Although two-thirds of holiday shoppers hit the mall or keyboard on Black Friday weekend, the latest Consumer Reports Holiday Poll reveals that 81 percent remain at least somewhat concerned about racking up big bills.
Fifty-eight percent of adults surveyed in our nationally representative poll plan to splurge less on gifts than they did last year (by comparison, only 5 percent said they intend to splurge more than they did in 2011), while 31 will be eying more practical presents more this season (vs. 9 percent who say they'll be buying them less). Charities are taking a hit, too. Nineteen percent say they'll donate less to the needy.
With roughly three weeks until Christmas, 36 percent of gift givers—66 million Americans—hadn't begun shopping. In fact, most people had more than half there shopping left to do. By the time they're finished, the median amount they said they'll spend on gifts will be $483. To date, shoppers who visited multiple retailers said they've found the best deals online, and at mass merchants such as Walmart and Target. Ironically, warehouse clubs (Costco and Sam's), which have a reputation for low prices, weren't necessarily where to find the best bargains.
Newspaper ads (43 percent) were one popular way to sniff out deals; 38 percent said they look at promotional flyers and circulars, 36 percent listen to TV and radio ads; and 29 percent keep an eye open for e-mail promotions. Though they receive plenty of publicity, relatively few people said they get alerted to holiday bargains via coupon sites such as Groupon (15 percent) or Facebook (11 percent).
When asked "how concerned are you about limiting expenses this holiday season," 51 percent answered "somewhat," 30 percent said "very." To keep from going overboard, those surveyed offered a range of responses: Fifty-five percent said they will give cheaper gifts; 46 percent said they'll be more aggressive at seeking out sales and discount coupons; 38 percent said they will chop names off their gift list entirely. Other tactics: Agreeing to more limited gift-giving options with family or friends (29 percent), purchasing exclusively from websites that offer free shipping (23 percent), replace store-bought gifts with homemade ones (21 percent), cut back on holiday travel (19 percent), and send fewer holiday greeting cards (16 percent).
Despite the concerns, most Americans are reveling in the season. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they are enjoying or "really" enjoying the holidays. And if you'd like to take things a little easier this year, you're not alone. For example, many people said they'd prefer to travel less to holiday destinations, go to fewer parties, spend more time with family and friends, and set aside a little more "me" time to relax.