Suze Orman's Holiday Buying Guide

"Suze's gift was that she confirmed everything that we were saying. But my fiance is saying that I'm being cheap. And I don't think it has anything to do with being cheap. It has to do with being financially responsible," Ira said.

Orman Takes Pulse of Consumer Demand, Trends

Are people being financially responsible this season? Has the recession affected holiday spending? Roaming the mall, Orman was also on the prowl, taking the pulse of consumer demand.

"[Shoppers] sound more realistic, and here's the great thing: They don't sound as embarrassed to be in the situation that they are in," she said. "You know before a while ago maybe you weren't doing well, but you didn't tell anybody that you weren't doing well, because your next door neighbor looked like they were doing great. ...Then the truth comes out where nobody is doing great, and nobody feels good and everybody has lost money, and everyone is under water and then all of a sudden there's almost pride to be able to say now: 'Yeah, I am in debt!' 'Yeah, I don't have any money, I'm just like everybody now!' It's fascinating they are not hiding."

She said she thinks families who know money is tight aren't coming to the mall.

"Some families, they can't feed their families, they can't pay their payments. So they don't tempt themselves by coming to the mall to spend money they don't have anymore.

"Those that are coming, for whatever reason, maybe they cut back over the past year, maybe they saved money, maybe they are out of credit card debt. And they are spending money in a responsible way," Orman said, noting a trend this season.

Vicki Randolph drove three hours with her sister Melanie to get Orman's advice during the roughest time of her life.

Randolph lost her job in February and recently separated from her husband.

"What's the greatest gift you could give yourself?" Orman asked.

"Peace ... a job," Randolph said.

"A job would give you security, independence, a gift to you -- then you don't need a husband to support you anymore," Orman told her, taking her hands. "[This] holiday season give yourself the gift of independence."

And that, Orman said, is the greatest gift this holiday season.

"The gift of independence," Orman said, "of knowing who you are regardless of what you have around you, defining the things around you, versus letting them define you."

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