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Consumer News

AAA Texas: High Gas Prices, Economy Affect Holiday Shopping

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IRVING, (Marketwire) – High gas prices are weighing on many Texans’ minds as they plan their holiday shopping lists, according to AAA Texas’s Third Annual Holiday Shopping Poll.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said that high gas prices are currently having a significant effect on their household budget — lower than the 77 percent in May of this year who said gas prices were impacting their budgets. At that time, Texas gas prices were averaging more than $3.80 a gallon. This year is on track to be the most expensive one ever for Texas gas prices, with a current year-to-date average price of $3.42.

But even with that concern, more than half of those polled — 55 percent — said they plan to spend about the same amount on holiday gifts as last year and nine percent plan to spend more. Thirty-six percent of polled local consumers said they plan to spend “slightly less” or “a lot less” on holiday gifts this year compared to last year.

The 13 percent of surveyed Texas residents who said they would spend a lot less on gifts this year cited multiple reasons, including: — Too many other expenses/bills: 65 percent — Rising prices for household necessities other than gas: 51 percent — High gas prices: 41 percent — Reduced household income: 28 percent — Anticipated high costs for heating this winter: 18 percent Nearly 70 percent of Texans plan to change their gift shopping habits compared to last year in order to get more out of their holiday budgets. The top methods cited for saving money on gifts include: using free shipping offers online (40 percent); looking for less expensive gifts (34 percent); doing more research to get the best price (31 percent); shopping more at discount stores (25 percent); using membership programs like AAA to get discounts on gifts (21 percent); and using more coupons (21 percent).

“Economic concerns and high gas prices are making consumers more careful about how they spend their holiday gift budgets,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Sarah Schimmer. “To make it easier for members to take advantage of AAA discounts while holiday shopping, the current issue of Texas Journeys magazine has a savings guide of coupons highlighting discounts with popular retailers such as Omaha Steaks, MattelShop.com and Gap Outlet stores.”

Gift cards or gift certificates are the most popular gift item for the holidays, according to the AAA Texas poll. Sixty-four percent of those polled will have gift cards on their shopping lists.

Other popular gift categories are: apparel and accessories (60 percent); books (43 percent); toys (39 percent); DVDs/videos (36 percent); consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, or eReaders (33 percent); jewelry (29 percent); music (26 percent); video games/gaming systems (21 percent); sporting goods (19 percent); and flowers/cards (15 percent).

The survey also showed that 68 percent of Texas consumers plan to pay for at least some gifts with a credit card, and of those shoppers, 88 percent will use a card that gives some type of rewards or cash back. “Consumers are getting savvier about how to use credit cards like the AAA Member Rewards Visa so they can either redeem points for an additional holiday gift on their list, or accumulate those points to help with a big-ticket wish like a vacation,” Schimmer said.

Regarding gas prices, those surveyed were also asked at what price point they would significantly change how much they drive or how much fuel they used. Ten percent said $2.50 a gallon, 13 percent said $3, 19 percent said $3.50, 24 percent said $4, seven percent said $4.50, ten percent said $5, two percent said $6, two percent said $10, nine percent said they didn’t know and four percent said no price point under $10 would change their driving.

Among the 64 percent who said that high gas prices are currently affecting their spending decisions: — 76 percent indicated they have cut back on unnecessary driving; — 58 percent are spending less money eating out at restaurants; — 44 percent are putting less money into savings; — 36 percent will search for discounts and specials on holiday gifts and travel; — 35 percent are spending less money on holiday gifts; — 32 percent are not taking a trip over the holidays; — 26 percent will spend less money on their holiday trip; — 25 percent use a discount program for purchases such as AAA; and — 18 percent check the Internet for locations of the cheapest gas stations.

The AAA Texas Holiday Shopping Poll was conducted online by the AAA Marketing Research Department between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20 and surveyed 347 AAA Texas members. It has a margin of error of +/-5 percent and the differences between 2011 and 2010 results were tested for statistical significance at a 95 percent confidence level.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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