Holiday Spending Set To Hit 12-Year High Thanks To...Debt

Even though consumer confidence cooled for a second straight month in November, CNBC is reporting that holiday spending for the average American household is on track to be the highest in 12 years.

Amazingly, the CNBC All-America Survey found that the average family will spend $900 for the first time in the 12-year history of the poll, eclipsing last year's estimate of $702 by a wide margin.

Furthermore, the survey of 800 American households - which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points - found a surge in the percentage of Americans planning to spend more than $1,000. The number climbed to 29%, up from 24% last year.

But before economists and retail analysts begin recalibrating their expectations, it’s worth noting that much of this spending will be funded by debt. Another study by RentCafe which examined spending habits of American renters discovered that, in the 50 largest US metropolitan areas, the average renting family will go into debt due to holiday-related expenses, debt that must be paid off in the opening months of the following year.

Here’s what an analysis of the average renter’s household budget for November and December looks like. As the chart shows, the average American family of four can spend $5,865 during that period without dipping into savings or going into debt.

The numbers are based on the median renter household income according to the U. S. Census Bureau, November’s average rent according to Yardi Matrix, average cost of living data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation that reveals how much American consumers plan to spend on average this holiday season.

Based on this data, RentCafe concluded that the average American family of four spends about 2.8% of their annual income on winter expenses. (See more details in the methodology).

RentCafe then broke the data down for each of the 50 largest cities in the US. They found 24 areas where the average family finishes the holiday season with a positive balance...

...they are...

Then, RentCafe tabulated which cities were the most expensive for the average family. Expenses factored in the estimated costs of gifts and holiday-related dinners.

Unsurprisingly, New York City tops the list, followed by Boston and San Francisco.

Trying to figure out where you fit in on this spectrum? RentCafe has a tool on their website for readers to calculate how they will finish the year after holiday spending.

Circling back to the CNBC data, experts pointed at the stock market - the so-called wealth effect - as one factor that might inspire people to spend more this holiday. Because, in the eyes of many Americans, the market is the economy - a fact that President Donald Trump seems to have latched on to.

"The holiday spending outlook is stronger than it has been in over decade," said Micah Roberts from Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican pollster for the survey. "People are more comfortable with where the economy is and where it's heading, prompting them to spend money this holiday season and help boost the economy as well." Jay Campbell of Hart Research served as the Democratic pollster.