Last Updated: November 20, 2023
The most wonderful time of the year is just around the corner, but Americans are gearing up for a stressful shopping season: the typical person plans to spend more than $400 on holiday gifts, and parents are particularly concerned they can’t afford everything on their lists. The high price tag associated with holiday celebrations has many Americans planning to cut back on gifts, travel, and hosting.
Despite economic concerns, many savvy shoppers have mastered savings tricks to make their holidays happy on a budget. As a follow-up to past research, we asked more than 1,000 Americans to share their holiday spending and savings strategies for 2023. Here are a few key takeaways from our research:
- 58% of American adults are concerned about being able to afford everything they want to purchase this holiday season.
- 64% of parents are concerned about affording everything on their lists, as they plan to spend more than $930 on holiday expenses.
- The typical person plans to spend over $600 on shopping, decor, travel, hosting, and charitable giving this year.
- 44% of gift-givers say that although gift-giving is an important tradition, they must cut back on gifts this year. 63% admitted they felt obligated to give gifts at the holidays.
- About half of all holiday expenses will be charged to credit cards, and around a third of gifts will be purchased in person at retail stores.
- The typical American plans to spend $40 per gift. Recipient requests are more important than prices and discounts when choosing a gift.
Table of Contents
How much will Americans spend this holiday season?
This year, the typical American plans to spend over $600 on their holiday celebrations, with the typical parent planning to spend over $930. For many people, gifts take up the lion’s share of the budget, and the median spending on presents will be around $400.
Median anticipated holiday spending
Among parents and non-parents, by category
|Median spending among American adults
|Median spending among adults without children
|Median spending among parents
|Hosting or attending meals/events
|Traveling to visit family/friends
|Shopping for holiday sales for myself
|Participating in religious ceremonies
Note: Median planned spending in each category will not add up to median total planned spending
For many nonprofits, December is a significant month for receiving charitable donations. Some people give back as part of their religious traditions during the holidays, and others like to take advantage of tax breaks by making donations before December 31 of each year. The typical person is planning to give around $100 this holiday season.
Other holiday expenses include hosting or attending holiday events, visiting friends and family, and buying holiday decorations. Self-gifting, or taking advantage of holiday sales, is also a top expenditure. Across most categories, parents plan to spend significantly more than those without children, especially regarding gifts.
|Shopper age group
|Median number of gifts planning to buy
|Median anticipated spending per gift
|18 - 29
|30 - 44
|45 - 64
Our research discovered people plan to spend $40 on the typical present in 2023. They will also buy about seven gifts each over the holidays. Parents, who will buy more than the average American, are expected to buy an average of 12 presents throughout the season.
Despite budgetary concerns, Americans feel pressure to give gifts
The holiday price tag has left people concerned about making ends meet, especially parents, who spent heavily on back-to-school supplies just a few months ago.
More than half of all adults and two-thirds of parents say they are concerned they may be unable to purchase everything on their list this holiday season. Americans are ready to fully deck the halls this year, which means more gifts, parties, and decorations. But they’re also feeling sticker shock at the higher price tags.
Adding to the pressure, interest rates and rents have soared, and student loan repayments resumed in October, which could impact Americans’ holiday budgets.
Since gifts take up a large portion of many Americans’ holiday budgets, 44 percent say they are considering cutting back on their gift purchases this year. Americans are also cutting costs in other areas, including holiday travel. One in three (32%) Americans say finances have motivated their decision not to travel this year. Despite consumer concerns, the travel industry says this will be the busiest travel season in four years, although they expect many people will drive instead of heading to the airport.
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Percentage agreeing with the following statements
|Finances are the main reason I’m not traveling this holiday season.
|Gift-giving is an important part of our holiday traditions, but I must cut back this year.
|I feel obligated to give gifts.
Despite budget concerns, Americans are leaning hard into gift-giving traditions this year. External pressure appears to factor in this decision, as 64 percent of Americans feel “obligated" to buy holiday gifts. Though gift-giving is meant to express love and generosity, social pressure to reciprocate gifts can quickly creep in and drive people to spend beyond their means during the holidays.
Despite the pressure to buy gifts, most Americans also say they feel good when giving a holiday gift. This may be why 84 percent of gift-givers say they plan to spend the same or more on holiday gifts this year than last year.
Younger Americans between 18 to 29 plan to spend less than older Americans. This decision may be due to their lower salaries or the fact that younger adults may have fewer children and smaller families to shop for. They plan to give just five gifts and spend around $33 per gift.
>> Related: Spending Less Benefits Calculator
How will Americans shop this holiday season?
Many will rely on credit cards to finance the holidays.
Americans on a budget should be conscientious regarding credit card usage, which will be high during the holidays. The typical person plans to charge about half of their holiday purchases to their credit cards. People who say they will only use credit cards to pay for their holiday expenses also plan to spend the most this season, including twice as much on gifts as those using only cash.
If you plan to use plastic to finance your holiday expenses, only spend within your means and choose a card to earn cashback or rewards on your purchases.
