This holiday season, thinking about shopping doesn’t have to conjure up thoughts of black coal or empty stockings. It’s not surprising that in a recent nationwide survey conducted by, 48 percent of respondents were NOT looking forward to holiday shopping this year, up 22 percent from last year. In fact, 47 percent said that they would be spending less this year due to the uncertain economy and an increase in their expenses. Nearly all Americans, similar to the 99 percent of respondents, will be looking for a variety of ways to save money this holiday season. Here are five tips for finding great gifts on a budget:

1. Conserve your energy and save online. Avoid the crowds, save your gas and enjoy the convenience of shopping from the comfort of home when you want. Eighty-three percent of the respondents from the survey said they will shop online as much, or even more, than they did last year. The primary reasons for this expected spike is in an effort to cut down on their fuel consumption, it’s less of a hassle and more significantly, 72 percent expect to find better deals online. And if you’re like the 33 percent of respondents who prefer to shop from 8 p.m. to midnight, you don’t have to worry about the stores being closed or the fact that you’re in your pajamas and make-up free.

2. Make a budget and stick to it. Trying to save money, especially when you are filled with the holiday spirit is easier said than done. This year, nearly half of the respondents aren’t looking forward to holiday shopping is because they “don’t think I’ll be able to buy the gifts I really want without busting my budget or maxing out my credit cards.” Free services like’s MyGifts Budget Tool helps you give great gifts without breaking the bank. It allows you to set up a master budget for all of your holiday shopping and will even recommend gift ideas for each person on your list based on your pre-set spending limit.

3. Consider group gifts. Thirty-five percent of respondents indicated they planned to reduce the number of gifts they buy overall to save money this year. There are two creative options to achieve this. Consider giving a present to an entire family instead of buying individual gifts or pool your funds with your siblings to get one big gift for mom and dad. That way no one is left off your list and you’ll be sure to delight everyone.

4. Resist the urge to re-gift. Over 60 percent of respondents indicated that they have re-gifted an item they’ve received. Times may be tight, but you don’t need to scrounge around your house for items you didn’t like and bestow them on someone else. Surprisingly, respondents also indicated that over half of the recipients of these re-gifted items are the people closest to them, their friends and family. If you don’t like the ceramic pig, do you really want to saddle Aunt Marjorie with it? Unless she’s has a collection of pigs, donate or sell it. In fact, 30 percent of survey respondents indicated they have received gifts in the past they considered inappropriate, with hideous home decor items and cheap perfume topping the list.

5. It pays to get personal. If you’re like 47 percent of the survey respondents, the most difficult people to buy gifts for are your in-laws and your own mother because they either have everything, are too picky or they don’t offer any ideas. Unfortunately, not buying presents for one’s parent or in-laws is usually not an option. If you’re stumped, take advantage of web sites like that will do the work for you and recommend unique gift ideas based on their interests or personality. Or get creative and make a gift from the heart. 17 percent of survey respondents indicated that giving homemade gifts is another way to reduce their budget this year.

Avoid becoming Scrooge this holiday season with these money saving tips and enjoy the spirit of giving. (MS)

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