Glenda Queen of Lugoff said she will slash her spending at least in half this holiday season as she struggles to support her family with reduced income from her job in insurance sales.
"I have made my list and each person has a dollar sign and number beside it - a much smaller list with lower spending limits than in previous years," said Queen, 38.
As many Midlands consumers cut back on spending this season because of the tough economy, they say they have to come up with creative solutions to stretch their dollars.
Meanwhile, Midlands retailers - struggling with how much to stock as they face a second holiday season with an economy in shambles and the highest jobless rate in decades - are also having to be inventive to draw reluctant shoppers.
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SELLING LAST YEAR'S TOYS AT DISCOUNT
Katie Rook is hoping customers at Be Beep toy shop in Forest Acres will buy this holiday season what they didn't a year ago.
"We're working a lot off of last year's stock that we didn't sell," said Rook, who manages the store. For example, the store usually orders close to 50 kiddie kitchens for the season. So far this year, they haven't ordered any.
Rook said Be Beep is offering customers on their mailing list a weekly 20 percent off one item coupon this year that it has never offered before during the holidays in the hopes that it will stimulate sales.
SIGN UP FOR STORE'S E-MAIL NOTIFICATIONS
Queen, a single mother of a 13-year-old daughter, said she is relying on sales to help her cut her spending budget to $300 this year from the $600-$800 she usually spends. She will buy only for children and parents and will shift much of her focus to the religious aspects of the holiday.
"It has actually been a struggle to pay our regular monthly bills the past several months, and we do our best to live within our means," she said. "When something unexpected comes up, such as my daughter needing field trip money or needing a plumber, that sets us back even more."
Queen already has made a few small purchases and will dole out the spending through Christmas Eve. She has signed up for e-mail notifications of sales from her favorite stores so she can get the most bang for her buck.
"The sale offers keep getting better so I plan to hold off as long as I can," she wrote.
PLACE ORDERS LATER
Melodie Ingwersen, owner of Creative Kids Toy Shop on Saluda Avenue in Five Points, said customers who shop early will get the best selection. But as the holiday draws near, there will be bargains on what's left.
Ingwersen said she hasn't bought as much inventory as she normally does this year, but she will place orders later in the season as she sees what the store needs. She doesn't know if she will be able to get all of those items, though, because manufacturers also are cutting back.
"Last year, we were a little bit more aggressive," she said. But this year, "it's a little bit more delicate balancing act to make sure that we have what people really want."
IF YOU DON'T HAVE CASH, TRADE IN GOLD
Scott Satterfield said he is still bringing in the same amount of inventory as usual for his Jewelry Warehouse locations, but he is closely watching the price points and trying to buy smarter.
"When people walk in they're not going to be saying, 'Oh, is this all you have?'" Satterfield said.
Satterfield, who owns four Jewelry Warehouse locations, is opening a new store, Palmetto Traditions, on U.S. 378 in Lexington on Black Friday carrying exclusively Palmetto tree-emblazoned items.
He started two programs for cash-strapped consumers last season that he will be pushing harder this year "to make sure they don't have to sacrifice a present they want."
He will let customers layaway an item for $10, and they won't have to make another payment until Christmas Eve.
He's also letting customers trade in gold jewelry for credits in the store since the price of gold is at the highest level in years.
"If you don't have cash, it still gives you another option," he said.