Dear American Business:
Why does it always have to be about you?
There is scarcely a holiday left in the United States that isn't used as a barometer for the economy. Christmas stopped being Christmas long ago and, now that I think of it, we should be getting the first of the retailing Christmas season stories any day now.
Today, the story is people are spending less money on the July 4th holiday. It comes from USA Today...
A fifth of Americans 21% said they don't plan to celebrate Independence Day and those who are plan to spend less than last year, according to a survey released Sunday of a little more than 1,000 people by Visa.
That's up from the 18% who said they weren't joining in July 4 festivities last year. Those who plan to celebrate are spending an average of $191 on everything from travel to food to fireworks, down from $216 last year, according to a survey released Sunday by Visa.
On the other hand, nearly half of those celebrating will watch or light fireworks, according to a monthly consumer survey by the National Retail Federation. And close to 68% of consumers said they'll host or attend a barbecue, the most in the nine-year history of the NRF survey.
Unpatriotic? Or smart for Americans' wallets?
And there it is: The suggestion that it's unpatriotic not to spend money.
First of all, who remembers what they spent on the 4th of July last year?
But the survey claims Midwesterners -- that's us -- spend the most money on the 4th of July: an average of $211 per person who plans to "celebrate:" the 4th. It's an odd statistic, considering that the history of the holiday is people having a picnic, maybe hit a beach, and then go watch some fireworks for free.
Are you spending over $200 a person in your family? This we have to all hear: how?
Perhaps the holiday falling on a Wednesday is impacting families' spending choices. We have no plans; maybe an impromptu barbecue for whomever among our friends hasn't yet made better plans. We're otherwise working today, tomorrow, Thursday & Friday. In years when the holiday is in closer proximity to a weekend, we might make more 'expensive' plans - driving to someone's cabin, for example, or taking some kind of vacation. Then we could patriotically spend $200 on gas.
Maybe we'll break $200 per person.
But that is because of mattress sales going on over the fourth of July, not because of celebrating the holiday.
I'm wondering if the "midwest" results are skewed by the midwest states that allow fireworks. In KS and MO, people spend a lot of money and you can see hundreds of "firework displays" across town in people's back yards. And those things are expensive!
Bought about $130 in fireworks. Gas to head up to the cabin. A HUGE watermelon was $5.39 at Costco.
Leaving kids at cabin with grandparents (no daycare and both wife and myself work), priceless.
(see how I tied in the other theme for today)
Ditto Kristin's "midwest" comment - growing up in rural WI, we would always go see the "free" firework display in Neenah, WI (which was accompanied by numerous vendors setting up shop in the park to sell food, cotton candy, toys, and glow necklaces), but we always saw lots of amateur fireworks in the country during the drive back home. I could see some families easily spending $200 alone on fireworks, excluding the cost for food if they were having a BBQ or something.
However - it is ridiculous to equate spending money on 4th of July festivities (or ANY holiday) with patriotism. This year we will patriotically spend approximately $20 on food, grill at my in-laws' and catch a free fireworks show in the evening.
Grocery stores must be loving the holiday- I read somewhere that the day before the 4th is even busier than the day before Thanksgiving. We always end up spending more money on food/alcohol on 4th of July, whether we are inviting people over for a backyard BBQ at home or stocking up food to bring up north to the cabin.
I can't think of a holiday that has not been tuned into a retail festival. My attitude may have been set on these matters in my youth by our parish priest who railed all though December about the true meaning of Christmas.
It's not much of a holiday for all of the retail workers who have to be on duty. If I ruled the world, all retail activity would stop. Either it's a holiday or it's not.
For Independence Day, we have the kids over for a BBQ. We can see pretty good fireworks from our back yard. Cheap but really nice.
We'll probably spend $5-$7 each for a movie matinee - perfect place to be in the 100-degree weather. (Hey, I think I almost tied two stories together, too!)
"Dear American Business:
Why does it always have to be about you?"
"The business of America is business." Calvin Coolidge
Anything that can be commercialized will be. Including our democracy.
We still have the choice as to whether or not we want to play along.
Unless, you count the registration fee for the half marathon I am running, I will probably only spend about $25 on Independence Day.
Other than picking up a six-pack of beer, I don't plan on spending any money over the 4th. Bought some sqaush at the NE Mpls farmer's market over the weekend, already had some hot dogs and buns.
The simple pleasures are the best.
I've traveled from Minneapolis to Chicagoland to visit my family for the holiday, so I will spend ~$100 for gas and ~$10 in tolls. I'm also "spending" two vacation days because of the fiendish Wednesday holiday!
I bet a lot of state employees know exactly how much money they spent on the fourth last year. I know I do. Nothing.
And I have no plans for the 4th. None. Since they won't let me into work, I'll probably be looking for some other air conditioned place to hide, like at a movie theater.
I think the real spending occurs at the grocery store. It's like Summer's version of Thanksgiving. We feel the need to stuff ourselves to oblivion and drink excessively as a proper tribute to our nations birthday.