Even in these turbulent times, the winter holidays are giving Americans something to smile about. Nine of 10 adults surveyed by Consumer Reports National Research Center, are looking forward to this festive time of year. One-quarter of those surveyed are “really” excited about the upcoming holidays.

And that enthusiasm translates to good news for the economy: Overall, Americans will likely spend more during the holidays—the median amount they expect to spend is $529, up from $437 last year.  

But it’s probably a stretch to conclude that Americans are back to their pre-recession, free-spending ways. That's because the majority of respondents—58 percent—say they plan to spend the same amount as last year and 27 percent say they’ll cut back on their holiday spending this year, compared to only 14 percent who plan to spend more.  

Among those who expect to dig deeper into their pockets, 53 percent tell us they feel more flush with cash this year than last; 47 percent say they’re simply feeling more generous; while 45 percent say they received a raise or landed a better-paying job. About one quarter of respondents point to lower fuel prices as a reason for their largesse.


Check 
Consumer Reports' 2015 Holiday Guide for our picks of the best gifts, details on the latest deals, time-saving tips, and much more. And see our countdown calendar for top gift ideas for everyone on your list.

Cash Is King

Many Americans, though, are planning to cut back on their holiday spending because they are still struggling financially or are just being very cautious about their spending. In fact, slightly over half of respondents tell us they intend to make a budget this season. While that can be a good way to track holiday spending, more than one-third of those who made a budget last year exceeded their spending limit; 3 percent admitted to going way over budget.

To avoid incurring debt and to maintain better control over this year’s spending, many consumers are turning to cash and debit cards instead of credit cards to pay for their holiday purchases. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed say they’ll use cash this season, a full 10 percentage points higher than in 2014. Fifty-four percent plan to pay by debit card; 40 percent say they’ll charge their purchases; while 32 percent will use gift cards for their holiday shopping.

Security concerns is another big reason to not use credit cards. Twenty-five percent of respondents worry about potential data breaches. That’s up significantly from 2014, when only 11 percent of those surveyed were concerned about their data being stolen.

The Consumer Reports Holiday Poll has tracked shopper sentiment and behavior for a decade. Findings are based on a nationally representative November 2015 survey of 1,007 adults (ages 18 and older), 77 percent of whom will be shopping this holiday season. Fifty-two percent of the sample was female; the median age was 45 years old.