BAH humbug! Britons are tightening their belts as they prepare their Christmas shopping lists, according to a survey published today.
People are planning to spend less than last year on presents, food and drink.
And they are increasingly looking abroad in the hunt for a bargain and more choice.
Despite the gloomy forecast, British retailers appeared confident people will end up spending more than last year on their Christmas shopping.
The annual Switch/ Maestro survey found that people were setting aside £813 for presents, wrapping paper, cards, decorations and festive food and drink.
That is 6.5% down on last year's figure of £868 and just slightly down on the average figure in 1999 of £819.
In the eight years since Switch/Maestro began its annual Cost of Christmas survey, spending has been down only once before - three years ago in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Switch/Maestro chief executive Roger Alexander blamed interest rate rises for the cautious spending plans.
He said: "Last year our report predicted that fears of interest rate rises and warnings over personal debt were set to cause a slowdown in Christmas spending, at just 1% more than the previous year.
"Now it seems that, following five interest rate rises since our last survey, consumers are going to be much more cautious this Christmas - spending £55 less overall than in 2003".
More than a third of those surveyed said their most expensive purchase would be for their children, although people plan to spend £6 less on their largest present costing on average £117.