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Americans Tightening Belts for Leaner Thanksgiving, First Command Reports

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® Reveals Top Five Cost-Cutting Plans for Middle-Class Families

Travel Industry Wire Thanksgiving will be on a diet this year as middle-class families scale back their celebrations as a result of the economy.


“This Thanksgiving we celebrate a continuing evolution in the way middle-class Americans manage their finances”

The latest results of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveal that 38 percent of families are changing their Thanksgiving plans for economic reasons, continuing a larger trend toward more responsible spending and saving.

“This Thanksgiving we celebrate a continuing evolution in the way middle-class Americans manage their finances,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Families have responded to the economic turmoil of recent years by changing their financial behaviors for the better, with one in four people now saying they have cut back for good on spending. We see that new commitment to frugal living reflected in Thanksgiving plans that focus less on consumption and more on family.”

Middle-class families say they plan to implement one or more cost-cutting strategies this Thanksgiving, several of which are perennial choices that have been growing in popularity during the economic downturn. The top five strategies are:

  • 1. Dining with immediate family only (20 percent). The family-only dinner has become a recurring belt-tightening tradition for many consumers. Out of this group, 39 percent say they have been cutting costs by celebrating with immediate family members for more than three years.
  • 2. Staying closer to home/reducing travel (19 percent). Two-thirds of families who opt for this strategy say they have been cutting back on travel for two or more years. Forty-one percent of these families say they are not traveling anywhere and 36 percent are traveling 50 miles or less.
  • 3. Spending less on food (12 percent). This is a new choice for almost half (44 percent) of these families. For 39 percent, it will be the second Thanksgiving in a row they plan to cut back on food costs.
  • 4. Sticking to a set budget (10 percent). Forty percent of these consumers say this will be the first time they rely on budget control to rein in Thanksgiving costs.
  • 5. Going to someone else’s house for dinner (10 percent). This is an ongoing strategy for many in this group. Forty-one percent say they have been eating Thanksgiving dinner away from home for more than three years.
Other cost-cutting strategies that middle-class families are planning for this Thanksgiving include serving a “pot-luck” dinner (9 percent), spending less on decorations (8 percent) and going out to a restaurant for dinner (2 percent). Only 1 percent plan to cancel Thanksgiving dinner.

This is the second consecutive year that the Index has pointed to leaner Thanksgiving spending. Results of last year’s survey indicated that 39 percent of American families expected to change their plans as a result of the economy.

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, LLC, the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 1,000 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. www.firstcommand.com/research




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