Christmas Budgeting & Holiday Shopping Trends (Infographic)

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2011-12-079

Do you worry about money this time of year? How do we deal with Christmas consumerism?

There’s such a thing as holiday stress, which may be partly triggered by spending pressures. How many of us anticipate that our budgets will be under siege? It’s actually what the whole retail industry is banking on. Perhaps there are many people out there who may be hoping (or who are strongly wishing) to avoid the grip of happy holiday consumption, but who will not be able to resist some of the expectations of family and societal traditions.

How Much Are You Spending? Holiday Shopping Trends (Infographic)

For those experiencing some holiday shopping angst, we’ve prepared our own infographic that shows some of the spending behavior that takes place this time of year. We’d like to give some transparency to how the average American behaves this time of year. One way to battle the consumerism blues is to set a budget for the holidays and to know how and where to shop.

Be A Better Holiday Shopper (Infographic by The Digerati Life)

Here are some interesting questions we tried to answer in our infographic:

1. Do you have a Christmas budget? Make wish lists and set a budget to manage holiday spending. While this tip is one of the most obvious, not everyone uses a wishlist (surprisingly). Some people prefer to window shop and make decisions on the fly but I prefer to have a plan before I go shopping. We present some typical amounts for each basic expenditure that is tied to the holidays: $750 for gifts, $200 for socializing, $150 for hosting parties at home and $150 for home decor (more on this later).

2. How many gifts do you buy? The average American purchases 19 gifts, 5 of which are gift cards. The average gift card value is $30 to $35.

3. Where do you shop? The average shopper buys almost half of their merchandise at well known discount department stores (e.g. Target, Ross Dress For Less, Marshall’s, etc.) and at online stores.

4. What motivates shoppers? Loyalty programs don’t seem to be catching on. Most people are driven to shop due to pricing, product selection and convenience.

5. What are some shopping trends? Mobile shopping and social media are picking up as shopping trends that will figure more prominently in the future.

I sourced a few surveys for these numbers. The Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Survey was particularly helpful and informative.

Developing My Christmas Budget

Do you prepare a Christmas budget? Here’s a breakdown of how much some holiday-related things cost for consumers in my neck of the woods:


Halloween Item Price
Autumnal Wreathe $20
Indoor Halloween Decor $50
Outdoor Halloween Decor $100
4 Pumpkins (to carve) $10/each
Halloween Costumes $30/each
Tons of Candy $20


Thanksgiving Item Price
Seasonal Thanksgiving Tabletop (tablecover, plates, cups, flatware with the likeness of turkeys and pumpkins or witches on them) $50
That Big Turkey Dinner with all the fixings for 25 people $200


Christmas Item Price
Indoor Christmas Decor $200
Outdoor Christmas Decor $300
Seasonal Christmas Tabletop (tablecover, plates, glasses, flatware with Xmas trees or Santa on them) $150
Gifts for extended family and friends, with accompanying wrappers and ribbons $750
Christmas cards for everyone else $20
Tips for everyone who provides you service $50
Live Christmas Tree, Tree Skirt and Ornaments $300
Big Christmas Party, your treat $250
Winter Wreathe and Garland $120
Donations to various causes $100
School fundraising and auctions $100

Well, you get the idea. These are just some estimates I made from doing research and the rounds of store hopping, catalog gawking and story exchanges among friends and neighbors. Even if you amortize the things you reuse each year (say with a useful life of 5 years), they still add up. The first step to reigning in the holiday spending is to recognize how much of your resources it’s going to take to celebrate, go with the flow and “look the part”. How does your Christmas budget look like?

Holiday Spending Pressures: Why Do We Spend More During The Holidays?

We tend to spend more during this time of year because it’s what our culture, community and society today expects. Holiday spending adjusts to our expectations. And expectations adjust according to which stage we are in our lives. When you’re single or married without kids, you will tend to spend less or on different things altogether than when you’ve got young children. Expectations go up when holidays become your own family affair (vs being hosted at someone else’s home, which you visit as a guest ;)). If you’ve got young kids who believe in Santa and who get very excited about Christmas decorations, then be aware that you could be entering your peak spending period. Then the spending ebbs once the kids are older and start doing their own thing.

