Consumer Reports: One-In-Five Gift Buyers Spent $1,000 Or More This Past Holiday Season

Jan 26, 2010, 08:00 ET from Consumer Reports

Latest Poll Finds Holiday Shopping Binge Causes Consumers to Break their Budget by $112

YONKERS, N.Y., Jan. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Nearly a month into the post-holiday hangover, Consumer Reports' latest Holiday Shopping Poll, found that Americans came prepared to shop this past season spending an average of $811 on gifts and one-fifth (22%) cashing out $1,000 or more. Shoppers shattered their spending expectations from early December with a spending frenzy leading up to December 25. Originally, shoppers anticipated spending $699 on gifts, yet the final tally in January was $811, a difference of $112.

These results wrap-up Consumer Reports series of holiday polls that tracked consumer purchasing since October 2009. The full poll results are available on

This past holiday season showed that some Americans were happy gift givers, while others "scrooges."  Eight-in-ten (81%) consumers purchased gifts with the most likely being households earning $100,000 or more (94%).  Shoppers with the tightest wallets were households earning less than $50,000, more than a quarter (26%) did not purchase holiday gifts.  The biggest scrooges of them all were Americans 65+ (35%) – purchasing no holiday gifts at all.

"Looking back on this past holiday shopping season it was clear that some Americans were willing to open up their wallets," said Ed Farrell, Director of Market Research for Consumer Reports National Research Center.  "Many shoppers drove up their holiday spending budget at the last minute, which could have been a result of sales and discounts retailers were offering."

Shoppers Little Helper: Credit Cards

Nearly half (47%) of shoppers turned to credit cards to pay for all or some of their holiday gift purchases, this is consistent with the forty-eight percent that claimed to use credit cards for holiday gifts in the Consumer Reports December 6, 2009 Holiday Poll. Credit card users spent more than non-credit card users, spending an average of $896 versus the overall average of $811.

The damage on credit cards was quite a bit higher than anticipated. Shoppers intended to put an average of $636 for gifts on their cards, but the actual charges amounted to $816, totaling $180 more and an increase of 28 percent. One-in-five (23%) charged $1,000 or more on major credit cards.

Consumers racking in the largest holiday credit card expenditures on average were:

  • Households earning $100,000 or more ($1,570)
  • Those in the West ($990)
  • Men ($902)

Despite charging more than anticipated, holiday debt woes will not affect all credit card holiday shoppers.  More than a quarter (26%), paid off their holiday credit card debt by the end of December, and 40 percent plan to settle their balance by the end of January.  Yet one-in-five will not square their debt until March or later, while 9 percent will not retire their charges until June or later.

Gifts for the Self and the Home

The 2009 holidays were about more than gift purchasing, as a result of a good sale or discount, 17% made some fairly sizable purchases for themselves or their household in addition to their gift shopping:

  • 10% purchased a major home electronics
  • 5% purchased a major appliance
  • 5% purchased furniture/mattresses

Though only major appliances, major home electronics, and furniture/mattresses were queried, on average, $773 was spent.  Major non-gift purchases had a substantial impact on overall holiday expenditures.  On a per-capita basis this added $131 to the holiday spending total, bringing it from $811 to $942 among holiday gift buyers.

More information on Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Wrap-Up Poll can be found online at

Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Methodology

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a random-digit-dialing telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households.  In all, 1,023 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+.  Interviews took place from January 7January 10 2010.  The margin of error is +/- 3.2% points at a 95 percent confidence level.  Additionally, Consumer Reports National Research Center Holiday Poll #3 is referenced in this report.  This study shared the same methodology outlined above. Interviewing for this study was conducted December 3 – 6, 2009 and 1,014 interviews were completed.


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SOURCE Consumer Reports