WASHINGTON - Consumers are a bit more inclined to cut back on holiday spending than in recent years, concerned about energy costs and credit card debt.
A moderate rise in holiday spending, weaker than in the past few years, is expected as a result, the Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association said Tuesday in their annual survey.
When respondents were asked whether they intended to spend more or less this season, 32 percent said less compared with 30 percent in the 2005 survey.
By contrast, 15 percent said they would spend more this year, close to last year's 14 percent, while 52 percent said they would spend about the same, little changed from 51 percent.
"Our experience with this survey is consumers tend to say they will spend less than they actually do, and our overall survey findings are slightly weaker than last year," said Bill Hampel, chief economist of the credit union association. "This suggests many households will feel financially 'hung over' in a couple of months unless they do something about it now."
Respondents expressing concern about paying off credit card debt from holiday spending rose to 33 percent from 25 percent in 2005, with those ages 18 to 24 showing particular concern.
In the holiday spending survey, 43 percent of consumers expressed concern about meeting monthly payments on all kinds of debt.
It showed the least affluent consumers, with annual incomes under $25,000, more financially strapped than last year.
HOLIDAY SPENDING TIPS
- Decide how much you can afford and then stay within that budget. Be sure to include holiday items such as food, decorations and postage.
- You can save at least 10 percent on most items by comparison shopping.
- When shopping online, be sure you are buying from a secure site (with a locked padlock icon on the toolbar).
- Pay in cash if possible. If you use a credit card, use a lower-interest card and pay off that debt as soon as possible.
- Open a Christmas Club account for next year. They are a practical way to save small amounts over time.
- Read the fine print on gift cards to check for any fees.
- Pay attention to store return policies, which are getting tighter. Keep your receipts.
Source: Consumer Federation of America and the Credit Union National Association