A Nation of Grinches? One-Third of Americans Don’t Plan To Give Gifts This Year

Financial hardship from last holiday season endures and threatens to make this season difficult for many Americans.
Updated June 6, 2024
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As the holiday season approaches, the festive spirit is accompanied by a sobering reality — one in four Americans still grapples with the financial aftermath of the 2022 holidays. It's now hitting a lot harder than people expected.

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Compounded by economic challenges and inflation, the ripple effect of last year’s spending looms large, with over one-third of the population reportedly making a difficult decision — forgoing the tradition of gift-giving this year in an effort to keep more money in their wallet.

1 in 4 Americans still paying off 2022 holidays

The aftermath of holiday spending often reveals itself in consumer credit card statements; for 25% of Americans, this is an ongoing reality. The financial hangover from the 2022 holidays persists, creating a challenging backdrop for the approaching festive season. The weight of past spending decisions, particularly during a time meant for joy and generosity, raises questions about the long-term impact on financial well-being.

Fewer consumers can afford to buy gifts.

In a year marked by economic uncertainty and inflationary pressures, more than one in three Americans is navigating financial constraints. According to a survey from Wallet Hub, 33% of respondents now deem the annual tradition of gift-giving a luxury. The survey findings highlight a poignant shift in priorities as individuals grapple with tightened budgets and difficult financial choices.

How to protect your finances

Acknowledging the challenges is the first step toward effective financial management. To safeguard personal finances during these trying times, consider the following strategies.

Look for discounts

Crafting a realistic holiday budget and adhering to it rigorously can mitigate financial strain. Early planning can allow saving to a dedicated holiday fund. Seeking discounts and strategic purchasing contribute to a more manageable financial burden.

Plan to avoid stress

Proactive holiday shopping prevents last-minute chaos and allows for thoughtful, budget-conscious decisions. Avoiding procrastination can be crucial in reducing stress and making sound financial choices.

Consider homemade gifts

Explore homemade gifts or shared experiences to embrace the sentiment of the season. The personal touch adds a unique flair to your gestures and can be a cost-effective alternative to store-bought presents.

Shop online

Purchasing targeted gifts online can reduce mindless spending in stores. It also allows shoppers to shop for the best deals and compare prices across vendors. While many perceive shopping online to be a trap to spend more money, it can actually help you become a savvy shopper

Prioritize debt

If you happen to be in the position that many Americans were last year and find difficulty this holiday season, prioritize clearing your debt. The holiday season will pass in a month, but debt will remain. It is crucial to think ahead. Consumers still in debt from last year’s holiday season should consider payment plans to pay down debt. Those in financial hardship and considering whether they will have enough to pay for this year’s gifts should consider the high-interest rates on new debt once accumulated.

Bottom line

As we navigate the holiday season, it’s crucial to acknowledge the financial strain that many Americans are experiencing. The decision to forgo gifts is not a reflection of diminished holiday spirit but a pragmatic response to economic challenges. By adopting responsible financial practices, individuals can weather a potentially difficult holiday season and find joy in spending time with loved ones instead of adding on financial strain.

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Author Details

Georgina Tzanetos Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who has been active in financial media for the past six years. She holds a master's in political economy from NYU, where she studied distressed labor markets.