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It's always a good idea to get your holiday shopping done early, but this year it's more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a microchip shortage and supply chain issues. This means electronics, toys, and other products will be (or already are) in short supply.

Supply shortages, in turn, result in fewer holiday bargains and higher than normal prices. This means that sticking to your budget and scoring all the gifts on your list will be harder than usual.

To make a success of your holiday shopping this year despite the challenges, BBB recommends the following tips:

Know what products stores might run out of. Millions of everyday products use microchips to function. Computers, gaming systems, smart appliances, cameras, and toys that feature light, sound, motion, or any kind of tech all use microchips, meaning many manufacturers are already struggling to keep up with the demand for their products. Think though your holiday list and identify must-have items that are impacted by the shortage.

Start shopping earlier than usual. Don't wait until Black Friday to start holiday shopping this year. Certain products may have even already sold out prior to November, according to some retailers.

When you find a good deal, don't wait to buy. Good deals will be harder to find this year, so if you find a product in stock at a good price, take advantage right away – but be sure it's a trustworthy retailer first!

Budget your holiday shopping without expecting sales. Supply chain problems mean many retailers have had to pay more than usual for inventory and can't offer the same bargain prices they did last year. In fact, many products that use microchips have already gone up in price, so plan your budget accordingly. This might mean buying fewer presents or organizing a secret Santa style gift exchange.

Have a backup plan. Because so many household items use microchip technology, some retailers already have products backordered into 2022. Try to stay flexible this year. If you absolutely can't get a gift you had in mind, you may need a Plan B. For example, if the toy you wanted for your kids is not available or too expensive, keep in mind that the present shortages only affect certain kinds of gifts. Plush toys, outdoor toys, and action figures sans electronic features should stay in stock and reasonably priced this year.

Watch out for scams. Whenever a product is in high demand like the hottest toy of the holiday season, scammers try to take advantage of consumers. Remember, deals that sound too good to be true probably are. In addition, keep an eye out for sketchy sellers that may be selling counterfeit products. You can read more about a current scam involving fake gaming consoles on BBB's Holiday Microsite.

Check companies out with BBB. Always research vendors you are unfamiliar with to make sure you're dealing with a legitimate business before you make a purchase or give them your personal information, such as your credit card number. Visit bbb.org to check out companies and find BBB Accredited Businesses or call your BBB at 423-266-6144.

BBB Holiday Tips

BBB has established a site filled with tips to keep your holidays safe and festive. Visit bit.ly/bbbblackfridaytips and bit.ly/bbbcybermonday for our "Shop Safe. Shop Smart." tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and more.

Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia

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