Shoppers are more cautious and more pessimistic going into the holiday shopping season this year as compared with 2010, according to new research. Maybe that’s a good thing, given that the survey also found 6% of us — 14 million people —are still paying off last year’s holiday splurges.
More than half of respondents to Consumer Reports‘ shopper survey say they plan to stick to a budget this year, up five percentage points from last year. One-third plan to cut back on holiday purchases, and 44% say it’s more important to get a good bargain this year.
In 2010, 53% of us whipped out the credit cards when gift-buying and charged an average of $433. However, the number of us who charged more than $1,000 dropped by seven percentage points to 16% last year.
(RealSimple.com: One-Day Holiday and Christmas Shopping Plan)
Most of us plan to buy clothes this holiday season; 70% of survey respondents say they’re giving apparel as gifts. But we’re not all being practical; 65% say they’ll give electronics like video games, e-readers and MP3 players. Another popular gift: cash, which 55% of respondents say they plan to give. While it’s not as warm-and-fuzzy as other gift ideas out there, cash has one big benefit: You know you’re not going to overspend beyond what you budgeted.
According to the survey results, there’s another way to avoid racking up credit card debt this season: rifle through your drawers and wallets for gift cards and use them to buy gifts. A quarter of survey respondents say they have an unused gift card they received last holiday season, while 55% have two or more unredeemed cards. Just make sure you use the amount on those cards as a budget guideline, because two-thirds of shoppers spend more than the amount on the gift card when they do get around to spending them.
Does this mean we’ve reined in the worst of our overspending? Probably not. Overall, people spent 22% more than they planned to last year on holiday gifts, and nearly half of us who took the effort to set a budget blew through it — some significantly.