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Daily spending in Dec. highest since 2008

January 07, 2014

Princeton, N.J.--Gallup Daily Tracking found that Americans spent $96 a day in December, the highest monthly average since September 2008 and the highest average for any December in the six years the company has tracked daily spending.

From Dec. 1 to 29, Gallup asked Americans how much they spent the prior day, excluding normal household bills and major purchases, such as homes or cars. The data is meant to be an indicator of discretionary spending among consumers in the United States.

Self-reports of spending, which Gallup said dropped modestly in the fourth quarter 2008--during the unfolding of the global financial crisis--went on to drop dramatically in the first quarter 2009, when consumers across the nation realized the depth of the recession.

After remaining low for several years, spending began to rise at the end of 2012 and continued to trend generally upward throughout 2013, ending the year with an average that was $16 per day higher than Gallup found at the beginning of 2013.

Spending in December is typically the highest of any month due to Christmas and holiday spending, Gallup said, but the $96 average in December 2013 was up from $91 in November and is just above the $95 August average.

“Consumer spending is one of the main engines of economic growth, and its trajectory in the months ahead will be an important indicator of the economy’s health,” Gallup said. “If the current trends continue, average daily spending could break through the $100 mark on a routine basis, and thus denote a return to levels that characterized spending in pre-recession times.”

Still, Gallup said additional data shows that Americans remain more likely to say they prefer to save rather than spend, and many continue to claim that spending less is the new normal in their lives.

Also, Gallup’s measure of job creation dipped slightly at the end of 2013, suggesting “some caution” in concluding that the economy is on a clear upward trajectory.