Consumer Reports Poll: Consumers Plan to Cut Back on Holiday Spending Less So Than in 'Recession' Years

Oct 28, 2010, 06:00 ET from Consumer Reports

42 Percent Say Getting the Best Prices on Holiday Gifts is Critical; 13.6 Million Americans Still Carry Debt from Last Season's Shopping

YONKERS, N.Y., Oct. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Some shoppers may be loosening their financial belts a bit this holiday season, but ongoing economic turbulence continues to motivate many to insist on getting a bigger bang for their buck.  According to a new Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, about one in three Americans plan to spend less this holiday season, down from 42 percent in 2008. The full results of this latest poll are available at

"Consumers are optimistic, but they don't necessarily believe that happy days are here again.  Credit is tight, unemployment remains high, the value of their homes has dropped and many Americans are facing the prospect of higher taxes of all levels," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. "So while it's a bit surprising that some plan to spend somewhat more than last year, the fact is they're insisting on value, value, value."  

In a previous poll conducted by Consumer Reports at the conclusion of the last holiday shopping season, shoppers estimated they spent on average $811 – 16 percent higher than what they had planned.  The majority of those recently surveyed plan to use cash as often and about four in ten will cut back on credit and debit card spending.  That's probably a good thing.  In 2009, Americans who paid with credit cards charged more than they anticipated– $180 more on average.

Another problem with using credit cards is that consumers tend to carry debt for a long time.  The latest Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll revealed some 13.6 million Americans remain saddled with last years' leftover holiday debt.

Additional findings from Consumer Reports first Holiday Shopping Poll of 2010 include:

'Tis Better to Give Than Receive

  • Nearly a third (31%) of adults reported that they plan to cutback on gifts for themselves. Overall, they expect to spend more on charitable giving and gifts for others.

Tackling Holiday Shopping

  • Most people haven't begun shopping. As of mid-October, only about a quarter (28%) of Americans had started.  Twenty percent do not expect to finish until after December 23rd.

Budgets on the Decline

  • Nearly half (47%) of Americans are planning to set a budget for their holiday purchases.  That's down 12 percentage points from the height of the recession in 2008.
  • Making a budget and sticking to it are two different things. Of the 36 percent of consumers who made a budget last year, 39 percent reported that they exceeded it; five percent said they went way over budget.

Happy Holidays Are Here Again

  • Holiday optimism continues to grow. Forty percent of adults expect their holiday season to be happier than last year.  Households with kids under 12 (53%) and younger adults aged 18 – 34 (58%) are particularly optimistic about the upcoming holiday season.

Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Methodology

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted two telephone surveys of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households.  1,023 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+ between January 7 – 10, 2010 for the post 2009 holiday data.  Another 1,010 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+ between October 14 – 18, 2010.  The margin of error is +/- 3% points at a 95% confidence level.


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SOURCE Consumer Reports