Looking through the colorful pile of bath towel sets marked 30 percent off, Karla Dominguez took a moment to calculate in her head how many she could buy her parents for Christmas and still stay within her budget.
For the 24-year-old University of Central Florida student, the fact that this year's holiday spending comes with a limit is something new. Last Christmas saw her lay out nearly $600 for family gifts. This year, she plans to spend less than half that amount.
"I just don't have the money to spend," Dominguez said as she prepared to leave Linens 'n Things in the Coastal Landing shopping plaza Saturday. "I decided that I'm just going to buy stuff only for my family, and it's not going to be much."
On one of the busiest shopping weekends of the season, it appeared that extravagance is out and practicality is in. But even in the face of a dismal economy, many Hernando retailers were poised to take advantage of any spark the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy might bring through their doors.
"It's been better than expected so far," Spring Hill Target store manager Linda Fleischer said. "People will load up their carts if the items they want are priced right."
Fleischer said that a huge two-day holiday sale netted encouraging results at her store. As has been the case in recent years, home entertainment electronics such as small flat-screen TVs, portable DVD players and video gaming consoles proved to be big sellers for customers looking for low-cost things to do around the home.
"It's definitely a sign of the times," Fleischer said. "People just don't have the money to go out on the town like they used to. That's also one of the reasons why we're selling a lot more food, too."
Ron and Leslie Haffner spent Saturday morning at Target shopping for new bikes for their 8- and 10-year-old sons. At $85 each, the bikes will make up most of the couple's budget for holiday spending.
A couple of years ago, they would have spent much more, said Ron, who works as a diesel mechanic in Pasco County. But with the sputtering economy leading to cutbacks in hours at his job, he worries about getting more in debt. He and his wife decided not to exchange gifts this year.
"It's really terrible because kids don't even know what it means when the economy is bad," he said. "Really, who in the world would ever want to say no at Christmas?"
Logan Neill can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1435.