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Despite Black Friday shopping spree, most consumers concerned about holiday spending

Despite Black Friday shopping spree, most consumers concerned about holiday spending

Although two-thirds of adults shopped over Black Friday weekend, the latest Consumer Reports Holiday Poll reveals that 81 percent of shoppers remain at least somewhat concerned about racking up big bills.

Fifty-eight percent of those 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 this season (vs. 9 percent who say they’ll go the opposite way). Charities are taking a hit, too. Nineteen percent say they’ll donate less to the needy compared to 13 percent who expect to give more this year.

With roughly three weeks until Christmas, 36 percent of gift givers—51.7 million Americans—hadn’t begun shopping. In fact, most people most people weren’t halfway done. By the time they’re finished, the median amount spent on gifts will be $483. To date, 28 percent of shoppers say they’ve found the best deals online, 26 cited mass merchants such as Walmart and Target as the source of the best bargains, while 14 percent identified department stores for superior savings. Ironically, only 9 and 7 percent, respectively, said they found the best deals at warehouse clubs (Costco and Sam’s), and outlet stores, which have a reputation for low prices.

Most shoppers rely on newspaper ads to sniff out deals; 38 percent 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 get alerted to holiday bargains via coupon sites such as Groupon (15 percent) and 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 are enjoying or “really” enjoying the holidays. And compared to last year, most people indicated they’d like to take things a little easier. For example, a larger percentage of 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.

For your own holiday shopping needs, check out our list of 25 recommended products that anyone would love, plus our full holiday gift guide for 2012.

One-third of shoppers to hit the malls or keyboard on Black Friday

—Tod Marks

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