If you’re fortunate enough to have deep pockets, don’t you notice how much more popular you get during the holidays? When it’s time for the merry-making, people are expected to fork it over, and if not, they could be crowned the [family, school, office, church, community] cheapskate. Well then, here’s what I’ll say about that cheapskate designation — let’s be okay with it! The holidays is all about how to deal with expectations: that’s why there seems to be less pressure if we’re of more modest means. I’ll suggest that we forget holiday envy (why do they have a bigger tree? brighter lights? nicer gifts?) and rejoice in the true spirit of Christmas.

Created December 4, 2006. Updated December 7, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria December 4, 2006 at 11:30 am

I have already been called “cheap” once this year and boy did it hurt, but oh well. I wont go into MORE debt this year to avoid that term. If all CHEAPSKATES unite and remember the true meaning of Christmas, the retailers would go out of business! It’s all so overwhelming!

Silicon Valley Blogger December 6, 2006 at 5:47 pm

Here are some reflections I have on Christmas consumerism & the pressures of holiday spending. Every year, I wonder how many of us go around feeling just a slight bit of worry over how much commercialism will be taking over the holidays. For instance, do you feel the fiscal and time pressures of the holidays building up as soon as your neighborhood starts bringing out the lights? To be honest, I actually enjoy the festivities, since I originally come from a country steeped in major festivals and outright, unabashed celebration with money being less of a concern during this time of year, that even the poorest villages get in on the act and have something big to show during Christmas. So yes, I am accustomed to a lot of merry-making and understand where the urge to splurge during this time of year comes from.

Still, despite those influences, when it comes to my own matters, I try to keep an eye on our personal funds. Admittedly, for years, ours was the only house on the street without Christmas lights or bobbing deer embellishing the yard, while my neighbors across the street had their air-filled, gigantic ghouls and goblins up from the beginning of October onwards, to be enhanced by massive snowmen and elves after Thanksgiving. So I eventually relented and got us some string lights. It’s grown into a bigger spectacle each year though. Now I feel that it’s a delicate balance between budgeting and tradition.

So how do you make Christmas special? Do you shell out to turn your house into a pretty holiday picture?

Linda Freedman December 14, 2006 at 9:29 pm

Let ’em call you whatever they want. People in my practice seem to agree that those who don’t get caught up in the madness are enviable and admired.

WPBonds December 6, 2009 at 11:16 pm

I don’t like this time of year because of all the spending. It gets very hard for lots of people.

Silicon Valley Blogger November 22, 2011 at 10:10 am

How about this official look at holiday spending over a couple of years? Check this out! Also, pardon me as I somehow left out my source link for the infographic above earlier. It’s fixed now!

Maggie@SquarePennies December 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm

If the family gets too big for gifts for everyone you can do a Secret Santa drawing or just gift white elephant gifts, especially for the adults. Or make it gifts for the kids only. We are retired so we have plenty of decor and all the accoutrements of the season. We very seldom buy any more of this stuff. And it is just stuff. I’ve started giving some of it to our grown kids and grandkids. For the office gift pool, how about suggesting everyone give to charity instead? We are all wallowing in stuff!

Silicon Valley Blogger December 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Great ideas. For a lot of us, we go through the motions of trading “stuff” for Christmas, but at the same time, it can be a wonderful time to have reunions. I like the parties actually (my sis-in-law and mother-in-law are exceptional cooks)! But I agree that gift-giving is best reserved for the kids. At least, that’s my take!

For those who want to compare budgets, here is another interesting infographic on Christmas spending and commerce. Budget numbers can vary based on locale and the surveys that are sourced (in fact, data varies per year!), so numbers can be somewhat different. Regardless of the data shared, the takeaway is that a holiday budget will help you control your spending, especially when the “pressure is on”!

Susan December 11, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Don’t forget to tip your service workers for the holidays too. Here is an infographic that can shed light on how much to tip them! I noticed you mentioned tipping as part of your budget so thought this would be helpful.

M.ORiain December 13, 2011 at 4:50 am

Sometimes, people go panic buying when they’ve procrastinated and find themselves too close to Christmas without presents, etc. Our family came to the agreement that we only got presents for parents and god children. That way, it’s more manageable and easier on the pocket.

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