AAA New Mexico Poll: High Gas Prices, Economy Affect Holiday Shopping Budgets and Behaviors

ALBUQUERQUE, NM--(Marketwire - Nov 2, 2011) - High gas prices are weighing on most New Mexico consumers' minds as they plan their holiday shopping lists, according to AAA New Mexico's Third Annual Holiday Shopping Poll.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said that high gas prices are currently having a significant effect on their household budget -- lower than the 70 percent in May of this year who said gas prices were impacting their budgets. At that time, New Mexico gas prices were averaging more than $3.80 a gallon. This year is on track to be the most expensive one ever for New Mexico gas prices, with a current year-to-date average price of $3.45.

But even with that concern, more than half of those polled -- 59 percent -- said they plan to spend about the same amount on holiday gifts as last year and six percent plan to spend slightly more. Thirty-five 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 11 percent of surveyed New Mexicans who said they would spend a lot less on gifts this year cited multiple reasons, including:

  • Too many other expenses/bills: 58 percent
  • Rising prices for household necessities other than gas: 51 percent
  • Reduced household income: 47 percent
  • High gas prices: 39 percent
  • Anticipated high costs for heating this winter: 36 percent
  • Unemployed member of household: 33 percent

Sixty-five percent of New Mexico residents 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 (35 percent); looking for less expensive gifts (30 percent); doing more research to get the best price (27 percent); shopping more at discount stores (26 percent); using more coupons (21 percent); and shopping online on Black Friday or Cyber Monday (Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving) for deals (21 percent).

"Economic concerns and high gas prices are making consumers more careful about how they spend their holiday gift budgets," said Ana Gonzalez, AAA New Mexico regional manager. "To make it easier for members to take advantage of AAA discounts while holiday shopping, the current issue of New Mexico Journeys magazine has a savings guide of coupons highlighting discounts with popular retailers such as Omaha Steaks, and Gap Outlet stores."

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

Other popular gift categories were apparel and accessories (55 percent); books (51 percent); DVDs/videos (33 percent); toys (30 percent); consumer electronics such as smartphones, tablets, or eReaders (30 percent); jewelry (26 percent); music (23 percent); sporting goods (21 percent); and flowers/cards (18 percent).

"The survey also showed that 70 percent of local consumers plan to pay for at least some gifts with a credit card, and of those shoppers, 80 percent will use a card that gives rewards points or cash back," Gonzalez said. "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."

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. Eight percent said $2.50 a gallon, 12 percent said $3, 19 percent said $3.50, 30 percent said $4, five percent said $4.50 a gallon, 11 percent said $5 a gallon, three percent said $6, two percent said $10, six percent said they didn't know and three percent said none of those prices.

Among the 61 percent who said that high gas prices are currently affecting their spending decisions:

  • 77 percent indicated they have cut back on unnecessary driving;
  • 62 percent are spending less money eating out at restaurants;
  • 49 percent are putting less money into savings;
  • 48 percent are spending less money on holiday gifts;
  • 33 percent are not taking a trip over the holidays;
  • 33 percent will search for discounts and specials on holiday gifts and travel;
  • 28 percent will spend less money on their holiday trip; and
  • 27 percent use a discount program for purchases such as AAA.

The AAA New Mexico Holiday Shopping Poll was conducted online by the AAA Marketing Research Department between Oct. 4 and Oct. 20 and surveyed 314 AAA New Mexico 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.

Contact Information:

Sarah Schimmer
(713) 284-6552

Marie Montgomery
(714) 885-2333