Americans to Cut Back on 2020 Holiday Gift Spending

More than ever, it might just be the thought that counts

Many Americans may find cheaper gifts under the tree or sent by mail this holiday season. A recent survey by Yahoo Finance and The Harris Poll finds Americans are taking a more conservative approach to how much they will spend buying holiday gifts for others and themselves this year.

Nearly half of Americans are cutting back on holiday spending. Forty-four percent plan on spending less money on holiday gifts for others this year compared to last year. In fact, about 1 in 10 Americans (9%) say they will not spend money on holiday gifts for others at all this year.

However, 36% of Americans say they will spend about the same on gifts for others this year compared to last year, and another 10% say they plan to spend more on gifts for others this year compared to last year.

Most Americans still plan to splurge on gifts for themselves this year, but many are playing it safe on how much they will spend. Nearly half (48%) of Americans who plan to spend on holiday gifts for themselves will spend $300 or less this year. Of those who plan to shop for themselves this year, 41% say they will spend about the same as they did last year. Another third (34%) say they will spend less on themselves this year.

Women also appear to be showing the greatest restraint when it comes to splurging this year. Compared to men, more women are refraining from splurging on themselves this holiday season (21% vs. 37%, respectively). Of the men and women who do plan to splurge on themselves, men will spend more on average ($606) than women ($251).

Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to shift holiday gift shopping online. This holiday season, 55% of Americans say they will shop mostly or completely online compared to the 31% who say they did the same in 2019. This shift to mostly online holiday shopping is a 7% increase from a similar question The Harris Poll asked consumers in late September.

E-tailers will certainly benefit from this store-to-online shift. Forty-two percent of those who will do holiday shopping this year say they plan to spend the most money buying gifts at online multi-brand retailers like Amazon, Overstock, and Alibaba.

Still, Americans aren’t completely afraid to set foot inside a store. Though fewer Americans plan to shop mostly or completely in-store this year (18% this holiday season vs. 35% last year), 57% of Americans that plan to do holiday shopping this year say they feel at least somewhat safe visiting a retail store this holiday season to buy gifts.

Other important domestic affairs, such as the election and vaccine development, have left holiday spending largely unaffected. Sixty-seven percent of Americans say how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts has not changed even with the outcome of the 2020 election. Even with the news of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, 61% of Americans say how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts has not changed either.

Though the pandemic has affected household incomes, 58% of employed Americans say that their household income is about the same as it was during the 2019 holiday season. This may explain why Americans split on whether to spend more money or less money this holiday season. Additionally, 73% of employed Americans say they are at least somewhat confident about their job stability heading into the holiday season.

Even with this moderate sense of financial stability, though, if the government were to approve a new stimulus check and they were eligible to receive it, more Americans would put the money toward paying bills (53%), necessities (43%), personal savings (39%), and rent/mortgages (30%) before using the money for holiday spending (22%).

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Yahoo Finance during November 20–23, 2020, among 1,015 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. For more information on methodology, please contact Dami Rosanwo.

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