When you’re a kid, the holiday season is a magical time of year. You may be waiting for Santa to come down the chimney with all of your presents or celebrating eight nights of gifts during Hanukkah.
Being an adult during the holidays is still fun too, but it comes with the added stress of planning parties, buying gifts, traveling, decorating the house, and meeting expectations from friends and family. We broke down just how much people truly spend on the various trappings of the holidays during this magical – and expensive – time of the year.
20. Season For Spending
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American plans to spend a total of $1,048 during the holiday season. This covers all of the presents they are buying for their family and friends, decorations, candy, and more. Of course, this is just the average. Parents with multiple children can easily spend more, especially if they are eager to buy their kids everything they asked Santa for.
Many people like to take advantage of Black Friday deals and get their holiday shopping done in November. The average shopper spends $361.90 on during the sales on Thanksgiving weekend. However, a very small fraction of people (about 9%) are able to accomplish getting every single person on their list finished in one day.
For a lot of kids, meeting Santa Claus is an experience we might forget when we are older. But plenty of us have awkward photos of us screaming because we don’t want to sit on a strange man’s lap. The average cost of getting a picture with Santa at your local American mall costs between $25 to $50, depending on how many photos and digital downloads they get. According to Market Watch, some parents pay as much as $325 for a picture package with Santa in New York City. And in the Harrods department store in London, shoppers had to pay a whopping $2,500 to see Father Christmas in 2019. Yikes.
If you want to save money, try to find local community events where they have someone dressed as Santa Claus. In most cases, you can ask permission to take a photo on your phone for free. This way, you can post the photo on social media and get paper prints made at your local CVS or Walmart.
The National Federation gathered data to show exactly what consumers are buying during the holidays. It might surprise some people to know that new tech gadgets are not the leading item everyone wants under their tree. A whopping 70% of Christmas gifts are clothing items. This includes all of those sneakerheads out there who are looking for a fresh pair of shoes. Second in line is gift cards, and the third most popular item is toys.
Considering that 60% of Americans say that they would love to get a gift card for the holidays, it would make sense that they would enjoy getting a gift card to their favorite clothing retailer. So if you aren’t sure what to get someone (or you are afraid of getting the wrong size) you can’t go wrong with letting them buy clothing on their own.
If you live in the suburbs, you might feel some pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” when it comes to decorating the outside of your home with new Christmas decorations. And if you watch interior design channels or read magazines, it seems like there is a new trend every year. But of course, most people use the same decorations they have had for several years.
Ever wonder just how many people are actually buying new decor every year? It turns out that the average American spends $61 on new decorations every year. A few years ago it was just $41. So people really are spending more on new decor in recent years. This may be because the economy is finally beginning to recover from the recession and people feel comfortable treating themselves to new things.
According to a report by CNBC, the average American will get in at least $1,000 of additional credit card debt during the holiday season. Many of these people also apply for a new card in the months leading up to the holiday. According to Lending Tree, the amount of credit card debt Americans get in over the holidays has gone up in recent years. And as the economy improves, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
Instead of getting into debt, you should always try to save and use cash instead. But if it is completely necessary for you to take out a credit card around the holidays, at least get one that will give you something in return. The Capital One Venture Card will give you 60,000 miles after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. This is like getting a free round-trip flight to a foreign country. If you plan to travel for the holidays, you may as well put that on the card too, because those points could be used to retroactively reimburse expenses like hotels, flights, and even Uber rides.
Thanksgiving has already come and gone, and everyone is getting ready for Christmas. During Black Friday 2019, sales were up 4.2%. Americans spend a record-breaking $7.2 billion in that one day. It may come as a surprise to some people that there were actually more people shopping in-store compared to online. Many stores opted to have sales that were “in-store only,” which forced shoppers to drive to their nearest location.
Just because more people were at the mall doesn’t mean that online sales went down. Online shopping was up 14%, and spending on mobile devices went up by 82% since 2018. That’s a huge increase in just one year. It may be because more people are getting comfortable using their smartphones, and no longer find it necessary to sit at the computer to get their shopping done.
According to data gathered by Star News Online, 77% of people who were polled said that they plan to buy themselves gifts when they find something during big holiday sales. Some people think that this is selfish, but it’s actually smart. It can make a lot of financial sense, especially if you plan ahead of time. Certain luxury brands will only put their products on sale in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and it may be the one and only opportunity for you to get a discount.
There are also a lot of good deals with combo packs. For example, around Black Friday, Sephora comes out with “value sets” of their products. You might find a big gift set that costs the same amount of money for four to five products instead of just buying something by itself. If you already know what skincare and makeup you need for the rest of the year, you might as well stock up when you can get it cheap. The same can be said about gift sets that go on clearance right after Christmas.
