Thanksgiving will soon come and go; then, the holiday shopping season will be upon us.  Many shoppers will feverishly try to find the perfect meaningful gifts for everyone on their list. Between the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the last minute sales just before Christmas, the American commercialization of Christmas plays a very big part in how much the average American pays for all of his or her holiday expenses. Between gifts, holiday parties and decorations, Christmas in America seems to be getting more and more extravagant. Below is a look at the average cost of an American Christmas and a glance at why the cost of the holidays is steadily rising.

Cost of Christmas Gifts in 2018

According to a study performed by the National Retail Federation, Americans will be spending more money on gifts in 2018 than they did last year. Gallup reports that US adults estimate that they will spend approximately $885 on gifts this year, slightly lower than 2017's expectations. Below is an average of a range of findings:

  • 33% expect to spend at least $1000 on gifts.
  • 22% expect to spend between $500 and $999.
  • 29% expect gift spending to be between $100 and $499.
  • 3% plan to spend less than $100.

However, 8% say that they will spend nothing for gifts and 5% are unsure. The expectations are just that: expectations. These estimates are not indicative of actual spending, which tend to be higher than forecasts. Holiday sales are expected to increase 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 – $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. It should come as no surprise that the average cost of gifts is so high. With advertisements for big sales everywhere, there is a greater chance for impulse buys and overspending.

Dramatic Upswing in Spending Since the 2008 Recession

In 2001, the average planned spending was $1,052 – the highest ever. After the recession in 2008, planned holiday shopping dropped to $417 in 2009 – less than half of what people plan to spend this year. An increasing number of people – now 59% – are planning on doing at least some of their holiday shopping online, and 61% are planning to wait for sales to save money. The increase in spending during the holiday season year after year is largely attributed to job creation and improved wages – consumers feel more confident in their ability to spend.

Areas with the Highest and Lowest Holiday Sales

In 2017, holiday sales were highest in electronic shopping and mail-order houses, and food and beverage stores, totaling $122.1 billion and $128.1 billion, respectively. The areas were sales were the lowest included hobby, toy, and game stores with only $5.6 billion in sales and jewelry stores at $9.1 billion in sales.

The Bottom Line

Americans have been spending more on holiday gifts every year since 2008 except for 2012; although the holiday spending is still not back on the pre-recession trend, it seems to head in that direction – possibly thanks to lower unemployment, stronger growth, and higher confidence in the economy.