The annual Christmas countdown clock is ticking the seasonal shopping seconds away until Sunday morning and retailers are offering big discounts to get procrastinating people spending.
Yet almost every shopper WJLA’s Kris Van Cleave spoke with is on a budget this year.
Kevin Hutchinson's family divided up the list and set a per-gift price limit.
“Which actually makes it fun, it makes the shopping a little different instead of getting whatever you can; now we're putting thought into it,” he says.
The National Retail Federation raised its forecast for the holiday season to be up by 3.8 percent over last year but there's also signs of increased returns. And it’s still days before Christmas.
Dana Lukken isn't surprised. While she and 2-year-old Crawford just finished their shopping, it included a trip to the return line.
“I bought a couple things, wasn't sure what the kids wanted, so I've returned some things,” she says.
The NRF says retailers will see a 9.9 percent return rate, up a bit from last year.
A survey by Accenture found stores and manufacturers were expecting to spend $17 billion rehabilitating returns; the Associated Press reports that's up 21% from four years ago.
Some reasons for the many unhappy returns, according to the Associated Press:
• Shoppers are binging on big discounts. Stores are desperate to get people in the door. But the same shoppers who find a "60 percent off" tag too good to resist may realize at home that they busted the budget.
• Stores have made it easier to take things back. Nordstrom is letting online shoppers return items at no extra charge this year. It used to charge $6. Other stores are offering more time to return or rolling out "no questions asked" policies -- no tag or receipt required. But that can backfire.
• Stores are undercutting each other in a tough economy. Wanda Vazquez spent $39.99 at a New York Target on iPad speakers for her 12-year-old daughter, then returned them when she found something similar for $16.99 at Marshalls.
Still, Sharon Hamon-Bommer and little Cypher are all about getting the shopping down. Returns, if needed, can wait.
“I'm ahead of schedule,” she says. “I try to get it out of the way.”