Study: Christmas spending statistics 2019

How much money did you spend on Christmas in 2019? If you totaled what you spent on gifts, food, travel, decorations, and other Christmas-related expenses, would you be above or below the national average?

To find out how much the average American consumer spent on Christmas 2019, we surveyed 1,496 people to ask them how much they spent, if they were on budget and if they were in debt.

Read on to see how you stack up against the average!

Main conclusions

  • 93.4% of American consumers bought Christmas gifts last year.
  • The average American spent $ 882.45 on Christmas gifts, food, decorations, travel, and other miscellaneous vacation-related expenses. This includes people who have not purchased gifts.
  • The average consumer who purchased Christmas gifts spent $ 928.76.
  • 56.3% of Americans who bought gifts budgeted for vacation spending, but only 64% stuck to it.
  • 21.5% of respondents got into debt at Christmas.
  • 29.7% of people who are in debt plan to pay it off with their tax return, but almost as many have no idea how they’re going to get out of it.

Budgeting and buying gifts

Budgeting for the vacation can help you avoid financial exhaustion and debt afterwards. Of those who bought Christmas presents in 2019, 56.3% set a budget. Of these, however, only 64% followed it.

The average spend of people who bought Christmas gifts and budgeted for 2019 was $ 878.21. But among those who bought gifts and does not have budget, the average amount spent was $ 992.33.

Additionally, among those who bought gifts for Christmas, 58.4% tracked their spending, and the average amount spent among them was $ 923.64. Those who bought gifts and does not have track their spending, meanwhile, spent an average of $ 934.12.

Unsurprisingly, 29.6% of those who did not budget spent more than expected. That said, 56% of people who didn’t budget managed to spend as much as they initially planned, and 14.4% managed to spend less.

But getting back to people who bought gifts and went over their vacation budgets or spent more than they planned, here’s where things got over the top (respondents could choose more than one option):

Obviously, there are plenty of expenses to consider while on vacation, and staying within budget for each one is easier said than done. Vacation travel, for example, can be an extremely expensive prospect. And depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into it, adorning your home with a tree and lights can also cost a pretty dime. But having a budget in the first place could minimize the risk of debt after the holidays.

Factors Affecting Christmas Spending

Not everyone thinks a lot about holiday spending. Some people go to stores and wait to be inspired by the gifts, not necessarily considering the costs along the way.

But the amount that other people spend on Christmas was the product of specific life circumstances, both positive and negative.

Here are some of the reasons people spent less on Christmas in 2019:

  • 20.6% spent less because they had outstanding credit card debt before the holidays.
  • 10.8% spent less because of health expenses.
  • 8.6% spent less to reduce waste or pollution.
  • 8.6% spent less on fears of an impending recession.
  • 7.5% spent less to avoid buying products from companies whose ethics or practices they disagree with.

On the flip side, some people spent more on Christmas, and here’s why:

  • 41.9% spent more because they were drawn to sales or in-store offers.
  • 17.8% spent more because they received unexpected money, such as a work bonus.
  • 14.2% spent more to support businesses with positive images.
  • 11.6% spent more to take advantage of special offers on credit cards.
  • 8.3% spent more because the economy will remain strong.

In addition to these factors, savings are also an important factor to consider. Those with healthy savings account balances can usually give themselves more leeway to spend than those without cash reserves.

Credit Cards and Christmas Spending

Many people open new credit cards during the holidays for two reasons: First, there are usually more offers to choose from. And second, consumers often need a larger line of credit to meet Christmas-related expenses.

Among those who bought Christmas gifts or not in 2019,

It’s wise to capitalize on cash back or reward points while on vacation, and 0% introductory APR cards can help you avoid interest charges if you’re paying off debt quickly. Balance transfer cards, on the other hand, are a good bet for those with pre-vacation debt. Opening a travel rewards card can also be a strategic decision while on vacation, as many offer perks like free checked baggage, TSA PreCheck, and airport lounge access.

On the other hand, consumers should be wary of opening credit cards in stores. These cards are notorious for charging high interest rates, and since their use is limited, applying for store cards in conjunction with other credit cards could result in credit score damage due to too many requests. information.

