First Command News & Media


First Command Reports: Servicemember Families Reining In Holiday Spending

First Command Financial Behaviors Index® reveals two out of five servicemembers plan to spend less than $500 on gifts.

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FORT WORTH, Texas – America’s career military families intend to tighten their belts again this holiday season, making gift spending a major focus of their frugality.

First Command’s annual holiday spending survey reveals that 94 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) plan to cut back this year, statistically unchanged from the past three years. More than one third (37 percent) expect to spend less on gifts this year, making it their No. 1 cost-cutting strategy for the holidays.

The penny‐pinching urge is strong for the 2015 holiday season. Military shoppers plan on average expenditures of $786, roughly half the $1,464 they estimate having spent last year on holiday gifts. Two out of five families (40 percent) say they expect to spend less than $500.

Military families also anticipate reducing their gift giving expenses by:

  • Setting a maximum amount for gifts (32 percent)
  • Giving gifts to fewer people (30 percent)
  • Giving fewer gifts per person (29 percent)
  • Buying gifts at discount stores (24 percent)
  • Making gifts (17 percent)

Black Friday surfaced as another frugal spending strategy in the survey.  Two out of five survey respondents said they planned to do most or all of their holiday shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.

Other ways military families are cutting back for the holidays include spending less on travel (34 percent), decorations (26 percent) and food (22 percent).

The 2015 holiday shopping season marks the eighth consecutive year that the Index has pointed to leaner spending in military families, reflecting a year-around dedication to frugal living.

“Through careful consumer spending, our men and women in uniform are giving their families and themselves the gift of financial confidence,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. “Frugal financial behaviors are helping military families feel more confident that their financial situation will improve next year and in their ability to retire comfortably. This willingness to continue their belt‐tightening ways into the holiday season underscores a larger commitment to the pursuit of long-term financial security.”

About the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public's financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Bank and First Command Financial Planning, assist American families in their efforts to build wealth, reduce debt and pursue their lifetime financial goals and dreams—focusing on consumer behavior as the first and most powerful determinant of results. Through knowledgeable advice and coaching of the financial behaviors conducive to success, First Command Financial Advisors have built trustworthy, lasting relationships with hundreds of thousands of client families since 1958.


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