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Americans: Great Holiday Spirits But Spending— Not So Much

gi_111251_december-2016-coverThis year’s holiday season will be greeted by Americans who are largely in good spirits, according to a new Consumer Reports Poll. Nine in ten Americans are looking forward to the holidays, including 28% who are really looking forward to it.

Though shoppers will begin the season in good spirits, their spending on gifts will be relatively flat. Americans anticipate spending a median of $563, up 6% over last year. And more plan to spend less money (26%) than more money (16%). The survey revealed a spending gap among demographic groups: Gen Xers plan to spend a median of $695, Baby Boomers will spend $672, while Millennials will spend just $453.

“Our survey revealed that Americans’ holiday hopefulness is pretty resilient and hasn’t really wavered over the past few years, and that’s very good news,” said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior projects editor and resident shopping expert.

Among the shoppers who plan to open their wallets a little more this year, their improving finances are a key factor. Sixty-four percent said they simply have more money this year vs. last; 54% said they’re feeling more generous, or have more people on their gifts list; 45% reported they got a raise or better-paying job; 23% cited lower gas prices for their holiday season largesse; and 16% have people asking them for more expensive gifts than last year.

Though the poll was taken before Election Day, three quarters of respondents said the campaign season had not affected their mood about the upcoming holiday season. However, of those who said their mood had been affected, it was overwhelmingly in a negative way – 21% vs. just 4% who said they were positively affected. Nineteen percent said it made them more worried about spending money. A subsequent CR poll will reveal if Americans have changed their views in any way now that the election is over.

The Consumer Reports poll also revealed that nearly half (48%) of holiday shoppers plan to create a budget this year. Only 37% said they did so last year. Of those who did make a budget, 34% overspent – about the same as the amount who did so in 2015.

Though cash will still be king, plastic is expected to make a bit of comeback this year. Fifty-eight percent of shoppers plan to use their debit cards for purchases, up from 54% last year and 45% two years ago. Credit cards will be used by 44% of shoppers, up from 40% last year and on par with the 45% from 2014. Five percent of Americans who used credit cards during last year’s holiday season still have unretired credit card debt from last holiday season.

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