Many Americans plan less holiday spending, survey says

Los Angeles Times

Improving economic data haven’t put many Americans in the yuletide spirit, with nearly 4 in 10 saying they will spend less this holiday season than they did last year, according to survey results released Monday.

Just 14 percent of consumers in the Bankrate.com survey said they planned to increase their holiday spending. Nearly half – 47 percent – said they planned to spend the same amount.

But 38 percent of the respondents in the Dec. 5-8 survey said they would spend less this year on gifts and other purchases.

The 16-day partial federal government shutdown in October could be one factor that soured the mood for consumers heading into the crucial end-of-the-year holiday shopping season.

Although financial worries related to the shutdown have disappeared and recent reports have indicated the economic recovery is strengthening, many people still are hesitant to spend, said Greg McBride, Bankrate.com’s senior financial analyst.

“People are feeling better about things like their net worth. They see their 401(k) increasing, they’re seeing the value of their homes rebound, but they’re not seeing it in their paycheck,” he said, noting incomes have stagnated despite the recovery.

“People just don’t have a whole lot of extra money laying around, so it’s difficult for them to ramp up holiday spending,” McBride said.

The results of the survey of 1,002 adults came as the Commerce Department reported last week that retail sales rose more than expected in November. Auto sales were a big factor in the increase.

This year’s holiday shopping season got off to a slow start, with spending down 3 percent during the Thanksgiving weekend. Bad weather in many parts of the country also could contribute to lackluster spending, Bankrate.com said.

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