It’s gonna be a weird year for Christmas shopping, that seems guaranteed. Stuff is going to be more expensive and certain things may be hard or even impossible to find. The twin villains of inflation and the supply chain are teaming up to take down some expectations about what buying Christmas presents might look like in 2021, but that doesn’t have to mean anything bad for your actual Christmas celebration. In fact, it could be good.
So, first off, what exactly is going on with the economy? In short: a lot. Inflation is rising fast, and while different economists have different ideas about how big of a deal that actually is, there’s no question that it’s not great for consumers — you know, the people who actually buy stuff. Food costs more. Gas costs more. Most Christmas presents cost more. Your holiday budget will probably need some editing from last year. That’s annoying and, possibly, cost prohibitive with regards to the kind of Christmas you’d hoped to have.
And then there’s the supply chain, which calls into question just how available stuff you want is going to be this year. Suffice to say, the sooner you get started on holiday shopping, the better, because there’s a good chance that in-demand items will be a little bit harder to get your hands on in some parts of the country this year.
Fortunately, the job market has been ticking back up and given the amount of federal assistance most Americans received over the last two years, it does seem like Americans still plan on shopping — maybe just a little bit grudgingly. While the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index says people consumers are feeling the worst they have in ten years, but surveys suggest they still plan on spending at about the same rate they have in recent years.
So, all that’s to try and put things in a little bit of perspective. The supply chain issue is real, as is growing inflation. Neither of those are ideal for holiday shopping, nor are they cause for panic. And they’re definitely no reason to turn into a Scrooge about this Christmas.
Speaking of Scrooge, his story is worth mentioning here. In 1843, Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, which immortalized into English literature the notion that feeling celebratory and festive about this time of year has more to do with your heart than your bank account. 178 years later, we still struggle to internalize this truth: that whether our finances are lean or plentiful, Christmas is about cherishing the gift we’ve already been given.
If things are a little more expensive this year, then maybe that’s a good opportunity to refocus our Christmas energy on the deeper meaning of the season. It might even spur us to be a little more generous, since a mild gift-buying inconvenience for us might mean an empty pantry for someone else. In any case, let’s not hinge the entire holiday season on stock markets, supply chain and inflation rates. Dickens would be tearing his hair out at the thought.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.