12/16: Holiday Spending… It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Last Year

Marist National Poll

The hope that an improving economy would spur holiday shopping does not seem to be materializing.   A majority of Americans who buy holiday presents — 52% — believe they will spend about the same amount on their shopping as they did last year.  Only 10% say they plan to spend more money this year, and nearly four in ten — 38% — think they will spend less.  These results are almost identical to last year.  When Marist reported this question in 2012, 51% said they would spend about the same amount as the year before, 12% said they were going to spend more on their gifts, and 37% reported they would shell out less.

Click Here for Complete December 16, 2013 USA Marist Poll Release and Tables

Income matters.  45% of Americans who buy holiday gifts and have a household income less than $50,000 plan to rein in their spending this year while 43% will try to match their expenditures in 2012.  11% of these families plan to spend more.  Among holiday shoppers with income of $50,000 or more, 32% plan to cut back their spending on gifts, and 58% expect to match last year’s budget.  Nine percent think they will spend more.

How do holiday shoppers plan to purchase their gifts?  There has been an increase in the proportion who say they will buy all or most of their presents online.  19% report they will not stray from their computer or mobile device compared with 14% who did this last year.  An additional 41% plan to purchase at least some of their gifts online similar to the 42% who did so in 2012.  40% of holiday shoppers will not buy any gifts virtually, down modestly from last year.  Last December, 44% said it was strictly brick and mortar for them.

Regionally, there has been a sharp increase in the proportion of Northeastern shoppers who says they will make most or all of their purchases virtually.  28% report this to be the case this year compared with 19% last year.  There has also been a bump in the South and Midwest of those who plan to do a lot of online shopping.  17% in the South and 16% of those in the Midwest plan to shop online.  Last year, 12% and 11%, respectively, said the same.  In the West, there has been little change.  18% think they will do most or all of their holiday shopping online.  16% reported this to be true last year.

There is an age gap.  The proportion of younger shoppers who plan to make their purchases online is more than double the proportion of older shoppers.  27% of consumers under the age of 45 think they will shop mostly in cyberspace compared with 13% of those 45 and older.  Last year, 20% of those under 45 said they would shop online compared with 11% of older consumers.

Table: Holiday Spending Habits

Table: Holiday Spending Habits (Over Time)













Table: Online Holiday Shopping

Table: Online Holiday Shopping (Over Time)

Cash is King, Says More than Six in Ten Holiday Shoppers 

63% of people who buy holiday presents say they will mostly pay for them in cash.  34% report they will use credit cards, and 3% are unsure.  Regardless of region, income, level of education, age, race, or gender, at least a majority of holiday shoppers say they will tender cash to buy their holiday gifts.  However, shoppers in the Northeast are the least likely to pay cash.  52% of Northeasterners plan to use this method of payment while 42% will use their credit cards.

Table: Payment Method for Holiday Gifts


How the Survey was Conducted

Nature of the Sample