By Amanda Wolkin

With the scarcity of jobs and money this holiday season, some Sandy Springs, Buckhead and Brookhaven residents have opted to cut back on gift-buying.

People are finding it difficult to give during “the most wonderful time of the year” when the national and state economies show little signs of improvement. In fact, according to an October study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia’s unemployment rate is 10.2 percent; a rate which has not evaded community members.

“I was laid off from my job last year at The Weather Channel and haven’t found one since,” said Cindy Frye of Buckhead, who worked as a video editor for the cable TV channel before NBC bought the company out. She estimates that around 100 staff members were let go. “I have a three-year-old son, but I’ve barely been able to buy any presents. We’re just learning to make adjustments to our spending.”

These “adjustments” have led many local businesses and shops to feel the brunt of the economic downturn.

“There are fewer shoppers, and they’re definitely buying less,” said Nicole Thompkins, who has been working for Crabtree and Evelyn, a bath, body and skin care store at Perimeter Mall in Sandy Springs, for over a year. “Compared to last year’s holiday season, shoppers are more concerned with looking for bargains. They are not impulsively buying and our store’s sales have gone down, for sure.”

This holiday season some shoppers are choosing to avoid boutiques and malls completely and instead are looking for gifts in second-hand or discount stores.

“I’ve always liked going on treasure hunts to find bargains, but this is the first year I’ve ever had to shop at Goodwill for presents,” said Amy Mazzetta of Buckhead. “I just have had to learn to buy smarter, and you can still find quality gifts here at a fraction of the price.”

Of the 25 people questioned the weekend of Dec. 11, only five indicated that their spending habits have not changed at all this year. Other said they were either cutting down on the number of presents they were giving or reducing the amount they were willing to pay for each gift.

“This year, I had to set a 50-dollar limit for my gifts,” said Foindre Lagesse, a Brookhaven resident. “All my presents combined cannot cost more than that. I just can’t afford to spoil my friends and family this year.”

But, despite the changes in spending, community members are still determined to maintain holiday cheer.

“I have five people in my family, so it’s true we can’t afford to go out to fancy dinners and buy nice gifts like we used to,” said Lisa Clarke of Buckhead, who was laid off from Select Stores last March. “That doesn’t mean we have to change the quality of our life, though. I’ll make sure that my family will have a Christmas celebration like we always have had in the past.”