— As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, this year job losses and the overall heft of the recession weighs on what should be a joyful season. We asked msnbc.com readers how they were adjusting. Here is a sampling of replies:
I am not simply "cutting back," we are just not buying! Period! After almost a year of being laid off and now the healthcare stimulus program ending, our health insurance premiums will quadruple. Christmas this year is simple and old-fashioned. We are volunteering in our local community and giving thanks that we still have a roof over our head.
— Jennifer, Santa Cruz, Calif.
I lost my job on April 1. I know that Christmas is more than gifts, but it was my favorite time of year because I always liked to shop for something I knew people on my list would like. This year, my husband and I are giving to grandkids. And I am making many of the gifts for those who are on my extended list (mom, sisters, nieces and former co-workers who have kept in touch). Nothing extravagant, towels with fabric tops to match their kitchen decor and jewelry (earrings and necklaces). I hope my family won't be disappointed and understand that this year, it has to be different.
— Dee, Perrysburg, Ohio
I work in retail and plan to spend. If we don't the economy will never get going!
— Patrick, Oceanside, Calif.
Not cutting back much. Just smaller, more thoughtful gifts. Not only has the economy got me and my family down, but so had all the commercialism around Christmas. I'm determined this year to rediscover the "more true" meaning of Christmas. Savoring time with family and friends, making good food, that is also a gift.
— Angela, Columbia, Mo.
I lost my Christmas bonus, which used to pay for Christmas, so I've had to cut back on gifts, and getting a few special or needed items, instead of several. In a way, it was good because it's appreciated more. Christmas dinner is at my house this year, so that's definitely an added expense, but my sister offered to help pay half (without telling anyone, which was really nice) and everyone else will bring something, so that helps a lot. Most important is that we're together. I've definitely been doing a lot of coupon-cutting and comparison shopping to get the most for my money.
— Connie, Randolph, N.J.
Gifts via satellite
We buy serious gifts for six people and usually spend around $1,000. This year we have allotted $200 for this group, and we're looking for ways to cut down on that amount. In the meantime we've discontinued our satellite TV service and using that monthly payment to buy smaller gifts for others on our shopping list. Christmas gift giving, as we have always known it, is over. Never again will we spend $1,000 for Christmas presents.
— Ron & Victoria, Scranton, SC
Staying at home
I am cutting back on my gift giving this year because I can't afford it. If people can't take a Christmas card as acknowledgement of the holidays then they don't have the true meaning of Christmas. As for people getting presents, both my wife and I are making more handcraft gifts. They are much more personal. Also gone are any gifts that do not help a person. No games and electronics, just clothing and real items they can use. Also gone are the dust collector knick-knacks. That’s what they are, dust collectors. Holiday feast in my house will probably be the same but no going over to the relatives for two holidays — just one holiday and that will be Thanksgiving. Heck, is this not why we have e-mail and computer cams for? For once I am going to have a Christmas where I don't have to visit anyone and just stay home and relax with my family. I am sorry, but I am tired of the same old people saying, "Well, it may be the last time we all get together." That excuse has worn itself out.
— AJ, Lynn, Mass.
This year the family decided not to even draw names for a gift exchange. Everyone has other bills like unexpected car repairs, reduced hours, or are facing the possibility of losing their jobs in 2010. We're only buying gifts for the little kids and even then I'm trying to discourage my sisters from spending money on my kids. One sister hosted Thanksgiving dinner and I gave her money to help cover the cost of the food. I'll give money to my other sister at Christmas.
— Cindy, Seattle, Wash.
My husband and I both lost our jobs in the past year and are trying to have a less "commercial" Christmas. We are, as I call it, "smalling" down everything. From the lights outside to the gifts we purchase this year will be things we need, not want. Worn out slippers need to be replaced and door mats that are torn and molded. My daughter, a college freshman, has told all her friends that they need to get together for a meal and skip the gifts.
— Susie, Prosperity, SC
Virtual cocktail party
My two best girlfriends and I live in three different states (Rhode Island, North Carolina and Georgia). Since we can't see each other due to money issues, we are planning a "virtual cocktail party." We will have a three-way call with cocktails in hand and we'll do our special toast and visit by phone. No driving, flying or eating out, but we can still laugh and enjoy a cocktail or two while we catch up.
— April, Rutherfordton, NC
It’s all good
My family actually cut way back on last year's Christmas spending and we will do the same this year. We are only buying gifts for the kids — nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. After doing this last year we discovered that it not only saved us money, but it made for a less stressful holiday season. There was no worry over coming up with an original gift — how many fleece throws does grandpa really need? For the adults, not exchanging gifts put the focus back on just enjoying each other's company. We're looking forward to another simple celebration this year — just food and good people.
— Cheryl, Redding, Calif.