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Celebrating Independence day can be costly

During this year's Fourth of July festivities, the nation will shell out $2.8 billion on fireworks and cookouts alone this Independence Day.
Competitive Eaters Weigh In Ahead Of July 4th Hot Dog Contest
Americans will eat 150 million hot dogs this holiday weekend — that's one dog for every two people, according to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.Mario Tama / Getty Images
/ Source: Forbes

Few celebrations come cheap. And this year's Fourth of July festivities, complete with burgers, beer and a festive fireworks show, are no exception. In fact, the nation will shell out $2.8 billion on fireworks and cookouts alone this Independence Day.

Of course, it makes sense when you consider just how many people are celebrating the holiday. According to the National Retail Federation's 2006 Independence Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey (conducted by BIGresearch, a consumer research firm based in Worthington, Ohio), 87 percent of consumers will join in the Independence Day festivities this year, slightly down from the 88 percent who partook in 2005.

The holiday spending provides a nice revenue boost for the companies that fill Americans' bellies with beef, like Hebrew National hot dogs from ConAgra Foods, or satisfy our thirst, like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Anheuser-Busch.

"A lot of people use Fourth of July as a time for informal family get-togethers," says Pam Goodfellow, an analyst with BIGresearch. "Everybody has the holiday off, and there's nice weather outside."

If the NRF's predictions ring true, many Americans will be doing so in red, white and blue. Close to 87 million Americans have patriotic apparel deep in their closets — you know, the token stars-and-stripes hat or flag tee that come out one day a year — and some 112 million own an American flag.

But where people will show off their colors will vary. For some 91 million Americans, this year's Independence Day festivities will include fireworks or a community celebration. Nearly 21 million will attend a Fourth of July parade. But hands down, the most popular way to spend this summer's holiday weekend will be with an all-American cookout. In fact, 134 million people will celebrate the "land of the free" by firing up their grills this year, up from 107 million in 2005, according to BIGresearch.

But don't be fooled by the seemingly cheap cookout fare — these festive picnics add up. In fact, BIGresearch predicts Americans will shell out $360 million on burgers and franks and $100 million on their buns this Fourth of July weekend. Factor in charcoal, beer and a bevy of snacks, and these picnics will set the nation back $1.9 billion.

The good news? "The holiday doesn't involve a lot of planning," says Goodfellow. "It's an informal celebration time."

Unless, of course, you're planning a trip. The American Automobile Association estimates that some 41 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday weekend, up slightly from the 40 million that hit the road last year. Thirty-four million of those traveling will drive, while close to 5 million will travel by plane.

Despite rising gas prices, "people will continue to travel this Fourth of July," says an AAA spokesman. While ocean and beach locales will be the most popular destinations this holiday weekend, many families will hit small towns and rural areas.