Tag Archives: recession

Merry Christmas to Me: Why consumers are spending more on themselves this shopping season

By Stephanie Milam

It’s that time of year again – the holiday shopping season. Many big name retailers have announced plans to top last year’s deals both in-store and online in an effort to meet the high expectations of budget-conscious consumers. But because Americans have become even more leery of the state of the US economy, there has been speculation around how much tighter they’ll keep the purse strings on their holiday spending.

Last month, researchers released the 2011 projections for holiday trends, and the numbers aren’t exactly blowing last year’s spending and sales figures out of the water. The most intriguing prediction is that, while shoppers will be spending a slightly lower total amount on gifts, they will be spending significantly more on non-gift items for themselves and their families. The survey from which these results were generated did not ask questions about what non-gift items they will buy, or why they are spending more on themselves this time of year, so I’ve made a few predictions of my own.  I believe shoppers are purchasing other items for themselves and their families during the holiday season because they are waiting to buy certain items until the end of the year when they can get the best sales and lowest prices. With this new trend, demand is put on hold until this enormous promotional period.

My prediction stems from one consumer priority: budget management. Consumers have gotten better and stricter about maintaining tight budgets, which has affected the way they shop. I believe shoppers are waiting until the end of the year to make non-gift purchases because they want to take advantage of what they expect to be the best deals of year. Waiting until the end of the year to buy requires discipline, patience, and planning. After three years of this recession, American consumers are now skilled enough at budgeting and bargain hunting that they can and will wait to make these extra purchases until the holiday shopping season.

But what exactly are they buying? In order to wait months for the purchase, the items can’t be immediate necessities. And based on the survey, the amount of money each shopper is spending on non-gift items is approximately $130.43, so we can assume they’re not buying a new car. My educated guess is that shoppers are making purchases on clothing, home goods, and other semi-necessities. These are the things we can live without buying or replacing until we know we are getting the absolute best deal.  For such goods, consumers are finally willing to spend during the big end-of-year and holiday sales; and after holding off and saving, shoppers feel they deserve these extras.

The 2011 holidays are sure to be filled with plenty of gift-giving, but this season will also see a surge in extra purchases to make the shopper feel a little extra retail love. In the coming years, it will be interesting to observe if and how such promotions-driven spending will affect the retail marketplace during the rest of the year as well as future holiday seasons.

A Stressful Economy

By Stephanie Milam

Our struggling economy has cost many American adults their homes, their jobs, and potentially even their health. As chronic diseases like cancer and heart failure continue to top the list of major health problems in the US, stress has proven to be a source and contributor to many of these diseases. Three years into the recession, stress levels have increased amongst adults, and especially amongst women.

While men and women have suffered in various ways from the recession, women have felt it more through stress. Studies have shown that women are more prone to stress than men, and as such, are more susceptible to its effects. Every aspect of their lives – children, health, education – can increase stress levels, but the two largest causes of stress for women are none other than time and money. Time and money cause stress when there isn’t enough of either: enough time to get everything done, from driving kids to activities, providing dinner, and getting a good night’s sleep; or enough money to provide for the family and their future.

The uncertainty of where the country’s economy is headed, especially with the looming threat of a double-dip recession, has caused stress for women of all ages, lifestyles, and backgrounds. From retirement, to home ownership, to groceries, to student loans, financing their lives has become an extremely difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible endeavor. Such insecurity has created very high and unabated levels of stress amongst women which in turn can cause a slew of serious health ailments… which can lead to even more financial pressures.

Serious mental health issues that can be caused or enabled by stress include: depression, insomnia, and self-medication with over-the-counter pills, overeating, and alcohol. Stress also increases the risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and cancer.

But there is a bright side – the comfort and support of family can help alleviate stress. With the current state of the country, people are cautious to make big changes in their lives, causing people to stay close to home. In professional and personal experiences I’ve had over the past few years, I’ve learned that many families are sticking together and moving in with one another as a way to save money and support each other. With the deteriorated housing market and an unclear end in sight for the economy, multiple generations are living under the same roof. And while providing for the family can be a serious daily challenge, the cohabitation and family closeness can be a stress relief for women feeling significant financial pressure.