This Aug. 11, 2019 file photo shows Visa credit cards in New Orleans. Credit: Jenny Kane / AP

Many Mainers expect to dial back holiday spending this year, squeezed by high inflation and rising costs for everything from basic groceries to heating fuel.

When we asked you about your holiday plans, half of you said you would spend less on gifts — about the same as in national surveys — with 62 percent saying you would spend less than $500. A little more than half of you said you have become less confident about your financial situation over the past couple years.

Brenda Norris, 59, of Newport said mounting prices at the grocery store and for heat mean she cannot buy her grandson a gift this Christmas.

“I probably could try to get stuff and strap myself with credit cards, but I refuse to do that,” said Norris, who is disabled and on a fixed income. “I don’t need to be in debt any more than what I am right now.”

Norris said she is frustrated but will focus on family time, which is something her grandson, age 5, enjoys. That includes getting together with her son’s family on Christmas eve and lighting the tree.

For others, it might be a challenge to cut back despite their best intentions. This holiday season shows early signs of setting another record. Sales on Black Friday were up 2.3 percent over last year to $9.12 billion, and Cyber Monday sales rose 5.3 percent to $11.3 billion, according to Adobe Analytics. Some of that could reflect higher prices caused by inflation and not just higher consumer buying, Craig Joncas, CEO of Penobscot Financial Advisors in Bangor, said.

It’s still possible to have an enjoyable holiday on a budget though, experts said.

Financial planners advise those on tight budgets to limit credit card use and to try to stick to spending limits. They said be aware that credit card debt mounts over time with interest charges. Nearly three-quarters of holiday shoppers told Nerd Wallet that they will pay for holiday gifts with credit cards, despite close to one-third of last year’s holiday shoppers not having paid off their balances yet.

“If you have a credit card where your interest rate will go up and you can’t afford to pay it off before the interest kicks in, you’re going to be paying more money for things,” Joncas said.

It can take from months to years to pay off holiday debt and interest payments, Joncas said.

Credit card debt is near record levels, with Americans holding $925 billion in credit card debt as of the third quarter of this year, up 15 percent over the same quarter last year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Maine ranked 33rd in the nation in the amount of debt held by credit card holders in the third quarter, according to LendingTree. The average Mainer owes $6,173 on their bank and retail credit cards. Still, that is less than the national average of $6,569 per person and about $700 less than New Jersey, where credit card holders have the highest debt.

Interest rates that look good now could be higher in January, so minimizing what you charge is a good strategy, according to Wayne Winegarden, senior fellow at the right-leaning Pacific Research Institute in California.

“That’s the scary thing about credit cards, especially if you have variable rates,” he said. “The more you put on your credit card, the harder it is going to be.”

He said New Englanders will be especially strained financially because of high heating costs and cold winters compared to much of the rest of the country. Inflation has grown, but incomes haven’t kept up.

Beyond not using credit cards, Joncas and Winegarden said trimming the smaller costs can add up. That includes buying a less expensive cut of meat for the holiday dinner, buying in bulk and using coupons, shop early and buy over time to spread out spending, taking a family outing together rather than buying gifts, having a Yankee Swap to lower the number of gifts you need to buy, or simply turning off the Christmas lights during the day and overnight.

Starting a holiday savings plan early in the New Year and sticking to a budget will help with next year’s expenses.

“It’s all about tradeoffs,” Winegarden said. “You need to find places to squeeze the nickel until it screams.”