Recipient requests will be more important to shoppers than price and discounts when picking gifts.
The recipient's requests ranked as the most influential factor in deciding which gifts to purchase. Knowing what family members or friends truly want can significantly simplify and expedite holiday shopping while reducing the waste of an unnecessary gift.
Following recipient requests, other factors like price, sales, discounts, the quality of the product, and personal need or want also play important roles in guiding their purchase decisions. Factors like emotional connection to the item, availability or convenience, recommendations from others, and brand reputation were relatively less important to our respondents.
Factors influencing gift purchase decisions, ranked from most to least important to shoppers
- Requests from recipient
- Price, sales or discounts
- Quality of product
- Personal need or want
- Emotional connection to item
- Availability or convenience
- Recommendations of others
- Brand reputation
The bulk of holiday shopping will start in November
Most Americans (66%) say they plan to start shopping in November and December. This aligns with last year’s research, which revealed that most Americans are looking for deals and wait until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to start their holiday shopping.
Although many people start shopping late in the year, one-third of Americans love getting an early jump on their holiday shopping, starting even before November. Generally, women begin their holiday shopping earlier than men.
⅔ of holiday gifts will be bought online
Though the internet is a popular place to purchase holiday gifts, our research showed that about a third of all holiday gifts will be purchased in person at retail stores. Brick-and-mortar stores also offer several benefits to shoppers, including opportunities to see and touch items, immediate gratification, physical product comparison, social interaction, and personalized assistance.
Though Americans wil purchase most gifts online, don’t expect store lines to get much shorter this season. Offline stores showed record-breaking sales growth over the last two years. As that trend is expected to continue, more shoppers combine the best of both worlds with click-and-collect shopping.
Americans’ most popular holiday savings strategies
According to our research, people use multiple strategies to save at the cash register during the holiday season. However, comparing prices across all retailers was the most popular way people saved while shopping. More than one in three Americans also prioritize giving gifts to family and close friends only, use coupons or shop sales, and set spending limits to maximize their savings.
|Which of these are the most effective money-saving strategies that you use, if any? You may select up to three.
|Percentage of holiday shoppers
|Compare prices across retailers
|Prioritize gifts - i.e., only family and very close friends
|Use coupons, shop sales, use the store’s mobile app
|Budget and set spending limits for each gift/recipient
|Use credit card reward dollar/cashback
|Spend only in cash/debit - not credit cards
|Shop year-round for gifts, not just in November or December
|Limit the list of gift recipients
|Seek out price match/adjustment
|Shop in person to avoid shipping fees
|Use coupon aggregators
|Draw names or conduct gift exchanges like “Secret Santa" rather than buy gifts for every single person
|Stay home during the holidays/reduce travel
|Set up deal alerts/notifications
|Purchase refurbished items
|Abandon digital cart to see if you get a discount email
|Regift gifts you didn’t like or use
Regifting - or passing along a gift to a new recipient - was the least popular savings method among our research participants. But with American consumers spending more than $8 billion in unwanted gifts last year, regifting is not only good for the bottom line, it’s good for the environment.
Approximately one in five gift-givers like to save their credit card reward points and dollars throughout the year for use during the holidays. With careful budgeting and spending on credit cards, this can be an excellent method to create extra cash for gifts and celebrations.
Savings ideas for parents
Since our research revealed parents plan to shell out even more than the typical American during the holidays, we asked parents to share their top savings strategies. Here are a few of the most popular tricks they use to stretch their dollars further:
- Plan ahead and budget: Setting an overall budget and a per-child budget means no surprises at the end of the season. Starting early means taking advantage of more sales, discounts, and special offers.
- Buy on sale or clearance: Shopping for gifts throughout the year can help stretch the budget into more manageable blocks. Deals during Black Friday and Cyber Monday can help add up the savings, as can deals during Labor Day and the Fourth of July.
- Choose meaningful gifts: Focus on quality over quantity and consider buying meaningful gifts or handmade gifts instead of buying everything kids ask for.
- Use coupons and cashback rewards: Look for coupons, use cashback websites, and seek out discounts and rewards from your favorite retailers.
- Compare prices and shop around: Though this tactic requires some time investment, it can pay off. Check different retailers, compare prices online, and watch for the best deals. Google and Amazon can help you track price drops and even notify you when your favorite retailer has a new offer.
In October 2023, Savings.com conducted an online poll of 1,004 adults in the United States. Participants were representative of the U.S. population regarding their ages, and the median participant age was 46. Forty-nine percent of participants were male, 49 percent were female, and about one percent chose not to report their sex. Seventy-two percent of participants were white, 10 percent were Black, seven percent were Asian, and 11 percent were of another or multiple ethnicities. The median annual household income among the respondents was $60,000. Thirty percent of respondents had children. Participants were asked to project how much they planned to spend on major holidays in November and December 2023, and Savings.com researchers calculated the median projected spending in various categories, excluding outliers.