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Don't wait! Start your holiday shopping right now

Experts warn if you try to wait until Black Friday or the weeks leading up to Christmas to start, you could face low stock and end up paying more.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — If there has been one constant during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's bare shelves and limited supplies. 

Shortages, supply-chain issues, and delays are literally the gift that keeps giving. 

So what's driving all of this? 

Cherie Lowe, better known as The Queen of Free, said it is hard to blame just one thing. 

"It's one of those things where I think it'd be very easy to say, well the problem is x or the problem was y, but really the problem was x, y, and z," said Cherie Lowe.

Lowe said every year, many people make the promise to avoid the last-minute rush, but usually don't follow through.

This year, you may actually want to start early.

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How early? Like, right now! 

Here's a rundown of why items are not appearing on store shelves compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Credit: ABC News
Empty store shelves at a store.

Right now there are major back-ups at U.S. Ports. 

Credit: ABC News
Aerial footage from ABC 7 Los Angeles of the backups at a port in Los Angeles

The troubles don't end there. 

Labor shortages at the dock, shipping problems, and truck issues are all stopping items from getting from the ship to store shelves.

It's a common problem around the Mid-South. 

"Well, it's an unusual year. It has been an unusual couple of years," said Lowe.
"So that's going to play into how we prepare for the holidays. And we really, we need to get a jumpstart a little bit earlier this year."

So, before you go shopping, get a Christmas List game plan. 

First, take note.

Credit: ABC 24 News
The Queen of Free's Christmas Gift Musts and tips to remember before you begin your holiday shopping.

Make sure you know everyone's sizes. This includes sizes for shirts, pants, and shoes, as they are all different. 

Don't forget favorite colors, characters, and styles.

Remember what's tops on everyone's wish list.

Then the Queen of Free recommends you set a budget. This will help you avoid overspending and buying up until Christmas Eve.

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"Let's talk about real numbers. What did you spend last year on Christmas? What are you willing to and able to spend this year?" said Lowe. "Really begin to work with those numbers before you buy anything."

Lowe said shopping this year will be different.

The key in all of this? Be prepared.

Have a plan B, C, D, and E.

"You're going to want to be flexible for sure, because I think that the new normal is that we're not always going to get what we want, when we want it, like we used to be able to," said Lowe. "So whether than means shopping now so that you make sure things arrive at your home on time, or that means being prepared to be disappointed this year, this year it may look a little different."

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