Christmas Shopping By The Numbers

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With the holidays upon us, I ran across studies from the American Research Group, US News & World Report, and the National Retail Federation that look at planned Christmas gift spending for 2015.  I was surprised by many of the numbers from the studies and compared it to our own holiday shopping habits at the Fire Station.

  • 55% of Americans went holiday shopping on Thanksgiving Weekend – Sparky went shopping several times over the weekend.  Me and the boy went to Target on Thanksgiving day (shameful, I know), but I only bought yogurt & shoelaces.  My son bought a few DVDs.  On Black Friday, I bought a few gifts online, went to Walmart once, and scored a deal on a light-up Snowman for the backyard at Home Depot (pictured above).
  • Overall Gift Spending of $882 – While our net worth is way higher than the average American household ($84K for people aged 45-54) , our gift spending is a little lower than the average.  We exchange gifts with our immediate family (the three of us), but don’t exchange gifts much with extended family.  Just a few gifts for the kids. We used to exchange a lot of gifts, but we’ve dialed back over the last 10+ years.  For us, Christmas has become more about family time than thinking about what pool toy to buy Uncle Bob & Martha.
  •  51% of people wait for Christmas Sales – I like to shop, but tend to look at sale circulars more to see what is available than to pick off deals.  For bigger purchases (like electronics) I’ll watch for deals, but I tend to prioritize my shopping to places that are always low prices., Sam’s Club, Target or Walmart.  At some stores, it seems like everything is always on sale: Macy’s, Kohl’s and JCPenney.  There are few things I would put off buying to wait for a sale, but not many.
  • 40% of people started shopping before Halloween – I bought a couple gifts before Thanksgiving, but certainly not before Halloween. I like shopping during the holidays (despite the crowds), so I don’t feel the need to get ahead of the rush.  That said, one study showed that people that started shopping early spent far less on gifts that the average household.  Good planners.
  • Online shopping (54%) surpassing Catalogs (31%) – This one is no surprise.  It looks like the switch happened in 2011.  That’s about when the switch happened at our house.  We’re Amazon Prime members and we buy a lot of things online throughout the year.  I feel like we’re getting competitive prices and I love the broad assortment and ability to read reviews.
  • 56% of people indulge on self-gifts during Holidays – In general, we try NOT to buy “gifts” for ourselves during this time of the year.  That said, sometimes there is something we want for the house – say, a new computer or TV, and we find a great deal for Black Friday or during December.  We didn’t buy anything this year, but I think the last 3 computers we’ve bought came home as Black Friday deals.
  • 59% of people prefer gift cards as gifts – I am not a big gift card person.  I understand they have their place (stocking stuffers, I would generally say), but prefer the idea of giving real gifts that show I took the time to think about you and what you would like. And with our time and our attention as scarce as ever, good gifts are all the more memorable. At the same time, some things you can only give as a gift card/certificate – experiences like dinner at a restaurant, tickets to a show, or a membership at a club/zoo can be great gifts.

How do your habits compare to these shopping numbers?

Image Credit: Home Depot (MrFireStation new Snowman)

13 thoughts on “Christmas Shopping By The Numbers

  1. We’re solidly in the “shop before Halloween” camp. In fact, we started working on the presents for our parents over a year ago! And before Thanksgiving, we had sent off all of our other gifts. Now we’re done! We definitely spend less than the average. We sit around $100-200 for all gifts given and mailed. Now to think about next year’s presents…. !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like this style of post and I love what you said about buying a few select gifts because it’s the family time that’s more important. Many people forget that at this time of year and can often get burnt out or into financial difficulty… I hope you and your loved ones had a good Thanksgiving!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jenna – And, thanks for stopping by the FireStation. Some of the best gifts we buy each year are for the kids on our Church Giving Tree. Even though are son is 18, we get to shop for little kids and see the latest Legos, Barbies & Hot Wheels. We don’t have a daughter, so my wife especially enjoys shopping for dolls!


  3. The Mad Money Monsters like shopping during the Christmas season, too! It’s festive and nostalgic all at the same time. We tend to be very low spenders during the holidays. We only buy for a select few, and are very conscious about setting a dollar amount and sticking to it. I did introduce Mini Monster to Black Friday shopping this year. She loved it. It was an awesome bonding experience for us. And we only bought a couple of things. All on sale!

    Nice job scoring that snowman, btw!
    Mrs. Mad Money Monster


    1. The 2 day shipping through Oldest & youngest – that’s quite a spread. Amazon Prime is awesome – until you get to December 22nd and realize you haven’t ‘clicked’ on your Christmas list yet! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, and perfect timing. I agree that Christmas is more about family time and our presence rather than presents. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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