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Post-Holiday U.S. Consumer Spending Averages $81 in January

Post-Holiday U.S. Consumer Spending Averages $81 in January

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • Spending average matches the previous January's average
  • Average ties highest for the month since 2008
  • Post-holiday drop of $18 is in line with recent years

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' daily self-reports of spending fell to an average of $81 in January, down from $99 in December. This drop is typical of the post-holiday spending patterns Gallup has recorded over the past several years. This year's average January spending ties with January 2015 for the highest average for the month since January 2008.

Trend: Monthly Averages of Reported Amount Americans Spent "Yesterday"

The January 2016 average is based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 15,216 U.S. adults. Gallup asks Americans to estimate the total amount they spent "yesterday" in restaurants, gas stations, stores or online -- not counting home and vehicle purchases or normal monthly bills -- to provide an indication of Americans' discretionary spending.

While December spending is often among the highest of the year, January spending is often among the lowest. The regular December surge and January decline are likely related to holiday spending patterns.

This year's daily spending average in January was $18 lower than in December 2015, which is about average for December-to-January drops in spending. Historically, the seasonal decrease was largest between December 2008 and January 2009, when the spending average fell $25. It was smallest between December 2012 and January 2013, when it fell only $3.

Comparison of Average Daily Reports of Spending, December to January
Monthly averages
December January Difference, January vs. December
2015-2016 $99 $81 -$18
2014-2015 $98 $81 -$17
2013-2014 $96 $78 -$18
2012-2013 $83 $80 -$3
2011-2012 $76 $63 -$13
2010-2011 $75 $58 -$17
2009-2010 $72 $62 -$10
2008-2009 $89 $64 -$25
Note: Daily tracking began in January 2008, so there is no 2007-2008 comparison
Gallup Poll

Bottom Line

A lower spending average in January is the norm each year after the boom in spending during the holiday season. Not only is the magnitude of this year's decline in line with that of recent Januaries, but because the level of spending in December was among the highest for any month in Gallup's eight-year trend, the January 2016 spending average is still healthy compared with most of the past several January readings.

Gas prices have continued to drop, leaving extra cash in Americans' pockets over the year. And while the effect lower gas prices have on general consumer spending is unclear, the cheaper prices at the pump could lead many individuals to spend that money elsewhere. Recent years have seen a modest spending pickup in February, so an increase could be in store for this coming month as well. But that is no sure bet. The averages for the month of February have also been known to plateau, or even decrease.

These data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Jan. 1-31, 2016, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 15,216 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error for the spending mean is ±$5 at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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