Holiday Spending Statistics – Surprising Survey Results

How much will consumers spend this holiday season? And how do they plan to pay for it?
Written by Gina Pogol
Financial Expert
Managing Editor
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How much do most consumers earmark for holiday spending? And how will they spend that cash?

MoneyRates surveyed 1,000 men and women to find out.

The answers may say a lot about the times in which we live.

One-Fourth Do Not Plan To Spend Extra For The Holidays

Adult consumers were asked how much they planned to spend this year on holiday-related items – things like gifts, travel, entertainment, and such. And 27% of respondents indicated that they had no plans for extra holiday-related spending.

Men were more likely than women to say they had no holiday spending plans:

“I do not plan to spend extra during the holidays.”

  • All respondents: 27%
  • Women: 24%
  • Men: 30%

This might be surprising to many. And it differs significantly from a Gallup poll earlier this year, which found that just 7% of Americans indicated that they would not be purchasing holiday gifts.

However, that was a month ago, and Gallup did note that “consumers’ spending mindset is fragile and can be altered by sudden changes in the economy or even the political environment. The stock market, the U.S.-China trade war, and impeachment proceedings in Washington all have the potential of changing the course of consumer spending this year.”

Gallup also noted that “consumers do tend to get cold feet as the holiday season progresses.”

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Gifts Top All Spending Categories

Still, 77% of respondents said they were planning to spend extra over the holidays. Among those consumers, gifts topped their list, with 51% indicating that presents were their most important holiday spending item. Here are all the top holiday spending priorities for those who plan to spend.

  • Gifts: 51%
  • Food and beverages: 19%
  • Travel: 14%
  • Charitable donations: 9%
  • Entertainment (parties): 7%


2019 Holiday Spending: How Much?

Consumers were also asked how much they planned to spend on their most important category. (Note that these numbers don’t represent all holiday spending, just the category most important to respondents.)

Most of those who planned on holiday spending are keeping their priority expenditure under $1,000. However, a significant number plan to go big and part with $5,000 or more.

  • Under $1,000: 57%
  • $1,000 – $1,999: 17%
  • $2,000 – $2,999: 6%
  • $3,000 – $3,999: 4%
  • $4,000 – $4,999: 3%
  • $5,000 and over: 13%


Parties and Travel Most Expensive Categories

While most who plan to spend for the holidays expect to keep expenses below $1,000, some categories are proving more expensive than others. Those who plan to travel or throw parties anticipate spending more.

Only 50% of consumers who planned to travel believe they will keep it under $1,000:

  • Under $1,000: 50%
  • $1,000 – $1,999: 22%
  • $2,000 – $2,999: 8%
  • $3,000 – $3,999: 7%
  • $4,000 – $4,999: 3%
  • $5,000 and over: 8%

Almost one-third of travelers plan to spend between $1,000 and $3,000 on the holidays.

And only 45% expect to keep their party costs under $1,000:

  • Under $1,000: 45%
  • $1,000 – $1,999: 18%
  • $2,000 – $2,999: 6%
  • $3,000 – $3,999: 5%
  • $4,000 – $4,999: 8%
  • $5,000 and over: 18%

Nearly one-fifth of partiers predict that their shindigs will cost them $5,000 or more!

Gender Spenders: Holiday Differences

Men and women view holiday spending differently, the survey found. Here is how spending breaks down between genders. Note that men are much more likely to indicate that they will not be spending for the holidays. Women are more likely to spend on gifts, charitable contributions and food, while men lean more toward travel.


Both men and women have repeatedly indicated, in many studies, that they feel pressured to overspend in most categories of holiday costs. To avoid this un-cheerful feeling, it’s good to take some time to determine what you can afford. Have a conversation with family members to set expectations. And make sure that if you choose to finance your purchases you can clear your debt when you plan to.

How to Avoid Overspending

If you decide to pay in cash, determine how much you’ll take out of savings – and stick with that amount. If you expect to finance your costs, set a limit on the time it will take to clear the debt and the amount you will pay each month. From there, you can calculate your budget.

Paying Holiday Expenses

There are several ways to pay for purchases, and they all have pros and cons.


Cash has the advantage of keeping you honest. When your wallet is empty, you’re done. Researchers have found that people are more conscious of what they spend when they have to physically remove cash from their wallets. Instead of whipping out a card, paying by phone, or clicking “Buy It Now.”

But cash can be lost or stolen. It’s not useful for online purchases. And most people are uncomfortable carrying large amounts in public places.

However, checks and debit cards can be safer and more convenient. Just keep track of your spending and balance your accounts right away.

Credit cards

Plastic is fantastic for convenience. And you might be able to earn some nice rewards with your spending points. They are relatively secure, and you can use them easily online.

But while credit cards are great for spending, they’re not always great for financing. Average interest rates range between 17% and 22% and can go as high as 36% for people without stellar credit histories. If you can pay your balance quickly (that’s why you budget) or you have a low introductory interest rate, charge away. But if not, consider another option – like a personal loan.

Personal loans

If your holiday budget is closer to the $5,000 end than the under-$1000 category, plan your spending wisely. Personal loans offer a number of advantages for financing holiday purchases, especially big-ticket items.

  • Interest rates are fixed and average about 7% below those of comparable credit cards
  • Pre-set terms mean you know exactly when you’ll be debt-free
  • Budgeting is easier because you fix your loan amount before spending and because the payment won’t change
  • Unlike credit cards, personal loans don’t increase your credit utilization ratio, which protects your credit score

If you’re already carrying credit card balances, you may be able to wrap them into a personal loan with your holiday spending. Then you can make – and – keep – a New Year’s resolution to clear your balances and become debt-free.

About Author
Gina Pogol
Gina Freeman writes about personal finance and has been featured on MoneyRates, The Mortgage Reports, MSNMoney, Fox Business, Forbes, The Motley Fool, and other fine websites. Her background includes tax accounting with Deloitte, over 20 years in mortgage sales and underwriting, systems consulting for Experian, and several years in bankruptcy law. Gina enjoys helping consumers make confident and intelligent financial decisions.