How Much Do Americans Spend On Christmas?

Let's face it, at some point, we've all probably spent a little too much on Christmas and the holiday season. From decorations to gifts to travel, the holidays can end up being a dangerously expensive time and few are immune from the urge to shop. While the pandemic definitely slowed down holiday spending, post-pandemic holiday shopping has been especially high with record-breaking spending totals. According to the National Retail Federation, the 2023 holiday season was expected to break all previous holiday shopping records, with spending estimates between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion. This makes November and December the highest spending months for most Americans — and by a lot.

With more and more holiday shopping happening in November (or even earlier) due to retailer bargains around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the holiday shopping season has increasingly been extended. This extension of the shopping season has therefore led to higher overall totals in holiday- related spending. Per Gallup's final 2023 reading, Americans anticipated spending an average of $975 just on holiday-related gifts and items (not including decorations or any other holiday-specific spending). This marked the highest spending total ever since Gallup first started taking holiday readings in 1999. For comparison, the lowest year ever recorded by Gallup was during the 2008 financial crisis when the average holiday gift-spending total was just $616.

As holiday shopping continues to grow and change, so do the methods by which consumers shop. From online shopping to specific gift trends, let's break down how Americans are handling holiday shopping today.

What people are buying as gifts

According to a National Retail Federation survey, the most popular gift people intended to give during the 2023 holidays was clothing. The next most popular gift (with an estimated $29.3 billion in spending compared to $28.6 billion in 2022) was gift cards. Interestingly, when you break down the kinds of gift cards people generally purchase for holiday gifts, restaurant gift cards comprised the biggest chunk with about 30% of all gift card purchases. Split at 26% each were bank-issued gift cards and department store gift cards.

While classic gifts like toys and candy still have a solid hold on holiday shopping, gift newcomers like the beauty and personal care category have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. During the 2023 holiday season, for example, a record 28% of consumers reported planning to purchase beauty products as holiday gifts. It's also important to realize just how much online shopping has changed the way people approach the holiday season.

The NRF anticipated a 7% to 9% increase in online non-store purchases for 2023, totaling between $273.7 billion to $278.8 billion in sales. Plus, it found that 43% of shoppers actually planned to start making their holiday shopping purchases before November. This extension of the holiday shopping season into earlier and earlier months (due to both online shopping and the growth of Thanksgiving weekend retail sales) has actually led to a decrease in overall spending in the month of December. As a comparison, December accounted for just 9.4% of all retail spending in 2022, which was a drop from 11.2% in 1992.

Who's spending the most?

While holiday spending totals are up across the country there are a few specific demographics that are bigger contributors to this overall trend. Per Gallup, the demographic with the biggest influence on the growth in 2023's holiday spending totals was middle-income households. These households have an annual income between $40,000 and $99,999, and their anticipated holiday shopping budget for 2023 was $947. What makes this spending average so influential to the season's totals is that it marks a $238 spending increase from 2022's total ($709). This marked the largest holiday spending change among all income demographics, with upper-income households maintaining an average of around $1,400 in holiday spending. Lower-income households did show a decline in their spending for 2023, with an average of $429 compared to $477 in 2022.

Other groups with changing 2023 spending patterns were women and adults under 35. Women's holiday spending was up by as much as $137, compared with men whose spending was up by $43. When looking at different age groups, spending was expected to rise across all age groups. However, adults under age 35 were expected to spend a whopping $253 more in 2023 than in previous years. Even with that increase, middle-aged adults still remained the highest spenders of any age group, with an average holiday spending total of $1,111. If you're wondering why that might be, factoring in households with children is key when looking at holiday spending. Households with children under 18 planned on spending, on average, $1,306 compared to households without children spending $835.