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Christmas Spending About the Same This Year as Last

Christmas Spending About the Same This Year as Last

by David W. Moore


PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans expect to spend about the same amount for Christmas this year as last, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last week. The average projected spending for this year is $794, down just $3 from last year. But economic considerations apparently exert a significant influence on the public's spending plans for this year. The longer people think the current recession will last, the less money they expect to spend for Christmas.

The poll, conducted Nov. 26-27, shows that almost a third of Americans (32%) expect to spend $1,000 or more for Christmas this year, 30% expect to spend between $500 and $1,000, and another 30% expect to spend less than $500. The average of $794 is down just slightly from last year's average of $797, but down significantly from the $875 average reported in 1999. In each year, the median -- or middle value -- has remained constant, but the average figures have dropped as the number of people spending very large amounts of money has declined.

Roughly how much money do you think you personally will spend on Christmas gifts this year?



$1,000 or more




Under $100

No opin-






2001 Nov 26-27










2000 Nov 13-15









1999 Nov 18-21









Concerns About Recession Inhibit Spending Plans

Two weeks ago, the federal government announced that the economy is officially in a recession, and had been since March of this year. The poll findings suggest that people's concerns about the recession may be inhibiting their spending plans for Christmas. About 40% of Americans expect the current recession to last for no longer than another six months, while 33% expect it to last up to a year, and 24% expect it to last longer. Among people in the most optimistic group, the average projected spending for Christmas is $869. People who expect the recession to last another year plan to spend an average of $818, while those who expect the recession to last two years or longer plan to spend an average of just $660.

Average Spending Plans for Christmas:
Compared by Feelings About the Recession
Nov 26-27, ‘01

Major Differences in Spending Among Demographic Subgroups

While the average projected spending is down just a few dollars from last year, a comparison of spending plans among men and women, and among regions of the country, reveals some significant differences. As shown in the table below, men plan to spend more this year than do women, as was the case last year. However, men show a slight decline in their spending plans from last year, while women show a slight increase.

The increase among women is more clearly revealed in a comparison of spending plans among men and women by two age groups -- those under 50 and those 50 and older. Among both groups of men, there are slight declines in spending plans, but among younger women there is a projected increase of 14% over last year, while among older women there is a projected decline of 16%. Even the large increase among younger women, however, does not bring young women's spending plans up to the level of projected spending by either group of men.




Change in $

Change in %





- $3

< - 1%











- $26

+ $19


- 3.0%

+ 2.6%

















+ $2

+ $57

- $69

- $87


< - 1%

+ 6.7%

- 7.8%

- 12.3%

Age and Gender

Males under 50

Males 50+

Females under 50

Females 50+












- $25

- $37

+ $101

- $120


- 2.9%

- 4.1%

+ 14.0%

- 16.1%

















+ $83

- $134

+ $31

- $2


+ 9.8%

- 16.2%

+ 3.9%

< - 1%

Another noteworthy finding in the above table is that among all age groups, men and women in the 30-49 age range plan to spend the most by a large margin -- $901, compared with $821 among the 50-64 year-old group, $689 in the youngest group and $623 in the oldest. The 30-49 year-old age group is most likely to have children in the home, which may account for their more extensive Christmas spending plans.

Last year, people in the eastern region of the country planned to spend more money than people in any other region, but by only small amounts. This year, Easterners plan to spend the most of any other region, and by a considerable margin, as they project almost a 10% increase in spending -- averaging $929. The next closest region is the South, with a projected average of $835, up by just about 4% over last year. The Midwest shows the largest decline, 16.2%, down to $692 from $826 last year. The West shows virtually no change, but while it was projected to be last in 2000, this year spending in that region should be slightly ahead of spending in the Midwest.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,025 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Nov. 26-27, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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