That's the forecast on holiday spending from CUNA and the Consumer Federation as a result of their 10th annual consumer survey.
This year, 43% of respondents said they plan to reduce holiday spending, compared with 55% last year. By contrast, during the eight years before 2008, that number never exceeded 35%.
"The public is not in the mood to rush out and spend," CUNA Chief Economist Bill Hampel said at a news conference.
He said that based on the survey data and other factors, holiday spending will likely increase about 4%. Last year, consumers spent 3.5% less than in the previous year.
The survey found that fewer people are concerned about meeting their debt obligations, in part because consumers are taking out less debt.
This year, 42% of respondents said they were concerned about meeting all debt payments, compared with 48% last year. And 24% said they were concerned about meeting credit card payments, compared with 28% last year.
The survey found that those with lower incomes (less than $50,000 annually) are more worried about their finances than those who earn more than $50,000.
The groups' research found that 42% of those with lower incomes said their financial situation was worse than last year, and 58% of the respondents in that group expressed concern about meeting their debt payments. In addition, 51% of that group said they would spend less than they did last year.
Among those who earned $50,000 or more, 32% said their incomes were worse than a year ago and 32% expressed concern about their ability to pay their debts. Of that group, 38% said they expect to spend less.
Hampel said credit unions could see an increase in the use of their credit cards this holiday season because some of the larger credit card issuers have been raising rates and dropping customers at a faster pace as a result of recently enacted legislation to overhaul credit card rules.
He also said that credit unions could see their credit card portfolios grow if Congress changes the rules on interchange that would make it harder for big card issuers to issue premium cards.
"Credit unions will look comparatively better, because consumers will pick cards based on their rates, rather than based on what benefits they receive," he said. "Credit cards have been a forgotten player in credit union portfolios and that will increase in the next few years."
The organizations surveyed more than 1,000 people by telephone from Nov. 6 through Nov. 9.