Consumers wary of spending 2011 Christmas bonus

Greeks are making significant changes to the way they spend their Christmas bonus, according to a MasterCard Barometer survey which revealed that this year, nearly 60 percent of consumers intend to use the extra cash to cover household expenses (40 percent of the 60 percent) or plan to put it aside in case of emergency (19 percent).

In 2010 the majority of consumers used most of the money to buy gifts for family and friends, but this year just 15 percent said they will be spending their bonus on presents – down 50 percent – and almost one in three (30 percent) said they have no cash to spare, up from 10 percent in 2009.

The percentage of people who responded that they are planning to spend their bonuses on themselves stands at just 13 percent, while clothing and footwear remain popular as gifts, though in a smaller proportion (27 percent in 2011 compared to 34 percent in 2010). The next big seller is children?s toys, at 19 percent, though the survey noted a significant rise in the number of people who will restrict their gift shopping to small, inexpensive items this year compared to last.

Women are 18 percent more inclined to spend their Christmas bonus on presents for others compared to men, while consumers aged 18-34 will focus more on spending what they can on themselves by 28.5 percent more than the next age bracket, in which middle-aged consumers feel that they have too many responsibilities to splurge on personal enjoyment.

People aged 35-44 are most likely to spend their money on gifts, at 29.2 percent of respondents.

Almost eight in 10 said that they have no intention of traveling this holiday season, a percentage that is only slightly higher than 2010, but much higher than 2009. As in 2010, mostly men and people aged 18-34 are planning to travel during the holidays, while older women are opting to stay put. Furthermore, more than half of the respondents who said that they are making travel plans have restricted these to destinations around Greece, and especially to their villages or family homes in the countryside.

Despite the crisis, a rather surprisingly low 56 percent of respondents said that they will be altering their spending habits this holiday season, suggesting that the trend last year toward trying to have a good time and splash out a bit on order to improve their mood is still a priority for Greek consumers, who said that they are affected by the holiday spirit, though the crisis has made them more careful about spending by 48 percent this year compared to 29 percent in 2010.

Consumers who said that they will not be changing their spending habits, however, said that this is not a time to spend too much (56 percent) or to stray from a fixed list of planned expenses (44 percent).

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