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Consumers' Holiday Spending Estimate Matches Recent Years

Consumers' Holiday Spending Estimate Matches Recent Years

Chart: data points are described in article

Story Highlights

  • U.S. adults expect to spend $785 on Christmas gifts
  • Figure consistent with range since 2013
  • Nearly nine in 10 intend to spend something

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Americans, on average, anticipate spending $785 on Christmas gifts this year. This is consistent with the range in October spending estimates since 2013 and represents a meaningful improvement over the post-recession lows near $700 recorded in 2010 and 2011. However, it is still not as high as the $900 averages recorded just prior to the recession.


This is Gallup's preliminary look at 2016 holiday spending, based on an Oct. 5-9 poll. Gallup repeats the measure each November, and those results, which often show a shift from October in spending intentions, tend to be more indicative of how holiday spending plays out.

The slight decline since 2015 in Americans' October spending estimate is within the margin of error for these results and does not presage an actual decline in holiday retail spending compared with 2015. In fact, with the exception of 2008 when the Wall Street economic crisis sent a shock wave through the economy, holiday retail spending almost always increases year over year; what changes is the magnitude of that increase. According to National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates since 2002, that increase has been as low as 0.3% to as high as 6.8%, with the recent average near 3.5%.

Regardless of the amount spent, Christmas gift giving remains an important cultural and economic tradition in the U.S. Nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults intend to spend something on gifts, including 3% who think they will spend less than $100, 53% who plan to spend $100 to $999 and 31% who will lay out $1,000 or more. All of these figures nearly match the 2015 levels for each spending range.

Another 6% are unsure how much they'll spend this year, leaving just 7% who say they won't spend anything or that they don't celebrate the holiday.

Americans' October Christmas Spending Estimates for 2015-2016
Roughly how much money do you think you personally will spend on Christmas gifts this year?
Oct 7-11, 2015 Oct 5-9, 2016
% %
$1,000 or more 32 31
$500 to $999 23 23
$250 to $499 13 14
$100 to $249 17 16
Less than $100 3 3
None/Don't celebrate 8 7
Not sure 4 6
Average (including zero) $812 $785
Average (excluding zero) $887 $849

Relatively Few Intend to Spend "Less"

The latest survey includes a separate question asking Americans, regardless of what dollar amount they say they plan to spend, whether that amount is higher, lower or the same compared with the previous year. The results offer news that is slightly more positive for holiday retailers, as a relatively low proportion -- 21% -- expressly say they will spend less on gifts this year. That is similar to the percentage a year ago saying they would spend less, but down from 35% at the height of the Wall Street financial crisis in 2008 and from elevated levels for several years thereafter.

As is typical, the majority of adults (63%) say they will spend about the same amount on gifts as the year prior, while the smallest percentage, now 14%, plan to spend more.


Bottom Line

Americans' enthusiasm for gift buying this holiday season is broadly in line with their October spending predictions in each of the past three years, suggesting that holiday spending will be similar to last year when, according to the NRF, holiday spending grew by 3.2%. However, because Americans' holiday spending estimate often changes as the season progresses, it will be important to see where this stands in Gallup's November update. That figure could be especially relevant this year if the presidential election has any effect -- positive or negative -- on consumers' comfort with spending.

Historical data are available in Gallup Analytics.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 5-9, 2016, with a random sample of 1,017 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the spending mean is ±$69 at the 95% confidence level. This sampling error includes the computed design effect for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 60% cellphone respondents and 40% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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