Americans' daily self-reports of spending averaged $99 in December, which is similar to the $98 average in December 2014. Along with the $96 average in December 2013, those are the highest averages for that month in Gallup's eight-year trend. December spending is usually the highest of any month each year, although the highest estimate for any month in Gallup's trend is $114 from May 2008.
Monthly spending averages in 2015 hovered near $90 for most of the year, with January ($81) and February ($82) significantly lower and December ($99) significantly higher than the other months. The average across all months in 2015 -- $89 -- is essentially the same as the 2014 annual average of $90, but much higher than averages of between $64 and $72 from 2009 to 2012.
Self-reported consumer spending is a new behavioral economics measure based on the individual reports of a random sample of Americans. The focus is on consumer discretionary spending, including on basics such as gas purchases at the pump and more optional impulse purchases online or in stores. Excluded are routine spending, including the consumer's monthly bills, and big purchase items such as automobiles and housing.
By tracking consumers' reports of how much they spend on a daily basis, investors can monitor not only overall discretionary spending trends, but also the impact on Americans' spending patterns of everything from the day of the week to special events.
Gallup's self-reported Consumer Spending measure is a real-time indicator of Americans' discretionary spending. The behavioral characteristics of this new measure provide early and unique insights into how consumer spending is responding to various changes in the business environment.
Further, the spending measure provides estimates on a continuing basis, giving an early read on what the government eventually reports for retail sales roughly two weeks after the close of each month. Overall, Gallup's behavioral-based spending measure allows business and investment decisions to be based on essentially real-time consumer spending information.
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