Americans are ringing in the New Year with new intentions, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. More than half of adults are planning to spend more (14 percent) or the same (40 percent) in 2011 than they did last year, with the majority of that spending focused on themselves. Personal savings rates are still well above pre-recession levels and consumers will remain focused on saving, but they will set aside less than they did in 2010. After setting aggressive savings goals for 2010 -- $14,000 on average -- consumers are paring back their savings target this year to a more modest $2,600.
The latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker(1) explores consumers' views about their spending intentions and financial goals for the New Year. The research sample of 2,025 adults included the general U.S. population, as well as two subgroups - the affluent(2) and young professionals(3).
"While consumers are still focused on getting their financial house in order as we head into 2011, it's encouraging to see that they also feel more optimistic about their finances." said Pamela Codispoti, senior vice present and general manager of Cardmember Services, American Express. "They're setting more realistic savings goals and believe they've gained some financial breathing room to spend a bit more than in 2010."
Spending More … On Themselves
In terms of where consumers will spend in 2011, maintaining their appearance is king. Top categories include grooming (73 percent), health/fitness (70 percent) and clothing for themselves (61 percent). Categories at the bottom of the list include video game systems and games (34 percent), jewelry (34 percent), portable media players (32 percent), and tablet computers (i.e. the i-Pad) or e-book readers (30 percent).
Slimming Wallets for Waistlines
Similar to 2010, consumers cited "exercising more" and "losing weight" as their top three and four New Year resolutions, respectively, behind saving money and spending more time with friends and family. However, more than one in four (28 percent) consumers who are starting the year with a savings strategy would sacrifice a portion of their savings to achieve their goal weight.
To reach their fitness goal, consumers plan to put their money where their mouth is. In fact, 47 percent of consumers plan to spend more on health and fitness in 2011, primarily on:
- Gym Memberships: average of $131 per month
- Fitness equipment: average of $127 per month
- Personal trainer: average of $127 per month
- Eating Programs: average of $75 per month
- Fitness-related video games: average of $60 per month
Significantly Reducing Debt Remains Top Financial Goal
While saving money was the top New Year resolution for 2011, fewer are setting financial goals this year. (83 percent in 2011, down from 89 percent in 2010). For those who set financial goals, significantly reducing or paying off debt before the end of the year tops the list (17 percent). Other financial goals include:
- Save a percentage of household income each month (15 percent)
- Only buy what they can afford (14 percent)
- Find a better or higher paying job (10 percent)
- Save enough money to travel (6 percent)
American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 2,025 consumers aged 18+. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between December 10 and December 15, 2010. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. For access to previous American Express Spending & Saving Tracker results, please visit www.americanexpress.com/aboutus.
About American Express
American Express Company (www.americanexpress.com) is a leading global payments, network and travel company founded in 1850.
(2) Affluent - defined as having a minimum annual household income of $100,000.
(3) Young Professional - defined as less than 30 years of age, having a college degree, and a minimum annual household income of $50,000.