidays, getting a new card with significant rewards like cash back or one-time bonuses can help you save (as long as don't carry credit card debt, of course). 

Woroch suggests using GigaPoints to help you find a credit card that will give you more cash back for the types of purchases you typically make and to compare cash back programs on Cardrates.com, which features full reviews of each card in detail.

You should also stay current on your credit cards’ bonus rewards for certain stores and categories. You may need to opt in for these offers, which can help you earn more cash back for your holiday purchases.

“For instance, if you want to buy a toy that is available for the same price from Target and Walmart but your credit card is currently offering an extra 5 percent back at Walmart, then opting in to get those bonus rewards and buying it there will benefit your wallet in the long run,” Woroch says.

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