West Lafayette, Indiana - Most people who responded to a Purdue University survey expected to spend about the same or more on holiday meals, gifts and travel this year compared with last year.
The online survey of 620 people was conducted November 17-19 and consisted of male and female respondents in a range of ages, income and education, and from all regions of the country.
The researchers - agricultural economics associate professor Nicole Olynk Widmar and doctoral student Elizabeth Byrd - asked respondents to report their intended spending for the 2014 holiday season relative to last year.
Twenty-one percent of the participants indicated they would spend more on holiday meals this year, 20 percent said they would spend more on holiday gifts, and 12 percent planned to spend more on holiday travel. Across all three spending categories, about 60-65 percent of respondents indicated they would spend about the same amount as last year.
But with 21 percent intending to spend more on holiday meals and 15 percent expecting to spend less, the researchers said it was clear that food was "front of mind" for many of the respondents.
Only holiday travel had a larger percentage of respondents - 23 percent - expecting to spend less this year.
"Perhaps colder weather will be keeping many home, or lower fuel prices will keep the expenses down," the researchers said.
Ninety-one percent of survey respondents intended to celebrate Thanksgiving with a holiday meal, and 22 percent of those people planned to travel for the holiday.
While Thanksgiving has become an increasingly popular vacation time because of the planned time away from work, only 10 percent of those expecting to travel indicated they would be going on vacation. Nearly 90 percent expecting to travel said they would be doing so to visit family and friends.
Thanksgiving also signals the start of the Christmas shopping period, including "Black Friday," when shoppers traditionally have headed to stores in droves, and the online "Cyber Monday." Forty-six percent of the respondents, however, indicated they will not shop at all from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Only 18 percent said they planned to go shopping Black Friday morning.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season also is directly tied to another year-end "tradition" - that of gaining weight from eating so much food, including those scrumptious desserts (fruitcake notwithstanding). Forty-two percent of respondents expected to eat more desserts, but, perhaps reflecting some denial, only 29 percent indicated they expected to gain weight this holiday season.
The researchers had a logical explanation for that: "Perhaps many of us are counting on a little holiday magic this season?"
More survey results, which were not projected to reflect the expected spending of the U.S. population as a whole and are preliminary to a more detailed report planned for December, are available at the Agricultural Economic Insights blog at http://ageconomists.com.