discretionary spending

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discretionary spending (usually uncountable, plural discretionary spendings)

  1. (economics) The amount or portion of a person's or group's expenditures which is used for non-essential or voluntary disbursements; the amount or portion of one's expenditures which one may make as one sees fit.
    • 2000, D. W. Elmendorf et al., "Social Security Reform and National Saving in an Era of Budget Surpluses," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, vol. 2000, no. 2, p. 48:
      In this scenario discretionary spending is held to a constant share of GDP.
  2. The action of making such expenditures.
    • 2001, Michael Elliott, "Don't Worry About Oil," Time, 29 Oct.:
      Nervous consumers and business executives put off discretionary spending.
    • 2009, Josh Quittner, "Kindle 2 Will Woo You," Time, 30 March:
      If only the Kindle 2 were cheaper! Despite its other shortcomings, Amazon's new and improved digital-book reading device does enough right that it could become the Model T of e-readers, capturing the imagination—and discretionary spending—of the masses.
  3. (US, government finances) US government expenditures which are subject to annual review and authorization by Congress, as distinct from expenditures authorized by existing laws.
    • 1992, Bill Turque AND Ginny Carroll, "Ross Perot's New Tease," Newsweek, 31 Aug.:
      Perot would cut federal discretionary spending by 15 percent, chopping items that range from the space station to the Rural Electrification Administration.


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