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Will 2013 Be the Year of the DIY Holiday Gift?

Jason Steele

Americans are rolling up their sleeves and making — or baking — holiday treats and decorations, a new survey says.

This year, 70% of of us plan to make something rather than buying it, according to the Capital One Holiday Survey. Among the most popular do-it-yourself holiday items, 43% of those surveyed would be making holiday baked goods, 42% would be preparing holiday meals, and 18% would be creating some of their own holiday decorations.

In addition, the Chase Freedom lifestyle index survey also showed a dramatic increase in year-over-year spending within the craft store category. These purchases were up 91%, suggesting a strong interest in creating home decorations and other do-it-yourself projects. The Chase Freedom lifestyle index survey is a quarterly barometer of consumer trends based on aggregated Chase Freedom cardholder spending data.

Other Holiday Trends

The economy is improving, but slowly. According to Shane Holdaway, managing vice president for Capital One, “We expect holiday spending this year to be not spectacular, but we should see a modest 3.5% to 4% growth over last year.” He emphasized that consumers are still looking to get the most from their spending, and that often involves setting a holiday budget, but there are some problems with how they do so.

According to Capital One’s holiday survey, 57% aren’t confident their significant other will stick to a holiday budget. This makes sense, considering that 40% of Americans with a significant other haven’t discussed a holiday budget with him or her.

Another way some people are trying to save money this year is to be more selective about whom they give gifts to. Capital One’s survey indicated that 32% would be more likely to cut a friend first from gift-giving to stay within budget. Twenty-six percent would cut out their bosses, but only 14% would let a significant other go without a gift. On the other hand, parents (children were not included as a choice) remained dear to people’s hearts, as only 7% would cut back on holiday spending by not buying a gift for mom or dad.

How Do Credit Card Rewards Fit in?

This year, credit card users plan on redeeming their rewards in a variety of ways. According to Capital One’s Reward barometer survey, 23% indicated they plan on using the credit card rewards they earn from holiday shopping on a gift card for themselves, compared with 33% planning to use their rewards on spring or summer travel and 30% using their rewards to apply for cash to offset holiday expenses.

Many credit card issuers offer discounted gift cards to their cardholders as part of their rewards program. Capital One is one of them, offering 10% off of gift cards for Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, Neiman Marcus and Marriott hotels. These offers are available to to any Capital One rewards cardholder. American Express is also offering discounts on several of the gift cards offered through its Membership Rewards program, such as cards from Victoria’s Secret, Pottery Barn, Banana Republic and Williams-Sonoma.

Finally, Capital One’s survey indicated that consumers want a rewards program that’s simple. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed said that removing spending thresholds and special categories would improve their experience earning rewards, compared with 30% last year.

Whether creating their own decorations, trimming gift lists or using credit card rewards to offset holiday spending, it seems clear that Americans plan to spend carefully this holiday season.

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