The Consumer Reports Holiday Poll also revealed other signs of Americans' optimism heading into the winter holidays. When asked to take into account recent events in the country in the past year, such as the state of the economy and the recent presidential election, 84 percent said that they expected the upcoming holiday season to be at least as happy as it was last year. However, the Great Recession clearly had a financial impact: 51 percent said that they spend less money during the holiday season than they did before the recession.
"Our poll revealed that Americans have a mostly positive outlook on this year's holiday season and by-and-large aren't letting the economic malaise of the past few years dampen their spirits," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. "However, it's clear that the recession took a toll, as many consumers told us they spent more conservatively, and gave fewer and less-lavish gifts than they did before it hit, for example."
The Consumer Reports Holiday Poll revealed that 57 percent of Americans have yet to begin shopping for holiday gifts as of mid-November, versus 43 percent who have gotten started. The top reasons people gave for not having started shopping for gifts yet included:
- I still have plenty of time (26 percent)
- I don't have enough money (17 percent)
- I'm waiting for sales or promotions (17 percent)
- I've not had the time (13 percent)
- I'm procrastinating (9 percent)
- I cannot make up mind what to buy (8 percent)
- I hate doing it (6 percent)
More Americans will be on a budget this holiday season (52 percent) compared to last year (41 percent), according to the Consumer Reports Holiday Poll. However, sticking to a budget can be more difficult in practice — 36 percent said they spent more than they budgeted for last year. Additionally, 13 percent of those who used a credit card to purchase gifts last holiday season have yet to pay off all of their debt. Americans will charge a median amount of $375 to their credits cards this holiday season.
When asked which gifts they were considering giving this holiday season, the top items included clothing (52 percent), gift cards (46 percent), toys (39 percent), and cash (37 percent). And when deciding between the price of the gift and the quality of the gift, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans said they consider both equally.
Although gift cards continue to among the most popular holiday gifts, 15 percent of Americans still have at least one unused card from 2011.When asked why the cards haven't been spent, 29 percent said they haven't had time to use the card; 24 percent indicated they couldn't find anything they wanted to buy; and 23 percent (and 30 percent of men) simply forgot about the card. Seven percent cited the fact that card came from a store they didn't like.