2018 Holiday Spending Survey

Infographic Details Military Survey Results

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The holidays are full of fun and festivities but can also be costly. For military families on a fixed income, spending on gifts and travel can get out of control. However, with budgeting and preparation you can make sure the holidays don’t overwhelm your wallet.  

To better understand holiday-related spending and financial trends, Pioneer Services partnered with Military Spouse magazine for the fourth year to survey military spouses and service members. We received responses from more than 400 service members and spouses, who shared how they purchase gifts, how much they plan on spending, and their biggest financial concerns. We’ve compared this year’s results to 2017 and previous years to see changes in behaviors and trends.

Credit Card Use is Up

While most people (90%) will spend the same or less than last year, how they spend is changing. More purchases will be put on credit cards this year, increasing to 47% from 36% in 2017. This is an overall reflection of rising credit card use and increased personal debt.

  • 13% respondents have between four and five credit cards
  • 11% have more than five cards
    …and the balance on those cards has gone up
    • 15% have between $5-10,000 on credit cards, and 18% have more than $10,000
  • On the bright side
    • 28% of respondents have no credit card debt
    • More than half will use cash to buy gifts

Action step: Avoid putting too much on credit cards now or you may pay later. The interest paid on cards with variable interest rates fluctuate based on the Fed’s prime rate. Based on recent history, you could end up paying much more than you expect on any monthly balances. There were three Fed rate increases in 2018 and three in 2017, and experts predict another three in 2019.

Military Consumers Feeling Pinched

Although 34% say the economy is doing better than last year, only 1 in 10 are planning on spending more than last year, and 42% say they’ll even SPEND LESS! One reason is because of increasing living costs (such as food, energy and health care). Adding to that, 19% of spouses had pay hours cut, up from 6% in 2017. Also in a reversal from last year, service members are more concerned about the stability of their future military career -- 14% compared to 8% in 2017.

Action step: Create a budget and track your spending -- visit HolidaySpendingPlanner.org to learn how. There are many ways you can take control of your budget, and stretch your dollar further.

    • Make your own gifts: spend an afternoon in the kitchen and get the kids involved in baking or crafts
    • Give the gift of time: offer to babysit, or spend an afternoon with an elderly family member
    • Go in together: if someone has a bigger gift on their list, split the cost with siblings or friends

Additional Results

People are shopping earlier and seeking sales. The 10% of respondents who said they’ll spend more this year say it’s because they saved more money and improved budgeting.

  • 41.2% started shopping before Halloween
  • Only 2.2% will leave shopping for the last two weeks in December
  •  6 out of 10 believe sales and discounts are most important when purchasing holiday items

The Holiday Spending by the Numbers infographic provides a snapshot of survey results and a comparison to the previous two years. You can find the full results of the 2018 Military Holiday Spending survey here.

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