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 (www.DebtAdvice.org) 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 NFCC.org.

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

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial 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.