Gift-givers get creative in tough economy
By Jessica Wohl
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Annette Harris is a self-proclaimed "shopaholic." But after years of giving lavish gifts, she is cutting back since she has been unemployed for more than a year and depleted much of her savings.
Americans are taking a closer look at their spending habits this holiday season as the country is mired in its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
"I'm a shopaholic, so it's very difficult. This will probably be the worst time of year for me," said Harris, who used to shop at Saks, Neiman Marcus and Macy's to satisfy cravings for items such as Jimmy Choo shoes.
To keep her spirits up while she looks for a job, Harris has been researching her family genealogy. She is thinking about giving copies of the family tree as Christmas presents this year or may distribute a 10-page poem she began writing on November 4, when Barack Obama was elected U.S. president.
Even those who have not felt the pinch as much as Harris say they are taking a more altruistic approach to the holidays, finding other ways to show their appreciation to loved ones or contributing to less-fortunate strangers.
Theresa Ogden said she would donate more toys and clothing to charities this year.
"I am very fortunate," Ogden said as she walked out of a J.C. Penney store in Racine, Wisconsin. "I'm pitching in to do a bit more in terms of donating to others. I've heard too many bad stories about other people."
Shoppers are still expected to come out and spend, but with more caution. The National Retail Federation expects U.S. holiday sales to increase 2.2 percent to $470.4 billion this year, although consumers spooked by the economic crisis bought sparingly at the start of the holiday shopping season. Continued...