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News Release

New Survey Reveals American Holiday Traditions: Financially Smart Gifting and Receiving

December 10, 2013

Survey on Holiday Spending Suggests American Consumers Don’t Plan to Go into Significant Debt This Holiday Season

According to a new survey from Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Americans appear to be beginning the 2013 holidays with a notable measure of budgetary awareness and restraint, as 83 percent of those surveyed say they know how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts this year.

And while it is easy to get caught up in some indulgence during the holiday season, this year consumers are taking a different approach, with a full two-thirds of survey respondents (68%) intending to keep their holiday expenditures the same or less than last year. 

“Each holiday season, financial planners feel some anxiety as our clients begin to splurge on gifts for friends and family,” says CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP®. “We can’t help but worry what this spending today will mean for their long-term financial goals, from saving to buy a new home or preparing for retirement. This survey suggests that Americans are aware of the importance of thinking about their holiday spending within the context of their overall financial life.”

CFP Board’s holiday spending survey of 1,025 American adults found that:

  • Only 1 in 5 respondents think they will go into debt during the holidays. Of those who say they are going into debt, 69% expect to rack up $500 or less in new debt, with the majority of them coming in at $200 or less.
    • Fewer college graduates (13%) anticipate acquiring new debt during the 2013 holidays than those without a college degree, and those who do are more likely to repay that debt within three months (69%) than those without a degree.
  • More than half have been saving for holiday expenses (52%); another 5% will use year-end bonuses. 
  • When respondents were asked what they plan to do with gifts of monetary value that they receive this holiday season – such as cash or gift cards – 65% said they would save the gift or use it to pay down debt.
    • A full 60% of respondents ages 18-24 plan to save the monetary value of these gifts, whereas only a minority of other age groups from 25 to 64 would do the same.
  • The majority of respondents who plan to cut back their holiday spending cite "not having enough money" as their reason. 
    • Only 16% will reduce their spending because of the economic climate and 9% because of unemployment or furloughs.
    • Eighteen percent (18%) of those dialing down their spending cited other reasons such as no longer having children at home or being retired.
  • Just 14% of respondents plan to spend more than they did last year this holiday season. 
    • Those saying they will spend more are concentrated in the 25- to 34-year-old age group, with the anticipated additional expenditures reflecting their changing life circumstances.
  • Of those who had a budget for their holiday spending in prior years, almost two-thirds (61%) came in on budget. 
    • Women appear to be more budgetary-minded than men, with 50% of women reporting they came in “on budget” with holiday spending, compared to 42% of men.

“While our natural inclination to bestow generous gifts upon our friends and family is admirable, as with all aspects of our financial lives, we should carefully plan for it, keeping our holiday spending in perspective with our long-term financial goals,” says Blayney. “Having a financial plan that considers all aspects of your life, even your holiday spending, and working with a competent and ethical professional like a Certified Financial Planner™ professional will leave you better prepared this holiday season and beyond.” 

More information and insights about the results of the holiday spending survey can be found in Blayney’s latest installment of CFP Board’s “Let’s Talk Planning” blog and the “Financial Planning is for Everyone” series. Additional resources for developing a plan and locating a CFP® professional are available at

Survey Methodology

ORC International conducted the national online survey of 1,025 American adults on behalf of CFP Board from November 21-24, 2013. 


“Let’s Talk Planning” is a blog by CFP Board Consumer Advocate Eleanor Blayney, CFP®, with posts each week with practical financial planning tips for consumers, as well as insights into the latest developments at CFP Board.  In addition to offering counsel on timely and evergreen financial planning topics, once a month Blayney will remind readers that “financial planning is for everyone,” with tips for consumers of all ages and life stages.