What Christmas Costs in 2019

A survey finds Americans plan to spend about $35 more on the holiday this year. Many will take on debt.

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Christmas has always been about showing gratitude and embracing the spirit of giving. And at the center of it all is the abundance of presents!

However, the spirit of giving can rack up quite the tab. When you factor in the money spent on holiday travel and decorations on top of gifts, Christmas quickly becomes a very expensive celebration.

How much will the average adult American spend on Christmas in 2019? Personal finance site LendEDU surveyed 1,000 Christmas-celebrating consumers to find out.

And for this year’s edition, we have added a section that holiday shoppers may find useful: a price comparison of Christmas shopping at Amazon and Walmart.

Key findings

  • In 2019, the average cost of Christmas is $668, up from $633 in 2018.
  • 20% of consumers anticipate taking on debt due to Christmas shopping, with the average amount of debt being $720.
  • 50% of respondents will do their Christmas shopping online, while 47% will do it at a traditional brick-and-mortar location.
  • 47% of consumers will do their online Christmas shopping on Amazon, 38% will use Walmart, and 15% will use neither.
  • In our Amazon vs. Walmart Christmas price comparison experiment, Amazon items were cheaper than the identical Walmart items by 0.89% overall.

Christmas spending is up compared to 2018

As we have done in the two years prior, LendEDU surveyed 1,000 adult Americans who intend on celebrating Christmas in 2019 to gauge what the holiday will cost this year.

How did the average spending figure of $668 stack up to numbers from the two previous years we have conducted this survey?

Although 2019’s Christmas expenditure figure represents a 5.5% increase from 2018’s number of $633, it’s still down from 2017’s figure of $708. The percentage decrease from 2017’s cost of Christmas number to 2019’s number amounts to 5.8%.

Going back to the cost of Christmas in 2019, how will that $668 be divvied up among the numerous holiday season expenses?

2019’s cost of Christmas broken down by expense

As the graphic above depicts, we were able to break out the total Christmas cost of $668 according to specific expenditures involved with the holiday. Each poll participant was asked to estimate what proportion of their total Christmas spending was going to be put toward travel, gifts, decorations, and other expenses.

Not surprisingly, gift-buying will be the priciest expenditure, accounting for 57% of the total Christmas cost. So, before you rag on a family member for getting the wrong gift, remember how much money they had to spend on presents.

After gifts, both decoration and miscellaneous expenses will account for 15% each. It was surprising to see travel being the least costly expenses, accounting for only 13% of the total cost. Many Christmas celebrators must travel far, either by plane or by car, and plane tickets and gas can quickly add up.

20% of consumers anticipate going into debt to afford christmas

Given the considerable Christmas cost, we asked survey respondents if they anticipate taking on debt to afford the gifts, eggnog, and whatever other expenses the holiday season brings.

One-fifth of Christmas celebrators expect to go into some amount of debt due to added costs from the holiday season, but how much debt exactly?

Among those who expect to go into debt due to Christmas, the average amount of expected debt is a considerable $720.

Interestingly, respondents who think they will go into debt this holiday season will be spending an average of $832 on Christmas in 2019, $164 higher than the overall average holiday expenditure of $668, and $205 more than the average for just those who will not take on debt due to Christmas expenses.

Where is the majority of Christmas shopping done in 2019?

It is easier than ever before to do all of your Christmas shopping from the comfort of your couch using only your thumbs. How is the ease of consumer shopping changing the ways in which Americans buy their holiday gifts?

Indicative of the rapidly-changing consumption habits of today’s shopper, 50% of Americans indicated that they would do the majority of their Christmas shopping online in 2019. Believe it or not, this is actually the first time this shopping option was the most popular answer; last year, only 46% answered the same, while 51% said they would get most present shopping done in-store.

This year, 47% indicated that most of their shopping would be at brick-and-mortar locations, while 3% plan on making the gifts, and no one intends on using catalogs…also a sign of the times.

And, when we asked our Christmas-celebrating respondents if they would do the majority of their online Christmas shopping at Amazon or Walmart, this is what we found:

Which offers a perfect segue into the final section of this report…

Christmas shopping price Comparison: Amazon vs. Walmart

For our third annual Cost of Christmas report, we added in a new section that holiday shoppers should find useful.

We compared the prices of 20 identical items found on the respective websites for both Amazon and Walmart; 15 of these items were gifts, while the last five were decorations.

To conduct this price comparison experiment between two of the largest e-commerce retailers, we used the following equation:

((Price of Amazon Product – Price of Walmart Product) / Price of Walmart Product) * 100

With essentially the same prices, Amazon cheaper than Walmart by 1% for Christmas items

In the following graphics, a negative percentage meant the Amazon item was cheaper than the Walmart item by that much, while a positive percentage meant the Amazon item was more expensive than the Walmart item by that much.

As depicted in the graphic above, the 20 identical Christmas items on Amazon were 0.89% cheaper overall than the exact same items found on Walmart. The biggest price difference came with decoration items, where Amazon products were 9.18% cheaper than those found on Walmart. When it came to gift items, Amazon was just 0.15% cheaper than Walmart.

On an item-by-item basis, Christmas products found on Amazon were still cheaper than the identical Walmart products by an average of 0.36%. When it came to gifts on an item-by-item basis, Amazon products were cheaper than Walmart products by 1.67%. For decorations, Amazon products were actually more expensive on an item-by-item basis when compared to identical Walmart items. On average, Amazon decoration products were more expensive by 3.84%.

Category-by-category breakdown

In Tables

#### In Graphs


All survey data found in this report derives from a poll commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by Pollfish. In total, 1,000 adult Americans that plan on celebrating Christmas in 2019 were polled.

Respondents were only allowed to proceed to the survey questions if they answered correctly to the screener question. The screener question was put in place to ensure all respondents were planning on celebrating Christmas in 2019. Pollfish’s age filtering feature was also utilized to ensure that all respondents were 18 or older.

This poll was conducted over a two-day span from October 7, 2019 to October 8, 2019. Respondents were asked to answer each question truthfully and to the best of their abilities.

For the price comparison section of the report, 20 identical items were found on the websites for both Amazon and Walmart. The 20 items that were compared were exactly the same size, weight, quantity, etc. All items on both Walmart and Amazon were found on either November 20, 2019 or November 21, 2019. Further, shipping costs or Prime membership fees were not included in the analysis.

​After all the products were compiled, we were able to calculate the price difference of each product using this formula:

((Price of Amazon Product – Price of Walmart Product) / Price of Walmart Product)* 100

This equation resulted in the percentage price difference by which either Amazon was more expensive than Walmart (when the percentage was positive) or Amazon was less expensive than Walmart (when percentage was negative). It is important to note that these prices are not fixed and that they are subject to fluctuations between the current time and the time the data was collected.

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