This many people have already finished their holiday shopping

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Early bird gets the worm.

Holiday shopping has come early this year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with one in four Americans already completing their holiday gifting before the end of October, according to a new survey.

Lending Tree tallied the numbers to find that many consumers got a head starts on the holiday shopping season. In a survey of more than 1,000 consumers in the US, the study wanted to find how Americans were planning their holiday spending due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Restrictions for in-store shopping are anticipated with safety measures like social distancing limiting occupancy in stores.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have cautioned to avoid large gatherings such as Black Friday, the largest shopping day of the year, due to over-crowding. That’s made retailers shift to earlier online shopping experiences for consumers to get their holiday shopping in sooner rather than later. Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and other said they will be offering deals earlier online, while Home Depot plans to offer two months of Black Friday deals.

These deals have certainly grabbed the attention of consumers. Twenty-five percent of consumers completed all of their holiday shopping by the first week of October, according to the new study.

Obviously, COVID-19 is playing a major role in the shopping shift.

“Because of the coronavirus relief bill, increased unemployment benefits and overall reduced spending during the last six months, many Americans have a little more money in their bank accounts today than they otherwise would. It’s possible that some folks have taken advantage of that surplus to do a little early holiday shopping,” said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst for LendingTree, in a statement.

While a quarter have already completed their shopping, 28% of consumers said they started shopping but haven’t finished, while nearly half — 48% — said they still have yet to start shopping for the holidays.

Holiday shopping is always tough on the budget — and this year consumers expect to spend even less. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they will spend less this year compared to previous years, while 35% said they will be spending more.

A mix of online shopping and in-store buying is the most popular route for consumers, with 32% saying they will shop online for 75% of their gifts and 25% in-store. Twenty-two percent of shoppers said they’ll exclusively shop online, while just 11% said they’ll stick to in-store only.

A major struggle with holiday shopping every year is the fear of accumulating debt. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to lose their jobs and rely on unemployment. Lay offs and furloughs create a new financial challenge, leaving about a third of consumers expecting to go into holiday shopping debt this year.

For those laid off or furloughed, 47% said they expect to go into debt compared to just 18% last year.

“There’s always concern about going into debt over the holidays,” said Schulz. “But when unemployment is as high as it currently is, that concern should be even greater.”