Countdown to holiday shopping

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Today marks three weeks before the "official" start of the holiday shopping season - Black Friday. Although many of you have already started on your lists. But how much do you plan to spend?

Some factors appear to be impacting budgets for the holidays. Some signs indicate you may loosen your wallet a little this year. One of them is gas prices, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey. 

Friday morning, prices on the east side of Indianapolis ranged from $3.12 to $3.25 per gallon of regular unleaded. Statewide, Indiana prices are below the national average and lower than at this time last year.

Superstorm Sandy has hit consumers hard on the East Coast. But refineries have continued to process gasoline. So the supply has remained steady, while the overall demand has dropped.

"Gas prices spiraled down due to crude oil, demand, there is a lot in our favor," said Greg Seiter of AAA Hoosier Motor Club. "We expect the trend to continue as we look at where prices are now, and where we're headed."  Seiter expects prices to drop a little further.

While Sandy is helping us with gas prices here in Indiana, it may have a different impact on holiday spending.

Consumer Reports polled Americans on the upcoming election's impact on their holiday mood:

31% expect a glum season if their candidate doesn't win.

31% expect the election outcome to affect holiday spending.

17% say results will have a lot of impact on how they spend.

Thirty percent say they will spend less this year.  

Purdue University researchers predict people affected by Sandy will be spending on recovery, not the holidays. And that could impact spending by a whole percentage point or more.

Remember, retailers hang their hats on the holiday season, and it's an indicator for the economy in general.

We will see how the factors play out in the coming weeks.