Holiday wallets may be loosening up


A lot of firms have been taking the temperature of the American consumer as the holiday spending season approaches in earnest, and a trend may have developed over the course of the past couple of months – after a round of gloomy reports, a new somewhat sunnier narrative has started to take hold.

The latest of these comes from ING DIRECT, which notes that 72% of the people it surveyed intend to spend the same or more than they did last year. It adds that a large number of potential spenders are not as concerned about their own personal finances as they were a year ago.

“A confident consumer needs to be a smart consumer. With an increase in seasonal spending expected, shoppers have a positive outlook about their finances as the holidays quickly approach,” said Arkadi Kuhlmann, President and CEO of ING DIRECT USA. “Recognizing the value of long-lasting gifts and proper budgeting throughout the year should allow consumers to spend sensibly without putting them in debt for the New Year.”

ING noted that consumers are getting smarter about their spending, and that they will be using cash and debit cards in great numbers, rather then piling up expense on credit.

Here are a few key data points from the study:

* $1,000 or more – 22 percent of adults say they plan to spend $1,000 or more this year, compared to only 10 percent in 2009

* $300 or more – 67 percent of adults say they will spend $300 or more, compared to just 54 percent of adults in 2009

* Less than $300 – 29 percent of adults say they will spend under $300, while in 2009 this percentage was over a third (34 percent)

By the way, the study found that consumers are learning to live without credit in general – the abandonment of revolvers appears to be one of the lasting legacies of the financial implosion in the Fall of 2008.