Consumer Trends

Consumer Spending Report

Consumers spent $18.86 trillion in October 2023, which is a record spending amount for a month

With early reports indicating that Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping set records this year, a new WalletHub report analyzing the latest official data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the consumer spending wave has been building for months. View the complete report and infographics here.

Consumer spending in the U.S. is a fundamental economic metric that provides insights into the overall strength of the overall economy and U.S. household balance sheets. As a result, it is concerning that consumers spent $18.86 trillion in October 2023 (seasonally adjusted at annual rates), which is a record spending amount for a month.

This report uses personal expenditure data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis but adjusts it for inflation. Adjusting for inflation is key, as it accurately shows how spending compares to historical levels.

Here are some highlights from WalletHub’s research:

  • Record Consumer Spending: Consumers spent $18.86 trillion in October 2023, which is a record for a month and $48.5 billion more than September.
  • Spending-to-Income Ratio: The ratio of spending to personal income is 81.16% in October 2023, which is in line with pre-pandemic levels.
  • Propensity to Consume: Marginal propensity to consume, which shows how much consumers will spend for each additional dollar earned, is at 0.7 for the month of October – slightly below the historical average.
  • Top Spending Categories: The category in which consumer spending increased the most during Q3 2023 was energy (increased by 4.1%), and the category in which spending decreased the most was motor vehicles/parts (decreased by 1.8%).
  • Pricey Projection for Nov. & Dec.: WalletHub now projects that consumers will spend a total of $38 trillion during the final two months of the year.

New Record For Consumer Spending As Expensive Year Winds Down

Early reports indicate that Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping set records this year, and the latest official data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that the consumer spending wave has been building for months. In fact, consumers shelled out a record $18.86 trillion during October alone, according to WalletHub’s new Consumer Spending Report. So, it’s fair to wonder where the record will stand at year’s end as well as how ugly things will get for household finances.

“We saw a $48.5 billion jump in spending from September to October alone, and we’re expecting the last few months of the year to continue this trend,” said John Kiernan, WalletHub editor. “Despite monthly totals setting records, recent spending does not seem to be unusually reckless, considering that metrics such as the ratio between spending and income are in line with historical averages.”

Indeed, there is more to the latest consumer spending data than meets the eye.

Takeaways From The Latest Consumer Spending Data

  • Spending-to-Income Ratio: The ratio of spending to personal income is 81.16% in October 2023, which is in line with pre-pandemic levels.
  • Propensity to Consume: Marginal propensity to consume, which shows how much consumers will spend for each additional dollar earned, is at 0.7 for the month of October – slightly below the historical average.
  • Spending-to-Assets Ratio: The ratio between spending and assets has been steadily improving, dropping to 10.62% in Q3 2023, which is about 21% below the peak since 2010.
  • Consumer Spending & GDP: At the end of Q3 2023, consumer spending accounted for 67.69% of total GDP, which is 0.15% above the average from the past 23 years.
  • Top Spending Categories: The category in which consumer spending increased the most during Q3 2023 was energy (increased by 4.1%), and the category in which spending decreased the most was motor vehicles/parts (decreased by 1.8%).
The overall takeaway is that even though consumers are spending more than ever, a lot can be chalked up to high inflation, low unemployment and an economy that’s stronger than you might think...

“The overall takeaway is that even though consumers are spending more than ever, a lot can be chalked up to high inflation, low unemployment and an economy that’s stronger than you might think,” said John Kiernan, WalletHub editor. “Still, the fact that consumers are spending more than 25 times as much as they save provides reason for concern moving forward.”

In addition to considering aggregate consumer spending and overall economic trends, it’s a good idea for individuals to evaluate the health of their personal finances before, during and after the busy holiday shopping season. If you’re trying to rein in your spending or get out from under expensive debt, like many other people this time of year, there are several steps you can take to improve. You can even get a head start on your New Year’s resolutions.

Tips For Consumers To Manage Their Spending & Debt

1.) Pay Your Bills on Time to Avoid Additional Obstacles. Missing due dates or paying less than the minimum amount due will make getting out of debt more expensive. The credit score damage that accompanies missed payments could also make it harder to access tools such as low-interest credit cards.

2.) Make a Budget, Track Your Progress & Adjust. Make a list of your expenses for a typical month after reviewing your credit card and bank statements. Then, make a plan to eliminate unnecessary expenses and reduce the amount you spend on luxury items until your monthly income exceeds your planned expenses. After that, track your progress and tweak your plan or habits as needed.

3.) Watch Out for Deferred Interest. Most retailers that offer 0% financing use something called deferred interest, which means failing to repay your full balance by the end of the 0% period will result in interest being charged retroactively at a high rate – as if the 0% deal never existed. You could end up spending up to 27.5 times more on interest than you planned for if you’re not careful.

4.) Use Credit Cards for Everyday Transactions. If you have a credit card that you use solely for everyday purchases, seeing finance charges on the bill will be a clear sign that you are overspending and need to cut back.

5.) Take Advantage of 0% Offers to Save on Debt. Carrying a balance from month to month with a normal credit card is especially expensive now that interest rates are in record territory. So, if you have existing debt or will need months to pay off an upcoming purchase, using a credit card with a 0% introductory APR for balance transfers or new purchases can save you a lot of money. Normal, non-retail-affiliated cards don’t have deferred interest, fortunately.

6.) Consider Consolidating What You Owe. If you owe multiple lenders, debt consolidation with either a personal loan or a balance transfer credit card could save you money, improve your financial visibility, and help you get out of debt sooner.

 

2 responses to “Consumer Spending Report”

  1. Editor, LHA says:

    Thank you, John…

  2. John in Denver says:

    you say: ” If you’re trying to reign in your spending ”

    Homonyms matter. A reader’s effort “to reign” will be different than an effort “to rein.”