Debt after Christmas

The rising spending that many consumers experience over Christmas can all too easily lead to debt. And it’s a disturbing way to start the New Year.

Among those surveyed, including consumers who either bought Christmas gifts or not, 21.5% were in debt in 2019. This percentage is slightly higher among those who bought gifts – 22.5%.

When it comes to repaying that debt, 27.5% of people who are in debt have no idea how they are going to go about it. Meanwhile, 15.6% will rely on an introductory 0% APR card to extinguish their debt, but it’s important to note that approval of any of these cards usually depends on good credit. to begin. The same goes for the 13.8% of consumers who plan to pay off their vacation debt through a balance transfer.

In contrast, 13.4% of people think they will turn to a personal loan or other financial product to repay their debt. The interest rate on a personal loan may be lower than that charged on a credit card, and because personal loans are installment loans, like mortgages and auto loans, they do not affect on the use of credit.

Finally, 29.7% of those who came out of vacations with debt in 2019 rely on a tax refund to pay it off. The IRS typically begins accepting tax returns at the end of January, and those who file early could get their refunds much sooner than the average American, thereby minimizing the interest they accumulate on their debt.

However, not all Christmas buying groups plan to use the same methods. For example, respondents aged 45 and over were the most likely to use their tax refund to pay off debt (5.35% plan to do so). But 7.3% of respondents aged 18 to 29 said they would use their tax refund.

Could it be because older spenders have more money saved and less desperately in need of their tax refunds? We can’t say for sure, but it seems likely.

Christmas expenses by region

Interestingly, when you plot the average Christmas spending by region, you get a map that doesn’t sync with the average income by region.

Some of the lowest average incomes are found in southern states like Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas. But the Mid-Southeast region spent the most over Christmas – a total of $ 1,127.58. And although Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Illinois have high average incomes, the north-central west region was the most frugal, spending an average of $ 714.47.

Is gift giving just a bigger deal in the South? Are Midwesters and West Coasters parsimonious? It’s hard to say with just one set of results, but we’ll keep this question in mind for next year’s survey.

A little vacation planning goes a long way

Paying for Christmas can be stressful if you don’t plan ahead. But here’s the great thing about Christmas – it happens around the same time every year. And saving and budgeting in advance could be the key to escaping a debt-free vacation.

Budget for Christmas a few months before the holidays. Factor in major costs such as travel, gifts, entertainment, food, decorations, cards, and any other expenses that may arise.

From there, set priorities. Decide which expense categories are the most important to get your money going first. If you determine that flying to see your family is your most urgent Christmas goal, you may find it easier to cut back on gifts or decoration if funds become limited after you purchase your ticket. ‘plane.

At the same time, aim to save regularly for Christmas throughout the year. In fact, include future vacation expenses as an item in your budget. If you typically spend $ 1,200 on Christmas, allocate $ 100 per month and make sure it is saving you monthly so it’s there for you when December rolls around.

Of course, making extra money each month to put aside for Christmas isn’t easy, but spending more wisely throughout the year can make it happen. Review your expense categories and choose a few to reduce. If you eat out once a month less, skip two rides a month, and have a home game or movie night once a month rather than paying to go out, it could easily save you $ 100. Do this 12 times a year and you won’t have to go into debt because of Christmas.

Another option: get a secondary activity to increase your income. It doesn’t have to be something you don’t like; it can be something as flexible as driving your car for cash, enrolling in a house or babysitting a pet, or monetizing a hobby like crafts, gardening, or baking.

This means you won’t necessarily have to cut back on spending throughout the year, but it also gives you the chance to save all the money you need to prepay for Christmas. And it’s a good way to avoid vacation-related debt and make the most wonderful time of year a lot more manageable.


To find out how Americans spent money (or not) on Christmas, we conducted an online survey of 1,496 people. The survey was distributed via the SurveyMonkey Audience panel on December 30, 2019. Respondents were 54% female and 46% male. The breakdown by age group was roughly as follows: 25% 18-29, 23% 30-44, 40% 45-60, 11% over 60.

Some percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

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