Christmas spending is a pretty good barometer for the health of the economy. When families are doing well financially and feeling optimistic about the future, they're more likely to splurge on gifts for their loved ones. And by that metric, families are feeling better about their finances than in any year since the 2008 financial crisis.
Every November since 1999, Gallup has been asking families how much they plan to spend on Christmas presents. On average, families this year say they'll spend $830, up from the $720 they spent in 2014 and just shy of the $866 they planned to spend in November 2007.
Thirty percent of respondents said they were going to spend $1,000 or more this year, up from 25 percent last year. On the other hand, 8 percent of Americans said they didn't planned to spend anything — perhaps because they don't celebrate Christmas.
Consumers revised their spending estimates upward in the past month. In October, they told Gallup that they would spend $812, before raising the estimate to $830 in November. In most previous years, shoppers have gotten more conservative between October and November.
All of this is significant because consumers' attitudes about the economy can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people expect the economy to do well, they will spend more money and boost demand for goods and services. That, in turn, will allow businesses to earn bigger profits and hire more workers.
Of course, things can also turn around dramatically. A few months after that strong Christmas shopping season in 2007, the US economy suffered the worst financial crisis in decades, resulting in sharply lower Christmas spending in 2008.