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Poll Shows Overwhelming Majority of Consumers Will Cut Back or Spend Zero on Holiday Shopping

Washington, DC – The November poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website queried consumers regarding holiday spending.  The results revealed that 50 percent of consumers intend to spend less on holiday purchases this year than last, indicating they are in a worse financial position, while thirty-seven percent plan to spend nothing at all, as they fear further financial distress. 

While this total of 87 percent is a shocking number, when asked the same question in 2011, 91 percent of respondents indicated their intention was to cut back or spend zero on holiday gifts, demonstrating a positive year-over-year trend. 

“This statistic speaks loudly, and underscores that consumers are not willing to repeat the mistakes of Christmases past by spending irresponsibly this year,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC.

A seemingly contradictory statistic was revealed in the NFCC’s October poll where 70 percent of those participating felt that their best financial days were in front of them.  Taken together, the two polls suggest that Americans are both optimistic and realistic, a combination that could lead to a brighter financial future. 

“It takes optimism to endure the difficult economic times of the past few years,” continued Cunningham. “However, it takes a dose of realism to not become an emotional spender during the holidays.  It appears as though consumers have learned a tough lesson, and will emerge better equipped to face future financial challenges.”

Looking at the other poll answer options, 11 percent intend to spend as they did in 2011, stating that their financial situation is now stable, while 3 percent will spend more, feeling as though they are in a better financial position this year.

Holiday spending can financially make or break retailers.  The same is true for consumers.  Don’t let it be your personal fiscal cliff. 

For help developing a holiday budget, controlling spending, or any other personal finance concern, contact an NFCC Member Agency.  For assistance in English of Spanish, dial (888) 282-5811, or go online to

The actual November poll question and responses are as follows:

This holiday season I will…

  1. Spend as I did last year because my financial life is stable = 11%
  2. Cut back on spending, since I am worse off financially this year = 50%
  3. Spend more than last year because I am in a better financial position = 3%
  4. Not spend at all, because I anticipate further financial distress = 37%

Note: The NFCC’s November Financial Literacy Opinion Index was conducted via the homepage of the NFCC Web site ( from November 1 - 30, 2012 and was answered by 1,413 individuals.


The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest serving national nonprofit credit counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services. NFCC Members annually help more than three million consumers through close to 750 community-based offices nationwide. For free and affordable confidential advice through a reputable NFCC Member, call (800) 388-2227, (en Español (800) 682-9832) or visit  Visit us on Facebook:, on Twitter:, on YouTube: our blog:

Published Dec 3, 2012.