Food is 'Front of Mind' When it Comes to Holiday Planning

Food is 'Front of Mind' When it Comes to Holiday Planning

Ag economists study planned holiday spending and behaviors, finding that many expect to spend more on food, consume more desserts

Most people who responded to a Purdue University survey expected to spend about the same or more on holiday meals, gifts and travel this year compared with last year.

The online survey of 620 people was conducted Nov. 17-19 and consisted of male and female respondents in a range of ages, income and education, and from all regions of the country.   

The researchers – agricultural economics associate professor Nicole Olynk Widmar and doctoral student Elizabeth Byrd – asked respondents to report their intended spending for the 2014 holiday season relative to last year.

Ag economists study planned holiday spending and behaviors, finding that many expect to spend more on food, consume more desserts

Twenty-one percent of the participants indicated they would spend more on holiday meals this year, 20% said they would spend more on holiday gifts, and 12% planned to spend more on holiday travel. Across all three spending categories, about 60-65% of respondents indicated they would spend about the same amount as last year.

But with 21% intending to spend more on holiday meals and 15% expecting to spend less, the researchers said it was clear that food was "front of mind" for many of the respondents.

Only holiday travel had a larger percentage of respondents - 23% - expecting to spend less this year.

"Perhaps colder weather will be keeping many home, or lower fuel prices will keep the expenses down," the researchers said.

Ninety-one percent of survey respondents intended to celebrate Thanksgiving with a holiday meal, and 22% of those people planned to travel for the holiday.

While Thanksgiving has become an increasingly popular vacation time because of the planned time away from work, only 10% of those expecting to travel indicated they would be going on vacation. Nearly 90% expecting to travel said they would be doing so to visit family and friends.

Related: Thanksgiving Dinner Stays Under $50 for 2014

Thanksgiving also signals the start of the Christmas shopping period, including "Black Friday," when shoppers traditionally have headed to stores in droves, and the online "Cyber Monday."

Forty-six percent of the respondents, however, indicated they will not shop at all from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Only 18% said they planned to go shopping Black Friday morning.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season also is directly tied to another year-end "tradition" - that of gaining weight. Forty-two percent of respondents expected to eat more desserts, but, perhaps reflecting some denial, only 29% indicated they expected to gain weight this holiday season.

More survey results, which were not projected to reflect the expected spending of the U.S. population as a whole and are preliminary to a more detailed report planned for December, are available at the Agricultural Economic Insights blog.

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