Spending Nervously

Mike Zaccardi

IT’S CRUNCH TIME for retailers. Black Friday, it’s said, is the day many stores finally turn a profit for the year. While that’s a myth, there’s no doubt analysts will be watching closely to see how consumers spend the extra cash generated by stimulus checks and an improving economy.

Americans sure seem ready to spend. According to, approximately four in 10 shoppers are willing to go into or add to debt for this year’s holiday spending. Here are more fun holiday shopping facts: Parents will spend $276 on average per child under age 18, while men will spend 55% more than women on gifts for their significant other.

Research shows that giving to others and donating to charity often bring great happiness to the giver. And why not give? Consumer finance data suggest our finances are quite strong this holiday season. Maybe splurging in the weeks ahead isn’t all that reckless.

On the other hand, many people don’t feel as financially secure as perhaps they should. Friday’s consumer sentiment survey from the University of Michigan found that folks are currently the most financially pessimistic they’ve been since 2011. More economic data comes our way in the next few days, including the monthly retail sales report on Tuesday.

Spending is forecast to be huge this holiday season. In late October, the National Retail Federation published its winter holiday sales outlook. The group expects that this year will shatter shopping records. But will consumers spend gleefully because the economy has rebounded—or spend cautiously because they’re worried it won’t last? Wall Street will be watching.

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