Time to indulge your inner Scrooge

November 10, 2008|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Well, this is shaping up to be a cheery holiday season, isn't it?

A recent Consumer Reports survey said 76 percent of respondents claimed they will cut back on holiday spending.

And The New York Times said sales at the nation's largest retailers "fell off a cliff" last month and that this could be the worst Christmas shopping season in decades.

Only deep discounters like Wal-Mart reported any gains, and even those are slashing prices to get shoppers in the door.

Right now stores are so desperate for your business, they'll practically send a car for you.

I got a circular in the mail from a chain store inviting me to a "Big One Day Sale" next Friday. And if I can't make that, they said they're rolling out "Saturday doorbuster prices" the next day.

I'm sure their next circular will say: "Hey, come whenever you want! We'll be open! With big sales! If we're not open, here's the manager's cell phone number! Give him a call and he'll come down and open the store for you!"

And the sale does look like a good one. They've got 50 percent to 60 percent off on all men's, misses' and kids' outerwear. Fifty percent off on all down comforters. Fifty percent off on PRO lithium combo kits.

I don't even know what a PRO lithium combo kit is. But with those savings, I really feel I should buy one.

Actually, I'm waiting for these retailers to get so desperate you can haggle with them.

What do want for that Whirlpool dishwasher? $849.99? Are you crazy? It doesn't even have rotating spray jets! How about $500? OK, $550, but not a penny more. You're killing me here.

Here's another interesting tidbit from Consumer Reports: Only 23 percent of the people surveyed said they'd cut back on gifts for pets.

The fact that some people actually give gifts to their pets during the holidays is alarming enough, but we all know this goes on.

Go into one of these big pet superstores a week or two before Christmas and it's like a doggy and kitty Woodstock.

You see droves of pet owners dressing their pets in reindeer outfits, having their pets pose for pictures with Santa Claus, buying doggy- and kitty-themed gift wrap for the toys their pets will find under the Christmas tree.

But what does this say about us as a society?

What's the message pet owners are sending here to the rest of the family?

Yep, times are tough kids. So just forget about that Xbox. But Fido - well, we can't cut back and ruin his Christmas.

Please, don't get me started on this. I can feel my blood pressure red-lining already.

Even before these new dreary numbers were released, people were moaning about how they'd have to cut back this holiday season.

But is this really such a big deal?

Will tightening your belt for one holiday season really cause anyone to jump off a bridge?

We're so spoiled in this country and go so overboard on holiday spending that cutting back might actually be a good thing.

Imagine a holiday season where you spend only what you can afford. Where you don't want to stab yourself in the throat with a fork when the credit card bills roll in.

Would it really hurt our kids to get a few fewer toys than last year?

If they don't get the latest pricey electronic game or gizmo this year, will they really end up on an analyst's couch years from now, sobbing into a Kleenex about what a lousy childhood they had?

I don't think so.

And think of the money we'll save if we cut back!

Consumer Reports - boy, these people are full of good news - also said some 12 million Americans are still paying off last year's holiday gifts.

So the last thing those poor souls need is new debt. And for the rest of us, saving a few bucks instead of blowing them on flat-screen TVs and cell phones and video games can only help us start off the new year right.

So if we have to cut back and do our holiday shopping at places like Wal-Mart this year, it won't be the end of the world.

I even visited my local Wal-Mart the other day, as a test run.

The holiday decorations were up. A Christmas tree glowed brightly at each of the three entrances.

An old guy with a name tag that said "Daniel" welcomed me.

"Dan, you might see a lot of me in here," I said, and he seemed happy about that.

They probably won't send a car for me.

Although if the economy gets any worse, you never know.

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