Consumers say they will spend less this season

Even though millions of consumers hit the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, others instead found a lump of coal in their pre-holiday shopping stocking.

The November online poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website revealed that more than 90 percent of respondents will either spend less or nothing at all on holiday purchases this year.

“This poll is sobering, underscoring what we already knew: the recession may technically be over, but it is alive and well in the homes of many Americans,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Times continue to be hard, with the holiday season only serving to exacerbate the financial strain.”

The November online survey question and responses are as follows.

This holiday season I will:

A. Spend as I did last year because my financial life is stable = 7%

B. Cut back on spending, since I am worse off financially this year = 57%

C. Spend more than last year because I am in a better financial position = 2%

D. Not spend at all, because I anticipate further financial distress = 34%

Close to 2,400 responses sends a strong signal, and it’s not one that retailers necessarily want to hear. Possible implications of the survey suggest:

  • Those who have already made purchases may have been bargain-hunting, and only shopped early because they believed that doing so would yield the best buys; or
  • Consumers shopped early, and have exhausted the amount allocated for holiday shopping, thus no further spending will occur.

The poll suggests that consumers still do not feel confident enough about their financial future to begin spending, and when you couple these results with the NFCC’s October poll which indicated that 70 percent of consumers intend to pay for holiday purchases by using cash or a debit card, it becomes clear that the intention is to control spending this holiday season.

Note: The NFCC’s November Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC Web site ( from November 1-30, 2010 and answered by 2,396 individuals.

MMI is a member of The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).  Founded in 1951, the NFCC is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior and build capacity for its Members to deliver the highest quality financial education and counseling services. For more information visit

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.