We gather together ... in tight times

Rolanda Neal and her family are having a pared - down Thanksgiving this year. It's mainly because relatives from New Jersey, North Carolina and other parts of South Carolina have decided not to make the usual holiday trek to Neal's Northeast Richland home.

Though she's disappointed she won't see her relatives, Neal is a little relieved she won't have to fork out the extra $500 or so to buy two turkeys, ham, side dishes, desserts and other items for a big holiday feast.

"I would be making a sacrifice, and that's not something we can afford at this time," she said.

Like Neal's family, other South Carolinians and people around the country will be cutting back on travel and other spending this holiday season compared to previous years, because of tighter financial times.

In a national survey of 1,000 consumers by Charleston-based America's Research Group and UBS Global Equity Research, half of respondents said they would be traveling less this holiday season than last.

"If half of America is going to travel less around the Christmas season, obviously things are not very good out there," said Britt Beemer, chief executive of America’s Research Group.

This year's consumer spending outlook is bleak, based on the early-November survey. Forty percent of people surveyed said they will spend less, and more than one third said they will buy fewer gifts. Only 10 percent of consumers said they plan to shop at major department stores this year — the lowest in 13 years.