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Squeezed by inflation, families are tightening their holiday budgets

New York(CNN) Anya Remy is Christmas shopping for her family on a stricter budget than ever before.

Remy, a human resources professional in Maryland, has felt the pain of high inflation in recent months. So, she asked her kids to cut down their Christmas lists and has been searching for the best deals.

"It's a lot less spending this year and a lot more budgeting and prioritizing," Remy told CNN. "It's a few items for the kids this year, as opposed to getting them all of the things on their list."

The highest inflation since the 1980s is making holiday budgeting a more complex equation for millions of middle-class families: A November Quinnipiac poll found 47% of Americans have less in savings than they did just a year ago. The same poll found 42% plan to spend less on gifts this season and only 8% plan to spend more.

Overall holiday spending hasn't slowed yet, according to the National Retail Federation, but many families are making sacrifices to buy presents for their loved ones.

Janette Duvall, a school bus driver in Maryland, is relying on coupons for the first time to afford gifts for her family. While inflation is squeezing her budget, she wants to make sure her kids have something to open on Christmas, even if she can't buy anything for herself.

Clockwise from top left: Anya Remy, Janette Duvall, Karissa Warren and Lindsay Cook all said their budget has been impacted by high prices.

"I will do whatever I can, but I will, of course, look for something cheaper this year," she said. "Not everybody will have the same quality of gift they used to get."

In a Gallup poll this month, 55% of Americans said rising prices have caused financial hardship for their household, and 13% say that hardship is "severe."

Second-grade teacher Lindsay Cook said her family has been living paycheck to paycheck for the first time.

"There's no sort of wiggle room," Cook said. "And it's kind of scary."

For months, she and her husband, a school security officer, have been dipping into savings and using credit cards to keep up with higher prices on food, gas, energy and more, as they take care of their two children.

Budgeting for the holidays, she said, has been daunting.

"How do you create a budget when you don't have any sort of extra income," she said. "I'm just trying to limit the amount of extra spending that I'm doing and try to pull from whatever savings I have left."

She decided to cap her spending at $100 for each of her children. She and her husband would like to get each other gifts, but she said it's low on the priority list.

"I don't want to disappoint my kids," she said. "I don't want them to be upset."

Recession concerns are also impacting family spending.

Karissa Warren spoke with CNN in March when she could barely afford to fill her gas tank because of surging fuel prices.

With gas prices down, and after receiving a raise at work, Warren felt more secure heading into the holidays, though she planned to buy less than in past years. Then she received news that she's getting laid off from her job.

"It just kind of blew everything up," she said about her budget. "Now, it's like, anything extra is out of the question."

She's already purchased some gifts for her three-year-old daughter, Laila, but she plans to stop her holiday spending.

"I would like to fill the tree a little bit more than what we're going to be able to," she said. "At the end of the day, as long as [Laila] is happy, we're all happy. We won't have gifts under the tree this year, but she will. So that's all that really matters."

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