Stress levels increase for holiday season

November 29, 2008 12:01:43 AM PST
The holiday season is notorious for upping the stress level for nearly everyone. This year, the stress is likely to get worse, as people have to reconcile what they'd like to give and what's really in their budget.

Holiday anxiety takes many forms. This year for most Americans the stress is heightened by a diminished budget.

"For so many people, it's hard for them to let go of the belief that the holidays are about the stuff. I think some of the stress is people have to stand back and really be realistic about their own situation. There are some very powerful, very seductive messages about how it's important for the economy to go out and shop," said Tara Fields, Ph.D., a family therapist.

Today's Black Friday motto was "Shop for the drop?in prices." There were things on sale at 20, 25, 30, even 50 percent off already. On Friday night at an outdoor mall in Corte Madera, even parking wasn't a problem.

"Very few people and lots of sales. That's how I would describe it. It's very comfortable to be a shopper. It's very nice, there are no crowds to fight," said Dore Griffinger, from Piedmont.

"Everything's on sale. Big difference from years past it seems to me," said Jennifer Forshan, from Mill Valley.

"I try to spend less because we're all worried about what will happen," said Pamela Mirmoez, from Mill Valley.

According to an ABC News poll this week, 51 percent of Americans say they're spending less. 31 percent say they'll spend a lot less, but early morning shoppers still stampeded big discount stores for rock bottom buys on electronics, like at an Oakland Walmart.

Analysts predict two bright spots could be stores aimed at children and teens along with stores selling small home appliances and cookware.

Wall Street analysts will be dissecting all the shopping data over the weekend to see how the economy is actually affecting consumers.