Black Friday, Cyber Monday & the Economy: Are We Spending More or Just Earlier?

BlogHer Original Post

The numbers are in and retailers are feeling good this week after Cyber Monday's record-breaking spending in the U.S.

From CNN:

"There's a pent-up demand from consumers," Molyneux told a roomful of reporters in San Francisco on Tuesday. "There's a demand, and consumers need to feel that they can spend again."

holiday shopping star

Credit Image: photo_gratis on Flickr


I don't know about that. If everyone else is behaving like I am (and shouldn't they be, I ask you?), the spend is not MORE, it's just EARLIER. Despite my best efforts, there are still not piles of money laying around my desk. I know about how much I can safely spend without needing credit cards (and if the last three years have taught me anything, it's not to put gifts on credit cards), and I want to stretch those dollars as far as possible. I don't want to pay for shipping, I don't want to get pressured to overbid on Ebay and I don't want to leave a perfectly good discount on the table. As such, for the first time in my life, it's November 30 and I'm almost done with my holiday shopping.

Around the Internet, the mood is not really HELL, YES, LET'S SPEND MONEY AGAIN.

From Business Week:

Still, other economic prospects are not as good. Home prices are falling again in most major U.S. cities after posting small gains over the summer and spring, according to a report issued Tuesday.

And prices for food, travel and other things have risen steadily this year, according to government data. They went up 3.5 percent in October from the same month a year ago.

Ruth at The Fabulous Geezer Sisters sums up the mood of the past week:

The music is syrupy, the mood manicky, the expectations are mountainous, and it’s still November. Given all the recent bad news, you begin to suspect that every other Goodwill Santa Claus is probably an aspiring child molestor. You also swear you will strangle the next organization nut who asks you about the status of your shopping list, since you haven’t bought a Christmas present since 2003 and yes, you know, you are ruining the economy by being such a contrarian.

From Bankrate:

And that gloomy mood threatens to spoil the upcoming holidays. A whopping 42 percent of Americans intend to spend less this holiday season compared to what they spent last year. That includes 49 percent of parents. (Sorry, kids; Santa Claus hit hard times, too!)

So how do we account for the record-breaking spending going on last weekend? I think it's the combination of early spending hoping to get discounts and perhaps the return of the dreaded credit card, which makes you spend more via the evil mind-warping power of plastic.

According to Javelin Strategy & Research's latest Online Retail Payments Forecast:

Javelin's study shows that consumers spend more money on a single online transaction using credit cards than when using other payment options, spending an average $82.10 with a major credit card versus $58.29 using a major debit card.

And yet, in the midst of all the gloom and doom, I found this awesome sentiment from Kate at Fab 50:

This time of year is always rough for me when it comes to the budget, because I have to balance the value of memories against the value of our day to day fundamental needs. Usually holiday spending for us means dental and optical, and a few things under the tree, usually stuff the kids need, usually used (which is fine). Right now I just can't think of anything the kids need, although I'm looking ahead for things they can take to college with them. And you know what? It feels pretty damn good to realize that they don't have anything they are in real need of right now.

My husband and I looked at each other in the car last weekend as we were driving home from Thanksgiving and said pretty much the same thing -- there's nothing we need. If the last five years have taught us nothing else, it's to batten down the hatches and be thankful for jobs, for the house around us, for food, for clothes. I know how many people feel that way. I know how many people are freaked out by the job market and their debt-to-income ratio and the rising costs of food, healthcare and education. I think the days of extreme greed are over -- if we're buying stuff, we're buying it at least differently than we used to, and for different reasons.

What do you think?

Rita Arens authors Surrender Dorothy and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.

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