Survey: Americans Still Planning to Cut Holiday Spending

A survey suggests that consumers' confidence is recovering, but their spending is not.

A woman walks with shopping bags on Dec. 7, 2010, in New York City.

Consumer and government spending helped to boost economic output in the third quarter.

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After a lackluster Black Friday weekend, American shoppers are still feeling reluctant to spend this holiday season, according to a new survey.

[READ: Black Friday Weekend Sales Slide on Cautious Consumers]

Nearly half of Americans, 47 percent, plan to spend about the same as last year, but most of the rest of shoppers plan to cut back , according to a survey from Thirty-eight percent of Americans say they plan to spend less this year than they did last year, while only 14 percent say they plan to spend more. The results come from a telephone survey of 1,002 adults conducted Dec. 5 through 8, and have a 3.7 percent margin of error.

Shoppers are feeling more confident than they were a year ago, says a Bankrate analyst, but they're also not getting much larger paychecks.

"It's consistent with the fact that for many Americans, their incomes have not increased," says Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at He points to Bankrate's financial security index, which currently registers a reading of 100.4. A reading of more than 100 means consumers are more confident than a year ago about factors including their debt, savings, net worth and job security.

According to the Labor Department, average hourly earnings are inching upward slowly, and are currently up 1.3 percent from a year ago. However, when adjusted for inflation, hourly earnings also are below where they were throughout most of 2009 and 2010.

The data showing a decline in planned holiday spending come on the heels of what was a disappointing Black Friday weekend. The National Retail Federation found that consumers pulled back on spending over Black Friday weekend, with only $57.4 billion in purchases, down from $59.1 billion last year.

[PHOTOS: 10 Violent Black Friday Shopping Incidents]

In light of consumers' cautiousness this year, some big retailers have decided to extend their Black Friday deals well into December, the Los Angeles Times reported Dec. 12.

As with most consumer surveys, these results may not perfectly indicate how consumers will act this year versus last year. McBride acknowledges that it can be hard for consumers to remember exactly what they spent last year and then compare it to this time around.

However, he thinks the results still tell an important story.

"With any type of consumer confidence or intention survey, there's long been a disconnect between what people say and what people do," he acknowledges. "But I think these responses are indicative of the fact that people don't have a lot of extra money to throw around. So even if they do end up spending more, it's not going to be a whole lot more."

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