St. Paddy's Day Doldrums

St. Paddys Day DoldrumsABC News Photo Illustration
The economic downturn is leading many Americans to tone down St. Patrick's day celebrations and spend less on this big money holiday.

Another sign that the country is in a recession: Many Americans are cutting back on St. Patrick's Day celebrations.

As the nation enters the 15th month of the economic downturn, people would sooner save some cash than shell out money to celebrate the Irish holiday, according to a new survey from the National Retail Foundation.

"The recession is definitely a consideration now," said Jacquie Chamberlain of Washington, D.C., who will spend the holiday hanging out at home with friends. "I like money better in my pocket than spending it all on drinks."

The foundation's survey echoes that sentiment, revealing that young adults, ages 18-24, will spend about 14 percent less this year than last.

Whereas the age group spent an average of $42.20 per person on the holiday last year, the survey expects young adults to spend an average of $36.05 this year.

The next older age group, 25-34, will spend the most money on the holiday, the survey concluded, spending an average of $39.42 per person.

"Increased concern about the economy among young adults has forced many of them to pull back on discretionary spending," National Retail Foundation president and CEO Tracy Mullin said in a statement.

The drop in St. Patrick's Day spending could deal yet another blow to an already battered economy. The Irish holiday is a big-money celebration, with total spending at $3.29 billion.

This year, people looking to save cash and cut back on spending are finding cheaper ways to celebrate than shelling out money for pints of stout beer.

"Eat a green bagel," said Catherine Goldman of Washington, D.C., who also celebrates her birthday on St. Patrick's Day.

Like Chamberlain, Goldman said she won't be spending big bucks on the day's festivities. Indeed, her way of celebrating the holiday is the least expensive of all the options.

"I'm wearing my green coat," she said.

According to the foundation's survey, 82 percent of people choose this approach to celebrating the holiday, including President Obama -- or is it O'Bama? -- who donned a green tie today as he welcomed the Taoiseach of Ireland to Washington.

Going Green

The White House also found another inexpensive way to commemorate the occasion: It used green dye to color the water in the fountains on the North and South lawns. Later today, the Shannon Rivers, the official pipe band of the Chicago St. Patrick's Day festival, will perform at a reception in the East Room.

But some people, rather than cutting back on the festivities, say they are partying even more than usual to cope with the recession.

"We're drinking more," said Trisha White of Washington, D.C. "My motto is the drinking will continue until the economy improves."

White said all of the dismal financial news is "very depressing," with sobering reminders seemingly every week about the economic downturn.

On top of that, she said, recent news such as AIG's $165 million bonuses for executives is driving her to drink.

"I just can't watch the news anymore," she said. "If I see one more headline about another company spending more on bonuses or flying around to junkets, I just can't take it. So yeah, I'm drinking!"

The AIG news hit home for White, who noted that AIG insures one of her 401(k) retirement plans from a previous job.

"I haven't been able to bring myself to open any of my statements," she said.

Maybe now, she suggested, it's time to start investing in liquor.

"I might as well invest in Maker's Mark," she said jokingly.

Others, like Stephen McGrath, claim that recession or not, no financial woes can ever stop St. Patrick's Day celebrations. And McGrath would know, too: He hails from Dublin.

"I'm Irish and I know all my friends will be at the bar all day today," McGrath said. "Normally, when people are partying nowadays, they are cutting back, but not today."

McGrath was on vacation in Washington for this year's festivities but he had been in Chicago for the city's St. Patrick's Day parties during the weekend. He saw no signs that anyone was saving money instead of celebrating.

"Pubs were heaving from early morning all the way through," he said.

For some, a pint of stout beer is worth every penny on St. Paddy's, no matter how far the economy plunges.