Are Americans spending this summer?

A pedestrian carrying a shopping bag walks by a mural with a shopping theme on April 16, 2012 in New York City. Gallup takes a look at the spending habits of Americans these days.

Sarah Gardner: We talk a lot about consumer spending on this show. The kind you really don't have much control over, like your monthly rent -- and the kind you do control, like that pair of strappy sandals you just had to have this summer. Guilty.

But are we feeling good about all our spending, that's the question. Time now for our weekly partnership with Gallup. It's called Attitude Check, and Gallup's Frank Newport is here with us. Frank, welcome back.

Frank Newport: Good to be with you.

Gardner: Frank, I understand you have been asking Americans about their spending habits. So what did they tell you?

Newport: First of all, Americans like to see themselves as being very conscientiously trying to cut back on their spending. In fact, we have 90 percent roughly who say, 'I am watching my spending very closely,' and that's consistent across months and across years. And we have about seven out of 10 who say, 'I am trying to cut back on the amount that I spend.'

Gardner: You didn't ask them whether they actually were, or did you?

Newport: We do follow up, and some of the other questions we say, for example: Did you worry that you spent too much money yesterday? And also: Do you have enough money to buy the things you need? Here we find most Americans are doing pretty well, because we only have about 20 percent who say they worried that they spent too much money yesterday; just about the same, 20-25 percent who say, 'I don't have enough money to buy the things I need.' Now that's a pretty big number, but that means 70 percent-plus think they have enough money.

Gardner: Now Frank, what about you? What about your spending? Are you watching your spending? If Gallup came to you and asked you these same questions, what do you think you would say?

Newport: That's a fascinating question. I would probably answer just like the average American out there -- I'd say I am trying to watch my spending. I would probably get into a disagreement with my wife on that, because sometimes we disagree on it, but I wouldn't worry too much that I spent too much money yesterday.

Gardner: Now, you asked people about spending, and then you talked to them about something totally different, which was you asked Americans: What are the happiest days of the year? So what did you find out?

Newport: Christmas Day was the happiest day of 2011, and it has been ever since we've been doing this, and that's followed by Thanksgiving, by Easter Sunday and then -- and this is good news for this week -- July 4th, Independence Day, and Jan. 1st, New Year's Day, tie as the fourth happiest days of the year. So this week in general should be a happy one for all of us listening at this very moment.

Gardner: I was going to say for me it's the first day of vacation.

Newport: Yeah, you're looking at the glass as half-empty it seems like to me, because you start vacation, 'Oh I only have four, three, two days left.' But vacations, clearly based on our data, are something people really enjoy. That comes under the category of what we pollsters call a 'duh finding.'

Gardner: Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief of Gallup. The partnership that we do with them every week on the broadcast is called Attitude Check. Frank, we'll see you next week.

Newport: I'll look forward to it.

About the author

Frank Newport, Ph.D., is the editor-in-chief at Gallup and appears regularly on Marketplace.

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