Americans Cautious About Discretionary Spending

New York–Most Americans are cautious about their discretionary spending this year, according to the 2001 American Express Retail Index on everyday spending. According to the study, 53% of the 805 consumers surveyed plan to spend the same on discretionary items this year as last year, while 20% plan to spend less. Only 27% plan to spend more.

The survey concluded that Americans will spend an average of $9,312 this year on discretionary items, which include fast food, birthday gifts, and health and beauty products. At the same time, they will spend an averge of $23,545 for fixed household expenses, up from $20,885 in 2000. Fixed expenses include rent or mortgage, groceries, utilities, and income and property taxes.

The study also found that Americans are turning to the Internet to save time or money when purchasing discretionary items. Of the 75% of respondents who have Internet access at home or at work, 45% made an online purchase in the past six months. While 42% purchase books online (up from 36% in 1999), and 42% buy music online (up from 23% last year), the percentage of consumers buying gifts online soared in the past year to 39% from a paltry 1% in ‘99.