Personal Finance: The economics of Thanksgiving food, football, travel, shopping

//Personal Finance: The economics of Thanksgiving food, football, travel, shopping

Personal Finance: The economics of Thanksgiving food, football, travel, shopping

Fast fact

The average Thanksgiving meal for 10 people cost $49.87 this year, down $50.11 last year, according to a survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation. That estimate is for a Thanksgiving meal serving 10 people, with a menu including turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and coffee with milk.


Christopher Hopkins

Christopher Hopkins

Photo by
Contributed Photo
/Times Free Press.

The uniquely American holiday we call Thanksgiving is a time during which we reflect upon our blessings and share with friends and family. It is also genuinely American in its commercial impact on the economy. Here are a few fun facts about Thanksgiving economics.

Dinner will be cheaper this year. In fact, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a classic turkey dinner with all the trimmings will cost less after inflation than at any time since 2010 and roughly equal to 1986. Thanks to declines in poultry, egg and dairy prices, a typical home-cooked Turkey Day feast will run a little less than $5 per person this season. This is particularly impressive given the destruction of 7 million birds last year due to the avian flu infestation. The decline in grocery store prices has not gone unnoticed, as families have chosen to prepare more meals at home and patronize their favorite restaurants less.

Travel costs will be up slightly over 2015, but that won’t keep us off the road. An annual forecast by AAA predicts that 48.7 million of us will venture more than 50 miles from home this Thanksgiving, an increase of about 1 million over last year.

Most of those miles will be covered by car, and with gas prices still near 10-year lows, more families are planning a drive to visit relatives for the holiday. The 3.7 million expected air travelers will face a slightly more challenging picture, with airfares and related fees slated to rise 21 percent over 2015. But hotel room costs will remain fairly constant, and rental car rates are predicted to decline 13 percent from last year. And many potential travelers are feeling more optimistic about the general economy and are therefore willing to boost their outlays for Thanksgiving travel.

Of course, no quintessentially American holiday would be complete without a retail component. For many years, “Black Friday” advertising blanketed Thanksgiving Week media, enticing deal hunters to venture out at the crack of dawn. Gradually, the starting line shifted backward into Thanksgiving evening itself. But this year, more than in recent memory, will feature internet deals and in-store promotions beginning in early November and carrying through Christmas Day. Black Friday is nearly two months long.

The National Retail Federation anticipates that nearly 138 million Americans will bargain hunt online or in person during the long Thanksgiving weekend. But the organization also recognizes that shoppers are increasingly demanding the same values throughout the entire Holiday season and retailers are adjusting accordingly. And in an ongoing demographic shift, Millennials will hit the malls on Thanksgiving Day in greater numbers than any other age cohort, in part to find a deal but also to partake in the experience.

And of course, football will feature prominently in the festivities. The NFL schedules three games each year on Thanksgiving Day, but one team, the Detroit Lions, have been featured each year since 1934. In a typically American commercial gambit, the owner of the Lions scheduled a game on the holiday as a promotional gimmick, and made sure to broadcast the game over his 96 radio stations. Henceforth, a lasting tradition was born, contributing millions of dollars in economic impact each year and drawing over 25 million viewers for each of the three Thanksgiving broadcasts.

We have much for which to be thankful, not least of which is the productive genius of free enterprise that has made us the most prosperous nation on earth. So enjoy your feast, safe travels and Happy Thanksgiving.

Christopher A. Hopkins, CFA, is a vice president and portfolio manager for Barnett Co. in Chattanooga.

By | 2016-11-23T14:27:32+00:00 November 23rd, 2016|Economics|

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