Americans' Consumer Spending Rises in March to Average $86

Rebecca Riffkin

Friday, April 10th, 2015

In March, Americans' daily self-reports of spending averaged $86, level with the March 2014 average of $87, but below the averages for many months in 2014. Last month's figure, however, is up slightly from February's $82.

Self-Reported U.S. Daily Consumer Spending, 2008 to 2015

Each day, Gallup asks Americans to estimate the total amount they spent "yesterday" in restaurants, gas stations, stores or online -- not counting home and vehicle purchases, or normal monthly bills -- to provide an indication of Americans' discretionary spending. The March 2015 average is based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with 15,708 U.S. adults.

After dropping in January, as usual after the holiday season, consumer spending remained at that lower level in February. The $4 increase in March is consistent with the slight increases seen in March of every year since 2010, with the exception of last year, when spending rose in February but was flat in March. Average daily spending dropped between February and March 2008 (by $25); however, that most likely was a sign of the looming recession.

Comparison of Average Daily Reports of Spending From February to March

Spending Increases Slightly Among Americans of All Income Groups

Average self-reports of spending in March increased by $7 among upper-income Americans -- those with annual household incomes of $90,000 a year or more -- to reach $144. Among middle- and lower-income Americans, those with incomes that are less than $90,000, spending increased by $4 from February to reach $75 in March. Last month's spending among middle- and lower-income Americans -- who make up the bulk of U.S. consumers -- was the same as in March 2014, while spending among upper-income Americans was down slightly compared with the previous year.

Consumer Spending by Annual Household Income, March 2014 to March 2015


Despite dips in the Economic Confidence Index over the last few weeks of March, Americans' discretionary spending rose slightly over February levels. Average gas prices, which dropped rapidly last fall, were higher in March than earlier in the year, and this may have contributed to increased spending. The broad trend shows spending recovering after reaching lows during the Great Recession and its aftermath, but for the first months of 2015, spending has been lower than it was for most months last year. The March increase in spending compared with February's average could, however, be a good sign for the U.S. economy in the months to come.

The data in this article are available in Gallup Analytics.