Thursday, December 25, 2014

Trends in Gift Spending

The average household cut its spending on gifts for people in other households by 19 percent between 2006 and 2013, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey—from $1,333 to $1,078, after adjusting for inflation. As noted previously by Demo Memo, it's not just the Great Recession and its aftermath that has reduced gift spending. Another factor is the Gift Problem: as books, music, video games, and other gift categories have morphed from physical to virtual, there's less to give.

But wait—what about gifts of money? Cash and gift cards are not included in the CEX category "gifts for people in other households." Instead, they're in the financial category "cash gifts to members of other households." Maybe there's more holiday spirit in the cash gift category. Alas, it too has declined. The average household gave $451 in cash (or gift cards) to people in other households in 2013—4 percent less than the $472 of 2006, after adjusting for inflation.

But not everyone is channeling their inner Scrooge. The biggest givers of cash gifts are the oldest householders, and they've loosened the purse strings. In 2013, householders aged 75 or older gave $1,262 in cash to people in other households—15 percent more than in 2006, after adjusting for inflation.

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