Americans plan to cut spending during the holidays, survey finds

U.S. consumers have cut back on spending this year and plan to continue doing so during the holidays, according to a new survey from CNBC-Morning Consult.

The vast majority of adults (92%) have reduced their spending in the past six months, according to a poll conducted on behalf of CNBC by Morning Consult, a company that conducts surveys to inform decision-making. The poll surveyed 4,403 American adults between Tuesday and Thursday.

Consumers remain cautious with their spending and are more discerning about where and when to part with their hard-earned money. Inflation has fallen, but remains stubbornly high. Widespread economic uncertainty and social unrest, amid strikes by auto workers in Detroit and writers and actors in Hollywood, have put consumer companies under scrutiny.

The most common spending categories in which spending was cut in the past six months were clothing and clothing (63%), restaurants and bars (62%), and outdoor entertainment (56%), a trend that was maintained compared to our June survey. The next most affected categories by discounts were groceries (54%), recreational travel and vacations (53%), and electronics (50%).

Shoppers along the Magnificent Mile shopping district in Chicago, Illinois, United States, Tuesday, August 15, 2023.

Jamie KelterDavis | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ahead of the all-important holiday shopping season, a warning for retailers: More than three-quarters of all U.S. adults surveyed (76%) plan to cut back on non-essential items, and 62% plan to cut spending for essential items. “sometimes” or “more often” over the next six months, according to the survey.

The intensity with which consumers report feeling the impact of the current economic situation varies across socio-economic groups. And it’s not always those who earn the least who report feeling the most stuck.

More than half (55%) of households earning $50,000 or less (low-income) reported feeling the impact of the economy on their personal finances, while 61% of households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 $ (middle-income) and 46% of households earning at least $100,000 (higher income) reported the same.

This marks a significant improvement in sentiment among high-income households compared to our previous survey. In June, more than half of high-income consumers (55%) reported feeling a negative impact on their finances. Households with the highest incomes tend to feel that the economic situation has a positive impact (30% in September compared to 21% in June).

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