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Here’s How Much Americans Spend on Christmas

Poike / iStock.com
Poike / iStock.com

Even with a recession on the horizon and inflation rearing its ugly head, Christmas spending is still expected to be high.

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The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend between $942-$960 billion during the holiday season, with sales predicted to jump somewhere between 6% and 8% once all is said and done.

Though financial experts urge consumers to budget to avoid landing in debt over holiday spending sprees, it's easy to see how even the most organized shoppers can underestimate just how shockingly expensive decking the halls can be.

Here's a look at how the costs of Christmas can add up.


Holiday Airfare

It's the most wonderful time of the year to be an airline, but a not-so-great time to be a passenger. That's mainly because the number of flights is going down, while the price of tickets is shooting up.

Using numbers from Wall Street analysts at Cowan, CNN reports that, "The average airfare is up about 40% from 2021, with leisure travelers paying an average of $289 one way." There's also data from Cirium that shows: "flights scheduled for November and December [are] down 15% from the same months in 2019."

The supply is low, the demand is high and it's going to take a pretty penny to fly this holiday season.

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Holiday Hotel Rooms

Around the holidays, prices go up, which includes booking stays at hotels, motels and resorts. In 2022, the cost of lodging went up, causing many travelers to book shorter trips in order to save money.

"Hotel prices are up absolutely everywhere," Axel Hefer, CEO of Trivago, told The Omaha World-Herald. "If you have the same budget or even a lower budget through inflation, and you still want to travel, you just cut out a day."

The hospitality industry was crushed by the pandemic, seeing occupancy rates falling by 56% in March 2020. Even though there has been a slight bounce back, hotels are desperate to hire employees due to labor shortages, which is causing them to raise their prices per night on rooms.


Holiday Gift Giving

We are still buying more and more gifts, and from the looks of USPS, which is overwhelmed with holiday shipping demand, we're sending up a storm.

As a NerdWallet survey and analysis reports: "Nearly 217 million Americans (84%) plan to buy gifts for friends and loved ones this holiday season...These 2022 holiday shoppers plan to spend $823, on average, for a total of more than $178 billion in gift spending."

The study found that gift giving comes with big debt for Americans, citing that "31% of 2021 holiday shoppers who used a credit card to pay for gifts still haven't paid off their balances."

CatLane / iStock.com
CatLane / iStock.com

Gift Cards

If you don't know what to buy for the hard-to-shop-for people on your list, you're not alone. In 2019, Americans spent more than $9 billion on gift cards, a full third of annual gift card sales, according to Packaged Facts. You might score one or more yourself this year.

"Gift cards are another prevailing gift option this year as products become more expensive. Gen Z dominates the category for holiday gift card purchases and are expected to spend $290 on gift cards as holiday presents this year - up 57% from last year," according to ROI Revolution.


Candy and Food

In September of 2022, grocery store sales in the United States reached $71.17 billion, while food and beverage store sales increased to $79.89 billion in the same time period.

Candy plays a big role this time of year, too. Shoppers spent an average of $150 on seasonal candy at convenience stores in 2020 and that will likely go up this year.

The National Confectioners Association (NCA) predicted chocolate and candy sales to jump 5% ahead of the 2022 Halloween season. As a country with a big sweet tooth, consumers could see the same trend with chocolate Santas and peppermint bark.


Greeting Cards

More than 100 years ago, Hallmark introduced Americans to the idea of Christmas cards in envelopes mailed to their loved ones. Though Christmas greeting card sales have declined since their heyday in the 1980s, they're still big sellers. In 2021, 38% of shoppers purchased greeting cards, according to Statista.

Greeting cards are a perfect example of a deceptively pricey item. The average greeting card costs $2 to $5. Multiply that by all your loved ones and tack on the cost of postage and you could be looking at a steep expense.


Decking the Halls

Holiday decor can literally brighten your surroundings, and with the three years we've had in a pandemic, it's an appropriate splurge. Zina Kumok, a financial coach at ConsciousCoins.com, told GOBankingRates that holiday decor is her favorite holiday expense.

"It makes me really happy to see signs of the holiday around my house, whether it's my tree or the Christmas headbands I put on my dogs," Kumok said. "Even though I only use the decorations for a month out of the year, they make me really happy. And during a time when we're all spending more time at home, I think those expenses are worth it."

The NRF projects that spending on decor will be slightly up this year, with holidays items, including decorations and gifts, averaging out to about $832.84.


Flowers and Plants

If you guessed that Valentine's Day or Mother's Day topped the flower industry's largest sales days, you'd be mistaken. The winter holidays -- including Christmas and Hanukkah -- account for the largest percentage of all holiday flower sales, at 30%, or about $2.28 billion.

This time of year also sees around a quarter of all cut flowers sold in the year.  The most popular Christmas plant is the poinsettia, which costs around $2.11 per plant for producers.

Anchiy / iStock.com
Anchiy / iStock.com

Non-Gift Purchases for Self and Family

From ironic ugly sweaters to pine and cinnamon candles, there are a lot of random buys that add up when celebrating Yuletide season. The NRF found that the average U.S. consumer spent roughly $117 on non-gift purchases in 2021, excluding holiday decor.


Throwing a Holiday Party

Holiday parties are normal during this season, but these shindigs can rack up a hefty bill. The average American party host spends $1,422.65, according to a 2019 survey from BJ's Wholesale Club, on a total of seven parties per year. By that math, each party -- fueled with booze and food -- costs about $203.23.

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Jake Arky, Jodi Thornton-O'Connell and Amen Oyiboke-Osifo contributed to the reporting for this article. 

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Here’s How Much Americans Spend on Christmas