Survey Signals Savings This Holiday Season

Results from our 2015 Holiday Survey

One of the things that makes the holiday season so special is that we tend to focus on what we can give to others. Sometimes, this can result in us “receiving” a lot of debt come the New Year. If a recent study done by Pioneer Services is any indication, however, military families might have less debt this year compared to last, and for various reasons.

In an online survey of more than 200 military members, 73% will spend the same or less than last year. The reasons why all revolve around uncertainty about future income:

  • 26% said it was because they had less income due to other needs or increased costs
  • Nearly 15% were worried about the stability of their future military career
  • 12% said their spouses had pay or hours cut

The last point is interesting—the Army alone has cut more than 30,000 civilian jobs, some of which were military spouses. Issues with the federal budget, such as sequestration and future reductions in troop counts, are clearly playing some factor in spending decisions.

Thankfully, there is also some good news: 68% of respondents said they were going to pay cash this year instead of using credit. Of those, 30% have set money aside ahead of time, which is a very smart strategy, especially if they stick to it. And that is the key—even the best plan won’t mean much if they get carried away. One way to do that is to use an online calculator of some sort to track spending. Both Bankrate and Practical Money Skills have options depending on how detailed (or basic) you want. You can also visit our page,, that has tips and helpful links..

When military families do use credit, they are more likely to look for new deals, with 38% saying they do that rather than using existing credit (30%). This can be a cost-effective option, as interest-free grace periods and same-as-cash options can be a good way to get something without the added financing costs. Just make sure to read the fine print and ensure you can pay it off in the allotted amount of time.

Another factor in holiday spending is travel costs. While 28% will do no travelling during the holiday season, the same percentage will travel more than 500 miles—which makes sense, given the military’s frequent moves and relocations. Even here, there are ways to reduce expenses, such as Space-A travel (for those who are flexible in their scheduling) and military discounts offered on many airlines. If going by car, you should ask for discounts at hotels and even some larger travel centers, as you could save anywhere from 10% -20%.

Some other interesting notes from the survey:

  • Retail is still king, edging out online purchases, 55% to 41%.
  • Most get their shopping done early: 73% will do most of their shopping by Cyber Monday.
  • 37.5% say they will brave the crowds on Black Friday, which makes sense given that …
  • They consider sales and discounts the most important factor when buying a gift—even more than a product’s quality—by a 64% to 31% margin.
  • Free shipping and return policies? Not a factor in purchasing holiday gifts.
  • When it comes to holiday movies, Christmas Story” is listed as the favorite, with Elf and Home Alone following close behind. But the classics are getting some love, too, with Miracle on 34th Street coming in fourth.

These numbers paint a positive, if slightly tenuous, picture for military families. While concerns about future income are real, these families are choosing to be smart with their money, saving and using cash instead of credit, and looking for the best credit deals when they do need to use it. It’s a good sign that should prevent this year’s cheer from becoming next year’s holiday debt hangover.



About the author: Allen Usry

Air Force Chief Master Sergeant (ret) W. Allen Usry began his military career in the Marine Corps in 1982, and then went on to serve in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and United States Air Force. During his nearly 30 year career he service in a variety of positions including Command Chief Master Sergeant for First Air Force (CONR/AFNORTH) and as Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL) for NORAD and United States Northern Command. Allen retired from active duty on 1 Jan 2012, and currently serves as a consultant for Pioneer Services, sharing his wealth of knowledge to military personnel around the nation.

Contact: Allen Usry


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