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Holiday Weekend Spending: More Consumers, Fewer Dollars

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More people went shopping on Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year, however, average consumer spending declined, according to a report from the National Retail Federation.

In 2012, 139 million unique customers shopped in stores or online from Thanksgiving Thursday through Sunday, and more than 141 million shopped during that same time period this year. There was a surge of shoppers on Thanksgiving day this year — 45 million consumers went shopping on the holiday, up from 35 million in 2012 — and Black Friday had the biggest showing with 92 million shoppers (up from 89 million last year).

Despite all that growth, the spending trend went in the other direction. The average shopper spent $423.55 last year but only $407.02 throughout the four-day weekend this time around, and about 44% of that ($177.67) was spent online. Last year, online shopping accounted for approximately 41% of Thanksgiving weekend spending.

The report doesn’t identify a cause for the decline, so it is unclear if the dip was attributable to lower prices, a reduced appetite for spending among consumers, or any other reason. Regardless, the numbers could mean good things for the budget-conscious shopper.

Credit card spending goes up in November and skyrockets in December. Without careful planning, those credit card bills can be tough to handle. Despite the pressure many feel to buy perfect gifts, it’s important for individuals to keep holiday spending in check in order to avoid damaging their credit histories: Using too much of their available credit can cause drops in credit scores, as can opening too many lines of credit during a short period of time (like a bunch of store credit cards).

Shoppers should go through the season knowing what they can afford, both in terms of budgets and impact on their credit profiles. For instance, tools like the free Credit Report Card  shows consumers the impact of adding to their credit card balances or opening new accounts. Regardless of how much shoppers spend, it’s crucial to stay on top of bills, because late payments will cost consumers, both in fees and credit score points.

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