Iowa residents: Economy influences our holiday traditions

December 12, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (12/15/14)--The state of the economy will have an impact on how Iowans plan to celebrate the holidays this year, according to the results of a recent survey by the Iowa Credit Union League (ICUL). Whether it's attending parties, visiting family or giving gifts, economic conditions are causing Iowans to rethink their traditions.  

The influence of the economy offers Iowa credit unions an opportunity to help their members make the most of their finances--and preserve their holiday traditions, according to Jim Niederhauser, ICUL vice president of member services.

"Credit unions offer a variety of ways for their members to save money in order to reach their financial goals or to maintain their important holiday traditions," Niederhauser said. "They work with their members to come up with creative and personalized ways for their members to save. Christmas savings accounts are popular at some credit unions in Iowa and can be used for a variety of purchases or expenses." (See related story: Christmas Club accounts a CU differentiator: Mont. league)

The league's survey, which included more than 1,500 participants throughout the state, showed nearly 55% of respondents said the economy has affected their holiday plans. Another 51% will buy fewer gifts, 36% will cut back on traveling and 20% will attend fewer parties or other festivities. 

Some key economic factors dictating the highest affected holiday tradition--gift giving--include limited disposable income, a higher cost of living and insufficient salary, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' 2014 Holiday Outlook. The annual study, which gives a snapshot of consumer mindset for retailers nationwide, concluded those economic factors will drive holiday spending decisions even more so than last year.

To help combat some of those factors, 34% of Iowans surveyed say they will be looking for ways to earn extra income for the holidays by working overtime, getting a seasonal job or selling items online or at a yard sale. About 43% of respondents said they are hoping to make up to $1,000 for the holiday season. In 2013, a survey reported that the average American household would spend roughly $780 during the holidays.    

While more Americans are working, it's in an economy where everything costs more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate in America is 5.9%. The unemployment rate in Iowa is 4.6%. Nationally, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons are down by 1.3% and 1.9 million people, respectively. However, in the last year the consumer price index (CPI) for all items increased 1.7%. This includes expenses such as food, gasoline, shelter, air travel, clothing and recreation. During that time, the average weekly earnings for employees has risen 2.2%, less than 1% higher than the CPI.