Back in the 1970s, banks began offering the option to open a “Christmas Club Account.” This gave customers the option to contribute small amounts of money like $5 to $25 per paycheck into a savings account that could not be withdrawn until December. For former generations, this was usually enough for them to save enough money to spend on gifts and stay out of debt. Unfortunately, Christmas Clubs are no longer as popular as they used to be and exist in small-town banks and credit unions.
Even if you can’t find a Christmas Club in your local area, the concept of saving for the holidays is still an amazing idea. Most online banking tools now allow you to create multiple accounts for certain goals. You could have an account that is labeled “Holidays” and try to resist the temptation to dip into it. This could also be accomplished by simply putting cash in an envelope. There are 52 weeks in a year. So if you save just $10 per week, that’s $520 one year from today. For most people, this would be enough money to buy presents for their kids.
Every year, kids write their “wish list” to Santa Claus, blissfully unaware of the fact that their parents are actually the ones paying for their presents. Most kids have absolutely no idea how hard it is to earn money, either. So even as kids get older, they don’t understand why some items would be unrealistic. Some parents try to make up an excuse as to why Santa can’t buy everything they ask for. But more than half of parents say that they plan to get every single thing on their child’s wish list no matter the cost.
Obviously parents want their kids to have magical Christmas memories and are doing this out of love. However, financial analysts have argued that most parents are losing a valuable opportunity to teach their kids about money during the holidays. Remember that your kids are little sponges and pay attention to everything you do. By splashing out and overspending, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps and do the same thing when they grow up.
Money Confident Kids polled parents asking if they had ever dipped into their 401k savings to pay for Christmas presents, and 25% of them said “yes”. In the moment, parents may not think that withdrawing from their retirement fund is such a big deal. But according to financial analysts from T. Rowe Price, if a 35-year-old parent takes out $500 from her 401k to pay for the holiday seasons, this translates to sacrificing almost $6,000 from her retirement. Is it really worth it?
Instead of dipping into your retirement or emergency savings, try to plan ahead of time by saving for next year’s holiday. Or, remember that by going overboard, you are only hurting yourself in the long run. There is no shame in cutting back on Christmas presents. In fact, your kids are probably not going to notice if you decrease the number of presents you give them, especially if they are still young. Or, instead of giving multiple $50 gifts, you could give smaller $10 to $20 gifts.
In the last entry, we talked about how animate certain parents are about buying their kids everything they want for Christmas. Obviously, this comes at a cost. Many people reportedly try to pay back their Christmas debts within three months. But according to WalletHub, 35% of people still have debt from last year’s holiday season. You can probably imagine how that debt can compound over the years.
If you think that you might be one of these people, go through your credit card statements online and add up how much you spend during the holidays. Amazon also allows you to see the history of your purchases from previous years. Then, figure out how much your payments went towards the principle and how much went towards interest. Once you realize just how bad the situation is, it may help you to fix it.
There are plenty of parents out there who get carried away with buying too many Christmas presents for their kids. It’s understandable to want to get caught up in the spirit of giving, especially if your kids still write a list to Santa. There are so many amazing new trendy things out there to buy, that many parents end up getting 10 gifts per child. When you have more than one kid, the cost can seriously add up. This is why some parents have decided to adopt the idea of “the rule of four”. This is four gifts per child: One to wear, one to read, one want, and one need.
For example, maybe the “wear” could be a new pair of sneakers, the “read” could be the newest book series they have always wanted to read, one of the biggest “wants” on their list, and one item that they truly need, like new socks and underwear. This is perfect once your kids are old enough to understand that mom and dad are buying the presents under the tree. And you are less likely to have kids who feel jealous of one another, since they have the opportunity to pick what they want the most. Parents who have adopted “the rule of four” say that their kids have actually had more fun that year compared to years when they just get random presents under the tree.
Most people have heard of Black Friday, but have you ever heard of “Super Saturday?” This is the last Saturday before Christmas, and it’s one of the biggest shopping days of the year. It makes a lot of sense since most people cannot go shopping until the weekend. And no matter how much you try to plan ahead, there is probably at least one thing you forgot to buy.
According to the National Retail Federation, 148 million Americans plan to go shopping on Super Saturday in 2019. This is an increase from 134 million who shopped in 2018. Maybe this is a sign that retail isn’t quite dead yet. However, this data covers both online shoppers and people who plan to go in-person.
According to the T. Rowe Price Parents, Kids & Money Survey, 64% of parents who were polled from a survey about holiday spending said that they regret spending so much money on the holidays. The only issue is that even when people save money, they still seem to overspend. For example, 83% of Millennials said that they saved for the holidays throughout the year, which is way more than Boomers did. This sounds amazing until you learn that Millennials are more likely to overspend. So by saving, it almost gives people a false sense that they can buy more than the previous year.
