Average Family Spending on Christmas Gifts 2012

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu.

Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

November 1st; another holiday concluded and a new one to start budgeting for. I know most of you don’t want to hear the word Christmas prior to December, but Christmas is the most expensive holiday for the average family. If you want to keep your family budget underneath that average family spending for Christmas, you are better off planning early.

You know the drill by now. This is one of those posts where I cleverly break down consumer spending so that you are more knowledgeable when it comes to your own budgeting. It’s why you love this blog. So, before you make your family’s Christmas list, here’s what the average family is spending as reported by  The National Retail Federation.

Families are Spending More than Last Year

This coming Christmas, the average family budget for 2012 is $749.51. That’s up over the $740.57 the average family spent last year. However, it still hasn’t topped the records spent in 2007 before the recession.

This is total Christmas spending. The average gift budget is $548.56, which is up only about $6 over last year.

One interesting conclusion that consumer researchers at NRF found was that families have moved on from “needed” frugality to a new “practiced” frugality. In other words, the recession has forced families to make tough choices on spending and those habits formed are persisting beyond the recession.

Breaking Down the Gift Budget

Here’s the part where I get to throw around some corporate jargon that I get to use every day at my job! Let’s “drill down” a little further and look at how the average family distributes that gift budget across the people they know.

Gifts for family will make up an average $421.82 of the total budget. Friends can expect $75.13. While Co-workers get $23.48. That leaves $28.13 for other acquaintances like teachers, postal workers and paperboys.

When Do Average Families Start Shopping?

Most families start shopping in November. When I say most, I mean nearly 40 percent. Only about 20 percent of families procrastinate and begin in December. That leaves another 40 percent of families starting October and earlier.

Most Popular Ways of Saving During Christmas?

Apparently, not all ways of saving money are created equal. The most popular ways of saving money for Christmas are:

  1. Shopping for sales more often – 46.4 percent
  2. Using coupons more often – 35.9 percent
  3. Buying more practical gifts or necessities as gifts – 27.2 percent

The Holiday of Me

The season of giving is very popular with everyone’s self. One interesting trend over the last few years is the growing popularity of me gifting. Roughly 59 percent of shoppers plan to spend an average $139.92 shopping for self this holiday season.

Most Popular Gifts

I hope Santa’s Workshop is reading. Based on the NRF survey, the most requested gifts this Christmas are:

  • Clothing – 49.1 percent
  • Books, CDs, DVDs and video games – 45.7 percent
  • Electronics – 35.9 percent
  • Home décor – 20.2 percent
  • Sporting goods – 17.4 percent

Goofy looking Christmas sweaters, ties and socks were not mentioned…surprisingly. Although we all know that they will be abundantly plentiful under the Christmas tree.

That’s it families! Now that you are empowered with the knowledge of average Christmas spending, I leave you to wisely craft your own budget. Please leave me some insight into your own spending in the comments!

PS – I was wondering if you would actually ask. Yes, men are overspending women with an average gift budget of $567.61 to $530.60. I guess my post on “Women finally spend more than men on gifts” post will remain in its dusty corner of saved drafts for yet another holiday.

What’s your family Christmas gift budget look like? Is the average family spending too much or is it just right? How are you saving money this year? Are you planning on splurging for yourself? Will men ever beat women on gift spending?


Get all the financial wisdom of My Family Finances sent to your email daily! Subscribe to My Family Finances by Email



  1. says

    I only buy Christmas gifts for family so that keeps our cost down. On top of that we try to keep it to a small amount per person. Holidays should be about being together rather than gifts, or is that my cheap side talking? :)

    • John says

      I agree in that too often, people associate the amount spent with the amount loved. In my opinion, it’s the effort and thought. I’d rather have a gift that costs more in effort and thought.

  2. says

    We always overspend on Christmas, even when I set a budget. But this year will be different (I hope). I have a budget for everyone in our family and friends we buy gifts for. It is tracked on an excel spreadsheet. Heres to hoping I go under budget this year :)

    • John says

      Good luck. I’m sure a spreadsheet helps and is far more than the average family attempts 😉

  3. says

    We are usually right on target for the average American family, but this year we will try to stay around $300. I know that sounds insane since we have 3 kids and big families! Jeff and I are okay if we have to go over that, but that is our goal. Our oldest’s birthday is in December too, so it’s always a trying month.

    • John says

      Birthday’s are difficult too. We have four to celebrate, including my oldest’s. I am one of five so you can imagine the what the holidays are like.

      We focus on useful, but meaningful things and are usually able to pull it all off for $200 or less. Even with out two children. However, I’ll get into that in another post.

  4. says

    I have a really tiny family in the States. We don’t get together for Christmas and I typically buy a present for my bf and mom. Brother doesn’t get anything – maybe a card if he bothers sending one back. We’re not your typical bunch :( Umm, I guess my average spending is around $50-$300 during a typical season. Lately we’ve been trying to save so we make an agreement to not spend on each other.

  5. says

    It’s unbelievable what Christmas has turned into. The amount of spending would make you think our economy was experiencing boom years.

  6. says

    We’re usually able to stay within our budget. We take cash out during the year and then use our credit card to earn points and pay off with the cash. We start shopping early, usually late summer to early fall and get the last bit on Black Friday from home.

  7. says

    Oh, my gosh. My boyfriend is one of those ones who spends for self. He buys these awesome things with good intentions of giving them to family, but they have such similar interests that he usually ends up opening stuff before the holiday and using it himself. Then we go out and buy another for family.

    I plan on getting a gift card for a restaurant nearby my school for my parking guard. I’ve forgotten to put my permit up a couple of times and he’s left me notes instead of tickets. He deserves some holiday cheer. I’m thinking in the $10-20 range.

  8. says

    That number blows my mind. My family usually spent about $350 including all of the cousins. I will probably spend about $250 this year on gift, but I don’t have kids.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *