Consumers’ average daily spending in December was $98, the highest it’s been since matching the upper reaches on this measure since 2008.

While strong relative to the recent recessionary period, it is similar to the $95 found in November, as well as the $96 in December 2013. This indicates that even though spending is stronger than in the past, some U.S. consumers are still cautious amid positive economic news and growing consumer confidence.

Because of holiday shopping, December spending has usually been the highest of any month in Gallup's seven-year history of asking this question. That was not the case in 2014, given that December's $98 average matched the $98 from May, and was barely higher than November's average.

The lack of a more significant November-to-December increase, common in prior years, could be a sign that the Christmas retail season was less than robust. However, December spending was up $9 from October, which is more typical of the past pattern, so perhaps holiday shoppers began their shopping earlier. 

Upper-income Americans, those whose household incomes are $90,000 or more a year, had daily spending reports averaging $177 in December, among the highest for this group in 2014, and over the years since the recession.

The December average is similar to last December's level. Upper-income spending has shown steady gains since September. Spending among middle- and lower-income Americans, those whose annual household incomes are less than $90,000, was also higher than that found in most other monthly readings Gallup has conducted in the past several years.

Gallup's self-reported Consumer Spending measure is based on a question that Gallup tracks daily, asking a nationally representative sample of about 500 adults, aged 18 and older, and reports monthly based on approximately 14,000 interviews. It is spending in a day excluding the purchase of a home, an automobile or normal household bills.