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Christmas Spending Intentions Remain Strong

Christmas Spending Intentions Remain Strong

Story Highlights

  • Americans estimate they will spend $846 on Christmas gifts
  • Up more than $50 from a year ago, and one of highest in Gallup's trend

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans expect to spend $846 on Christmas gifts this holiday season, a $52 increase over a year ago and, along with 2015 and 2017, one of the best readings in the past decade. The increase from 2018 portends a strong holiday spending season this year.

Line graph. Americans estimate they will spend $846 on Christmas gifts this year, one of the highest estimates to date.

The results are based on a Nov. 1-14 Gallup poll. Each November since 1999, Gallup has asked Americans to estimate how much money (in dollars) they plan to spend on Christmas gifts. These mean dollar estimates have shown a strong relationship to actual holiday spending.

Since 2000, holiday retail sales each year have increased an average of $16 billion compared with the prior year. In previous years when Gallup's mean spending estimate was $50 or greater than in the prior year -- 2006, 2010, 2011, 2015 and 2017 -- the average increase in actual holiday retail spending has been $29 billion, nearly double the usual increase.

In this year's survey, 34% of Americans say they plan to spend $1,000 or more on holiday gifts, which, along with 2006 and 2017, is one percentage point behind the highest percentage at that threshold, from 1999.

Most Americans Indicate Spending Will Be Similar to Last Year

Even as Americans' dollar estimates of what they will spend are higher, most perceive their spending will be in line with what it was the prior year, as is typical. When asked if the amount they intend to spend on Christmas gifts this year is more, less or the same as last year, 64% say it is the same. The remainder tilt toward saying they will spend less (21%) rather than more (14%) compared with last year, also the usual pattern.

Line graph. 64% of Americans will spend “the same” on gifts as last Christmas; 14% will spend more and 21% less.

Those who indicate they are planning to spend "more" this year say they will spend $1,068 on average. The largest group -- those who say they will spend the same amount -- predict they will spend $910. Those planning to spend less average only $515.

Last year, those who said they were spending "the same" as before indicated they would spend an average of $811 on holiday gifts. To some degree, Americans may want to present themselves as being cautious with their spending even if they are loosening their purse strings a little more.

Spending Estimates Less Optimistic Than in October

Spending estimates are not as strong as they were in October ($942), but October-to-November moderation in spending intentions is common. In fact, Gallup has observed substantial October-to-November declines in 10 of the 14 years it has asked the question in both months. The nearly $100 drop observed this year is one of the larger ones Gallup has measured, but it is certainly not unprecedented, with similar large declines observed in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2018.

Changes in Americans' Estimates of How Much They Will Spend on Christmas Gifts, October to November Gallup Polls
October November Difference
$ $ $
2019 942 846 -96
2018 885 794 -91
2017 906 862 -44
2016 785 752 -33
2015 812 830 +18
2014 781 720 -61
2013 786 704 -82
2011 712 764 +52
2010 715 714 -1
2009 740 638 -102
2008 801 616 -185
2007 909 866 -43
2006 907 826 -81
2002 695 690 -5

In the past three years (including 2019), people's October assessments of whether they will spend more, less or the same as the previous year have been evenly divided between those indicating they would spend more and those saying less. But a month later, more Americans have indicated they would be spending less rather than spending more.

Bottom Line

The 2019 holiday season is poised to be a strong one for retailers. Americans' predictions of how much they will spend on Christmas gifts this year is one of the highest estimates in Gallup's trend and shows a substantial increase from last year. Past holiday seasons with similarly sized year-over-year increases in consumer spending intentions have seen especially large increases in actual holiday spending.

Currently, Americans' confidence in the economy is strong, with Gallup's Economic Confidence Index just below its post-recession high. Low unemployment and record stock values have helped to create an economic situation that is leading Americans to estimate they will spend a little more this Christmas.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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