OPINION

Economy impacts holiday traditions

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

The state of the economy will have an impact on how Iowans plan to celebrate the holidays this year. Whether it’s attending parties, visiting family or giving gifts – a recent survey by the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL) shows consumers in Iowa are rethinking their traditions.

The survey, which had more than 1,500 participants throughout the state, showed nearly 55 percent of respondents said the economy has impacted their holiday plans. Fifty one percent will buy fewer gifts, 36 percent will cut back on traveling and 20 percent will attend fewer parties or other festivities.

Some key economic factors dictating the highest affected holiday tradition – gift giving – include limited disposable income, a higher cost of living and insufficient salary, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2014 Holiday Outlook. The annual study, which gives a snapshot of consumer mindset for retailers nationwide, concluded those economic factors will drive holiday spending decisions even more so than last year.

To help combat some of those factors, 34 percent of Iowans surveyed say they will be looking for ways to earn extra income for the holidays by working overtime, getting a seasonal job or selling items online or at a yard sale. Forty-three percent of those respondents say they are hoping to make up to $1,000 for the holiday season. In 2013, a Gallup.com survey reported that the average American household would spend approximately $740 during the holidays.

While more Americans are working, it’s in an economy where everything costs more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate in America is 5.9 percent. The unemployment rate in Iowa is 4.6 percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons are down by 1.3 percent and 1.9 million people, respectively. However, in the last year the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all items increased 1.7 percent. This includes expenses such as food, gasoline, shelter, air travel, clothing and recreation. During that time, the average weekly earnings for employees has risen 2.2 percent, less than 1 percent higher than CPI.

Other tips to consider now and throughout the year include:

Save all year. Saving all year, or at least part of the year, will lessen the economic burden during the holidays.

Budget. Make a list of all the expected holiday events and expenses such as parties, gifts and traveling. Once the list is complete, budget the cost of each.

Look for deals. Grocery shop with coupons, look for sales or shop online when there’s free shipping. Also, consider browsing a second-hand store for that perfect holiday outfit.

Prioritize. Decide what traditions are most important to you and your family and stick to those.