Most Americans are still planning to purchase holiday gifts this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic will impact how millions of U.S. adults shop and give.

While 2020 has been a year of uncertainty in the U.S. and around the world, we can still count on holiday gift-giving. More than 201 million Americans (79%) plan to purchase gifts this holiday season, spending an estimated $167 billion ($831, on average, per shopper), according to a new NerdWallet survey. And while this is less than the $184 billion Americans planned to spend last holiday season, it’s not the spending dive you might expect in this year of financial precarity.

That’s not to say this holiday season won’t look different than it has in years past. According to a NerdWallet survey of 2,049 U.S. adults, conducted online by The Harris Poll, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will impact how much Americans spend, how they shop and how they deliver gifts to their loved ones for the holidays this year.

“It’s tempting to spend as much as usual to create a sense of normalcy during a period that is so uncertain. But overspending can lead to more stress in the long run. Sticking to a budget with smart shopping strategies will allow you to experience the pleasures of this gift-giving season without adding to the financial strain,” says Kimberly Palmer, personal finance expert at NerdWallet.

Key Findings:

  • COVID-19 will impact holiday shopping: Two in 5 2020 holiday shoppers (40%) say they plan to spend less this year due to the pandemic, and about two-thirds of Americans overall (65%) say the pandemic will impact the way they plan to give gifts this year.
  • Last year’s holiday debt lingers: A third of 2019 holiday shoppers who incurred credit card debt for last year’s gifts (33%) — or close to 40 million Americans — still haven’t paid off their balances.
  • Online shopping preferred to in-store: Two-thirds of 2020 holiday shoppers (67%) plan to do the majority of their gift shopping via online order this year, either for delivery or in-store pickup. This is up from 62% in 2019. Just 32% of 2020 holiday shoppers plan to do the majority of their shopping in-store, down from 37% last year.
  • Credit card use up: Three-quarters of 2020 holiday shoppers (75%) plan to put 2020 gift purchases on a credit card, compared to 71% of holiday shoppers in 2019.
  • Early sales lessen interest in Black Friday: More than 1 in 5 2020 holiday shoppers (21%) have completed or will complete the majority of their holiday gift purchases during mid-summer and/or fall sales. In fact, half of 2020 holiday shoppers (50%) say the sales offered over the last six months have lessened their interest in Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year.
  • Charitable giving different this year: More than 3 in 10 Americans (31%) say they’ll spend either more or less on charitable donations this holiday season compared to last year.


View the full case study here.


Erica Parker

Managing Director

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