How Washington Could Ruin the Holidays

By Lifestyle and BudgetFOXBusiness

Black Friday sales might have fallen short of last year’s spending numbers, but one survey shows customers still plan to spend more on their holiday shopping this year compared to 2012.

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The National Retail Federation projects American shoppers spent $407.02 from Thanksgiving to Sunday, a drop from $423.55 last year. But according to Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association’s annual holiday spending survey, the percentage of people who said they would spend more this year compared to last year rose to 13% from 12%. What’s more, the percentage of people planning to spend less declined to 32% from 38%.

Each year the two groups interview roughly 1,000 people via phone to get a sense of their spending plans for the holidays.

In a press release Bill Hampel, chief economist for the Credit Union National Association, said the survey results are encouraging given the fiscal uncertainty that has plagued Capitol Hill this year and shows no signs of going away next year.

He also said the results imply that fewer Americans are seeing their economic situation worsen this holiday season.

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Indeed, according to the survey, there was a five percentage point gap between those who said their financial situation was worse this year compared to the same period last year and those who said it was better, which was the smallest since the question was posed in the 2009 survey.

While lawmakers continue to play the blame game on the slow recovery, about half of the survey’s respondents said the recent controversies have impacted their spending plans. What’s more, the survey revealed that lower-income families were more likely to be affected by Washington’s drama than higher- income families. Close to three-fifths of households with income under $50,000 said the government dysfunction will impact them while less than two-fifths of families making more than $100,000 felt impacted by it.

“Lower-income households are more dependent on federal jobs and expenditures than high-income households,” said Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s executive director in the press release.  “While Food Stamp expenditures are being cut, stock prices have soared.”

The survey shows the uneven recovery has widened the gap between the affluent and the poor with 35% of survey respondents with incomes below $50,000 reporting their financial position was worse this year while only 17% of people making more than $100,000 felt the same way.  What’s more, nearly two- thirds of people making less than $25,000 and over half of those with incomes between $25,000-$50,000 were concerned about making debt payments compared to 23% of those making more than $100,000.

If you do end up charging your holiday gifts, it’s a smart idea to pay off the debt quickly. You don’t want to go into the New Year with debt and interest charges building up. To get ahead of next year’s holiday season, CUNA and CFA says to ask your bank or credit union if they offer a Christmas Club or if they can automatically transfer fund into a savings account each month.

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