By Sarah Wall
The holiday season is right around the corner, so it’s probably a good time to start thinking about your wallet. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Americans typically spend more money than any other season. In 2020, with some businesses still shuttered and some Americans still un- or underemployed, some of us might be wondering: how much do I usually spend during the holidays, and how can I manage my finances this season?
To get started, take the quiz below! The answers may surprise you…
1. In total, how much did Americans spend on retail (including gifts, decorations, food, travel) during the holiday season of 2019?
A. $13.9 billion, B. $223.8 billion, C. $546.1 billion, D. $730.2 billion
2. On Super Saturday, the Saturday before Christmas, how much did Americans spend on retail?
A. $9.6 billion, B. $18.7 billion, C. $27.8 billion, D. $34.4 billion
3. How much do economists project the average US household will spend on food, shopping, and gifts during the 2020 holidays?
A. $443 per household, B. $887 per household, C. $1,387 per household, D. $2,464 per household
4. How much lower is that average 2020 holiday spending budget than 2019’s?
A. 2% lower, B. 7% lower, C. 10% lower, D. 13% lower
5. How many consumers say they plan to spend less than usual in the 2020 holidays?
A. 90%, B. 48%, C. 38%, D. 10%
[Source: Balancing Everything]
Ready for the answers?
In 2019, Americans forked over $730.2 billion (D) in holiday retail spending. On Super Saturday, when many shoppers try to grab last-minute deals right before Christmas, we spent a whopping $34.4 billion (D). If that sounds high to you, it is: Super Saturday 2019 smashed the record for the highest one-day spending in U.S. retail ever!
This year, economists predict that Americans will spend $1,387 per household (C) on holiday retail spending. That represents just a 7% decrease (B) in holiday spending compared to 2019, with 38% (C) of consumers reporting they plan to spend less than usual this year.
That’s no surprise: not only are many of us still dealing with jobs lost or hours cut but also, there may be less travel or festivities due to coronavirus. But in their annual holiday spending forecast, Deloitte expects holiday sales to actually increase, so travel or festivity spending may just be reallocated to gift budgets – not actually saved.
So how can we follow through with our goals to spend a little less this year?
1. Set a budget – one that’s realistic for your current circumstances – and stick with it.
The best way to save is always to develop a plan – one that thoughtfully considers all the holiday expenses. Most of us will remember to include gifts, but what about decorations, food, Christmas cards, even stamps? Use your budget to create your shopping lists too — and stick to them!
2. Avoid last-minute shopping
Remember that the biggest spending day in 2019 (by a record-breaking amount!) was Super Saturday, the Saturday before Christmas. Don’t fall into the trap of panic buying in the eleventh hour. You’re more likely to pay attention to your budget and find the items you need in stock if you finish your shopping a week or so early.
3. Don’t overspend on credit cards
Holiday shoppers rack up more debt every year, with the average American landing in over $1,300 in credit card debt during the 2019 holidays alone. Consider paying cash whenever you can – it’s a good budgeting tool that keeps you from overspending. Only use credit cards if you can easily pay them off.
4. Remember what’s really important
The least expensive way to spend your holidays is also the most thoughtful: spend time with those you love. Catch up with an old friend over hot apple cider; paint sugar cookies with your kids; decorate the Christmas tree with memory-filled ornaments you’ve collected over the years.
When it comes to the holidays, the best way to manage your finances isn’t to scrape pennies and reallocate your budget. It’s to change your mindset, focusing first on family and friends (maybe food too!). If you give the most thought to those, the other F – finances – will fall into place.
Sarah Wall is the newest contributing writer for Smart Women Smart Money Magazine. For questions or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.