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Frugal Generosity

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Cutting against the grain of gloomier forecasts, polling by Information Resources Inc. last month found 74 percent of respondents planning to buy at least as many holiday presents as last year. Sixty-three percent intend to buy at least as many expensive gifts.

But they'll try to stretch their holiday dollars: 56 percent will "take advantage of sales or promotions seen on TV or heard on the radio"; 53 percent will use more newspaper coupons. They'll adopt a similar strategy when it comes to food, as 91 percent plan to use "at least some private-label products to prepare their holiday meals."

In the same survey, consumers also "cited an increased importance of holiday rituals as they take comfort with family and friends" -- which, incidentally, may be a lower-cost alternative to seeking out novel experiences in the company of total strangers. Anyhow, 94 percent of the respondents said "spending time with family is more important than last year."