This holiday season, getting exactly what's on your family and friends' wish lists might be a bit harder. A truck driver shortage paired with shipping delays means online orders are likely to be delayed and stores will have more difficulty restocking shelves.
However, not all gifts rely on the supply chain operating smoothly, says Teresa Murray, consumer watchdog at Public Interest Research Group. "I think many of us have a different perspective of time now and cherish time we get to spend with family and friends," she says. "If you combine that with supply chain issues you start to think, 'Gee, what if people bought things that didn't depend on being delivered and spent money on things that created memories?'"
If you do want to gift someone a product, there are ways to circumvent the struggling supply chain too, says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at DealNews.com. "Digital items will obviously not be affected by supply chain disruptions this holiday season," she says, for example.
Here are seven holiday gift ideas that aren't dependent on the supply chain.
"While [streaming services] might not be what shoppers think of when considering gifts, purchasing a yearlong membership of these services can make a great purchase that you know will get a ton of use," Ramhold says.
A streaming service is "easy to gift," she says, as there is no wrapping or packaging required. "You just need an email address to send to the recipient," she says.
This year, experts predict, many books will be hard to find in stores. "Supply chain disruptions are affecting the amount of books you'll find on shelves," especially if you're looking for a specific title, Ramhold says.
One way to circumvent this issue is to buy an e-book or an audiobook version of that title to gift instead. If you're not sure what title your recipient might enjoy, you can get them an audiobook or e-book membership, too. For example, a six-month subscription to Scribd, an e-book and audiobook service, is $50.
Gift cards will likely be extra popular this year, Ramhold says, as both physical and digital versions probably won't be affected by supply chain disruptions.
"If you want your recipient to be able to open a physical gift, you can always buy a plastic gift card and tuck it into a box," she says. "But you can also opt for an email gift card if your favorite store happens to run out of the standard physical ones."
Paying to get a cherished item repaired could be more meaningful than buying something brand new, says Murray of PIRG.
"If someone has an old family heirloom, like a watch that their grandfather gave them, and you take that to a jeweler and get it fixed, that is something that would be superspecial and doesn't involve buying more stuff," she says.
If you are the resident chef in your family or friend group, "bake someone a specialty cake of yours or make someone their favorite dish," Murray says.
"A lot of people appreciate a gift that people have put a lot of thought into," she says. "A lot of folks have gotten caught up in this materialistic, consumeristic mindset and maybe could benefit by taking a step back and thinking about gift giving in a new way."
Concert tickets, museum passes, sports tickets — digital tickets to any of these experiences won't suffer shipping delays, and will probably be even more exciting to those who endured quarantine.
"Once I took my dad to laser tag a few years ago, and he was the only senior citizen there but boy did he have a good time," Murray says.
"There are beer-making classes and glass-blowing classes," Murray says. "If there is any interest you have, there is probably a class for it. Why not pay for something that either your loved one will enjoy or where they will learn something that they'll be able to keep with them."
Offer your time in a useful way, Murray suggests: "Maybe it's helping out with yard work or painting the interior of a room." That makes one less annoying or onerous task your friend or family member has to deal with.
This is especially helpful with "Covid concerns lingering as people are a little skittish about having strangers or contractors in their house" she adds.
"You hear everybody fretting about the supply chain and that you need to order stuff early and the ships are in the ocean and you're never going to get your gifts on time," she says. "Maybe the answer isn't order your stuff early but don't buy more stuff this year."
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