Salvation Army bell ringers and expectant children are both likely to be disappointed this Christmas. With a recession looming and families feeling cash-strapped in a way they haven’t been since the 2008 housing collapse, there may be fewer donations to charity and fewer presents under the tree.
Kenneth G. Hodder, the commissioner of the Salvation Army, told the Wall Street Journal that requests for aid have jumped 25-50% from last year, with people having “to make choices between buying toys, putting food on the table or paying utilities.”
The holiday cheer between Thanksgiving and Christmas usually propels people to donate to those facing difficult circumstances. This year, however, many families may need those funds for themselves.
“I am feeling a bit bereft that I can’t give the way I want to this year,” said Maggie Enriquez, a single mother from Texas. In Christmases past, she has contributed to toy drives for needy children. But this year, she says, she might need to apply for one.
“I take a lot of pride in being able to provide for my daughter, and when I can’t, I feel really inadequate, and the mom guilt kicks in,” she said.
Households across the United States are feeling similarly, with people reportedly planning on buying an average of nine gifts this year, compared with last year’s 16. Consumers have also trimmed their budgets from $648 last year to $613 this year, according to nonprofit research organization The Conference Board.
Thanks to inflation, more than half of shoppers are stressed about stocking up on gifts for the holiday season. They’re looking for sales, coupons, and other discounts to meet their gifting goals without breaking the bank. One benefit this year has over last year is that stores are offering deep discounts to move products off their shelves, something they couldn’t have done when supply chain problems were causing shortages.
People are also becoming more intentional with their gifts: Financial company Affirm reports that more than half of people this year will skip the holiday gifts for coworkers in order to focus on their families. “Intentional gifting is the act of prioritizing holiday spending on loved ones and giving gifts they will appreciate,” Affirm’s trends expert, Ashmi Pancholi, told Forbes. “Many plan to do this within their inner circles this year.”
However they choose to prioritize their holiday spending, those celebrating this season may want to focus most on their friends and family, remembering the old adage, “It’s the thought that counts.”