Thought Starter: Giving Thanks

It’s November 19th, and a new day has dawned. We have cleared the path of presidential campaign advertisement overload, and now Americans can look squarely back into the mirror of the economic concerns of our country, and more importantly… their own personal finances. Although recent data (Global @dvisor… Ipsos monthly 24-country tracker of consumer and citizen sentiment) shows optimism and confidence stabilizing, and possibly lifting upward in recent months, we are clearly not through the storm just yet.

How does this affect American families regarding decisions of the home around the holidays? Everyone is all too aware of the XMAS-related statistics — increased stress levels, illness and feeling run-down, accumulation of credit card balances, and depletion of savings accounts — all for the honor and tradition of good Ole St. Nicholas here in the US.

But… What about Thanksgiving? Does the economy affect “the-turkey-leg-trot” in quite the same way as it does at XMAS?

On the surface many of us would say NO. Americans seem to revel in the pleasure of food, family, and good times wrapped up in the wonderful world of the NFL. How often have you heard friends and families say… “We love Thanksgiving”… “It’s my favorite holiday”… “All we do is hang out with family, eat, and watch football”… “Thanksgiving has something for everyone: Tradition, Food, Family, and Football”… “XMAS would probably be just as fun and relaxing if it didn’t have the financial burden of buying gifts. That’s why we like Thanksgiving so much”.

But a recent study by Ipsos Public Affairs may tell a slightly different story. The study highlights the effects of the economy for Thanksgiving, and how Americans think post-Presidential-election. The question was asked, “Compared to previous Thanksgiving holidays, how do you expect the economy will affect Thanksgiving plans this year”?

  • Approximately 1 in 5 say they will spend less on food for Thanksgiving dinner, with 1 out of 10 Americans saying they will ask guests to help supply items for the dinner.
  • And an even higher percentage will be curbing plans for themselves and family, with 1 in 4 stating they will not be driving or flying to visit family this Thanksgiving.

Is this just a little dose of American prudence around the holidays, or are families looking for some downtime, or maybe even more interestingly, is it men looking to consume more football in their favorite Archie Bunker chair vs. turkey in the dining room?

According to AFBF (American Farm Bureau Federation), the average cost for a Thanksgiving party of 10 is estimated to finally break the $50.00 barrier in 2012. If trends from the recent 5 years continue, Americans can expect to pay approximately $51.12 for a party of 10 to eat Thanksgiving dinner. On the menu… turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee, milk, and water.

Juxtapose this with the American Research Group’s estimate for an average family in the US spending approximately $650.00 on Christmas/Holiday gifts. Wow – $51.12 vs. $650.00 – no wonder we all like Thanksgiving better! Lower stress? I should say so; by 10-fold.

So it begs the question… is it really the economy and American frugality that are driving less travel, dining out, and expenditures on food and family, or could it be something else? Here is a theory to ponder and comment about when analyzing… Economy vs. ??? It might just simply be American’s passion for the NFL’s Thanksgiving Day extravaganza! “Honey, I think we should cut back, travel a little less, and invite a few less people over for Thanksgiving. With money being tight, it’s only prudent.” Prudent? Or a simple ruse to park it on the couch, and quite possibly re-allocate $$ into the coffers of “Vegas Gaming”? The American Gaming Association cites 1 out of every 6 Americans, of legal gambling age, regularly place bets on NFL games, with the average wager estimated to be $91.50. This estimate was done by cross referencing the AGA info with the 2010 Census briefs, and accounting for legal gambling age requirements by state.

Maybe it’s because I too am a fan of football, but one can’t deny that based on this quick math, families gambling on NFL turkey-day games, are spending almost twice as much with “Vegas Gaming” vs. the local supermarket for the delicious meal they are eating. Maybe the only stress American’s have on Thanksgiving sets in at approximately 7:00pm when there are no games left to cover the day’s loss in the living room.