NATIONAL (NBC) - On Christmas Eve die-hard shoppers have reason to celebrate, but even bargain-basement prices haven't been enough to convince consumers to part with any more cash than necessary in these tough times.
Consumer spending dipped again last month though not as bad as forecast.
Malls that should be bustling have been virtually empty leading into the holiday home stretch.
"Yeah, I expected a much bigger crowd. It's empty all around," said Walter Henning.
And most retailers are bracing for a bad bottom line.
"It's tough out there for every single retailer at every price point, and you know, the only one that doesn't appear to be struggling is Wal-Mart at this point," said Citi Group retail analyst Kimberly Greenberger.
Plummeting gas prices gave many Americans a little more pocket change.
But as last week's jobless claims spiked to a 26 year high, many Americans are worried.
Some families feel they can no longer afford business as usual.
For this mom the kids come first.
"They're getting exactly what they want for Christmas. The rest of the family it's what's on sale," said Lori Klingman.
This sharp-eyed shopper wants half-off or better.
"Definitely buy one get one free," said Latonya Thomas.