Put on a few pounds this summer? You might want to check your debt load to see if there are extra lbs. there, too.
According to data from Dallas-based electronic payment processor Paymentech, Americans charged nearly 20% more summer meals this past August than in August 2002. Sales figures come from the company's more than 24,000 full-service restaurant merchant customers.
With an average bill of $39 (it was $40 in August 2002), restaurateurs are particularly heartened. The National Restaurant Association forecasted overall sales at full-service restaurants would increase only 4.8% this year. And summertime is a notoriously slow season for those dining establishments in non-tourist locales.
So what's driving us to order more Bloomin' Onion appetizers and California Clubs (mayo on the side, please)? Perhaps consumers felt the pinch in their recreation budgets, opting to eat out more often instead of splurge on an all-out family getaway.
Still, debt is debt. And boy, oh boy, do we have a lot! U.S. consumer credit grew $8.2 billion in August to a seasonally adjusted $1.956 trillion. That's on top of 4.3% growth in 2002 and 7.3% in 2001. Increased appetite, indeed!
When it comes to dining and charging, it's best not to binge. Try the debt calorie counter here for some guidance.