-- Households are trimming debt. Total household debt, including mortgages, credit cards, autos and other consumer loans, stood at $13.6 trillion in the third quarter of this year, according to the Fed. That's down from $13.7 trillion in the second quarter. Debt reduction is healthy for personal finances but not for economic growth: Consumers pare debt with money they might otherwise spend.
-- Most Americans -- 80 percent -- plan to use cash for all their holiday purchases, according to an Associated Press-Gfk poll. Using cash is a way to stick to budgets and avoid impulse purchases. It suggests consumers are wary of spending freely -- whether for gifts or other purchases.
While holiday sales aren't vital to economic growth, consumer spending as a whole is: It accounts for about 70 percent of it.
-- Unemployment has hit double digits and is expected to remain near or above 10 percent well into next year, far above a "normal" rate of 5 or 6 percent.