If you know that you feel guilty at the end of every holiday season, try to make a change. Buyer’s remorse is very similar to overeating and gaining weight. It seems fine to eat that extra slice of cake in the moment, but then a few months down the line, you look in the mirror and realize you’ve gained 20 pounds. Being strict with yourself over holiday spending takes a lot of willpower.
One of the bright sides of Christmas is that people are far more likely to give to charity than any other time of year. According to a survey by T. Rowe Price, 87% of children agreed that their parents encourage them to donate a toy to a charity like Toys For Tots during the holidays. Many of them were also taught about the importance of donated used clothing to places like Goodwill. Of those same kids, only 69% of them said that their parents encouraged them to give financial donations to charities, like those Santas ringing the bell in front of stores asking for donations to The Salvation Army.
If you feel generous this holiday season (or any other time of year) consider donating new hygienic products like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and shampoo to women’s shelters as well as homeless shelters. Many of these people are just going through a hard time, and they are trying to get back on their feet. So it’s difficult for them to go to a job interview when they can’t even take a proper shower and take care of themselves. If you aren’t sure what to get, call your local shelters to ask what they need the most.
It turns out that there is some truth to the stereotype that men are more likely to wait until the last minute to do their holiday shopping. According to Star New Online, only 9.3 % of men start shopping by September, whereas 15.8% of women are already planning what they are going to buy for their friends and family over the course of the next few months. According to the National Retail Federation, 39% of all Americans start shopping before November. Many men wait until the last two weeks before Christmas to get the things they need for their family and friends.
So, what does this have to do with money? By planning ahead of time, you can spread out your purchases to a few things from every paycheck. This reduces stress, and it will help to prevent you from getting in credit card debt. One great way to plan ahead is to start private Amazon Wishlists for every person in your family. As soon as you hear that someone wants something, you can pull your phone out and add it to the wish list.
According to a child psychologist named Dr. Lauren Knickerbocker from the Child Study Center at NYU Langone Health, parents should avoid giving their kids a toy catalog to choose their gifts. They are more likely to pick expensive presents that they didn’t actually want that badly, but as soon as they saw the photo, they suddenly decide they do. So, instead of asking your kids to flip through the catalog, ask them what they want off the top of their heads. This way, you spend far less money in the long run.
Dr. Knickerbocker also recommends asking your kids for more information when they tell you what they want. For example, your child might tell you that they want a new iPad mini, which costs $500. If you ask why they want an iPad, they will most likely say they want it to watch movies and play games. In reality, kids don’t actually care if it’s an Apple product or not. There are far cheaper tablet options out there, like the Kindle Fire Kids Edition for just $60. This is arguably better than an iPad, because your kids will be limited to activities that are age-appropriate.
Last-minute holiday shoppers love buying gift cards, especially since they are available at nearly every convenience store. It’s an easy way for them to get something for a friend or family member without racking their brains about finding the perfect present. It turns out that people actually want gift cards, because it guarantees that they can go and get whatever they want without the awkward disappointment of receiving something terrible. According to the National Retail Federation, 60% of Americans said that they love to get a gift card. And the average person plans to buy at least three to four gift cards that are worth $50 each.
The top 10 gift cards of 2019 are Target, Walmart, Sephora, eBay, Home Depot, Ikea, iTunes, Starbucks, Costco, and Chick-Fil-A. Gift cards for streaming services like Netflix and movie tickets from Fandango are also popular. Gifting someone an Amazon Prime subscription is also an amazing gift because it comes with Prime Video. And since so many people use Prime anyway, you are guaranteed to be helping them out with their expenses. The entire list of the most popular gift cards can be found on Wallet Hub.
2. Americans Spend An Unbelievable Amount For the Holidays
According to Star News Online, Americans spent $630.5 billion on Christmas shopping in 2015. That is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on things that we don’t actually need. To put that in perspective, that is more than the entire GDP (gross domestic product) of 181 different countries.
It should be no surprise that foreign countries are eager to supply Americans with the goods they want for Christmas. Even if they do not celebrate the holiday themselves, they want to get in on the action with manufacturing and online sales. Even though China has become one of the biggest economies in the world, the government has completely banned celebrating Christmas, possibly because they do not want their citizens to spend the same amount of money that Americans do on gift-giving.
According to WalletHub, 99 million Americans are planning to make at least one New Year’s Resolutions based on their personal finances. And 60 million people say that they made resolutions based around money last year. In fact, it came second in everyone’s priorities, just after health. When asked for more details, men said that they wish they could save more, while women were more likely to be focused on paying off debt.
Unfortunately, though, when asked how confident they were in keeping that resolution, less than half of them said that they know they can make it through all of 2020. Even though people wish they could be saving and paying off debt 12 months of the year, they admit that it probably won’t happen. (At least they’re honest.)