We're a week away from Christmas eve, a day on which 13 percent plan to finish their shopping. But they are not the worst stragglers—four percent plan to finish their gift shopping after Christmas, says the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
This year the shoppers who procrastinate may be more stressed out than usual as they make their delayed foray into the stores. Of those who have started, or completed, their shopping, 34 percent report that something they wanted was out of stock. The out-of-stock items were clustered in the most desired categories: electronics, clothing and toys. That doesn't bode well for latecomers.Online shoppers may pay another price for not planning ahead: 22 percent say they expect to pay for expedited shipping so that items arrive in time for 'Santa' to put them under the tree. We don't know for sure if procrastination is contributing to the growth in online shopping but it's possible. Almost 40 percent of those asked planned to shop online for gifts in December.
The serious side of putting things off may come to bear in the early months of 2010. That's when the credit card bills arrive. An optimistic 68 percent of credit card users plan to pay off their holiday debt by the end of January. But 18 percent expect that it will take them until March or later to make that final payment. This may be a good time to remind you that 6 percent of the respondents in our first poll—equivalent to 13.5 million Americans—carried that debt for an entire year. So don't put off until tomorrow what you can pay today.
Planners and procrastinators were in agreement about other aspects of the holiday. Although most of those polled expect to buy the same number of presents as last year—an average of 15—overall folks say they will spend less and charge less this season. The budget line for gifts has dropped almost $65 in the past two years to $700.
But even that trend seems to have a silver lining. Although 32 percent of folks think they are worse off financially this year than last, many are turning that negative into a positive. Almost half of those who felt that way—49 percent—plan to spend more time with friends or family this year. And nearly 40 percent are making an effort to buy more practical gifts—something that one in three want to receive.
In short, it's possible to have a good holiday season no matter your shopping style. We found that the number of people who are really enjoying the season and those who wish it were over are in a statistical dead heat. Whether they are early or late shoppers, we don't know. We'd like to find out but we have to rush out to the mall. Happy holidays!
—Mary H.J. FarrellMethodology: The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random-digit-dialing telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. In all, 1,014 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviews took place between December 3 and 6, 2009. The margin of error is +/- 3.1% points at a 95 percent confidence level.