WASHINGTON (UPDATED: 3:00 P.M. ET, 11/21/12)--The 2012 Consumer Federation of America (CFA)/Credit Union National Association (CUNA) holiday spending survey has found that more consumers plan to spend more than they did last year, while fewer plan to curtail their spending this year, CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel said Wednesday.
In the past year, the percentage of consumers who said they would spend more than last year rose from 8% to 12%. Those who said they would spend less declined from 41% to 38%.
The survey, which is the 13th compiled by the CFA and CUNA, was presented at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Hampel was joined by CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck to present the survey findings. The survey takes a timely read on consumer sentiment. It was conducted Nov. 9 through 13 and polled 1,012 consumers.
Overall, Hampel estimated that 2012 holiday spending could increase by between 3.5% and 4% compared to 2011's totals.
Hampel said "this represents the fourth year of gradual improvement in holiday spending plans since a sharp decline in such plans in 2008." The 2012 survey results are not a dramatic shift from last year's totals, but represent another step in America's continuing economic recovery, he added.
The 2012 survey showed close connections between financial condition and planned spending, with 31% of those that said they would spend more this year indicating their financial condition had improved since 2011. Eleven percent of respondents with incomes under $25,000 said they would spend more this year, while 44% said they planned to spend less. Eighteen percent of those with family incomes of more than $100,000 said they planned to spend more this year, while 31% at that income level said they would decrease their total holiday spending.
Overall, nearly one-in-four of the survey respondents found their financial situation has improved in the past year, and 33% said their personal financial condition has worsened. These changes are both improvements when compared to 2011's results.
The CFA and CUNA suggested that consumers looking to spend less this holiday season avoid impulse buying by sticking to a predetermined budget for gifts, holiday foods, party clothes and holiday decor.
Consumers can also use the Internet to comparison shop, and will benefit by starting their holiday shopping sooner rather than later.
Starting a holiday savings account or curbing spending by finding low- or no-cost ways to celebrate the holidays are also options, Brobeck said.
CUNA and CFA's tips to help consumers manage holiday debt, which traditionally accompany the survey findings, also note that holiday club accounts can be found at many credit unions, as can credit cards that typically have lower rates than those of other financial institutions.
The CUNA/CFA release suggests consumers looking to join a credit union go to aSmarterChoice.org, the consumer web site established by CUNA and credit union leagues.