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Increasing number this year report holiday spending cutbacks

A majority of Americans (55%) report cutting back on their holiday shopping list this year because of high prices. This number has steadily increased from 46% who said the same last year and 40% in 2021. This increase in cuts to holiday shopping has happened among all demographic groups, but is greatest among those earning less than $50,000 a year. Fully two-thirds (67%) of this lower income group have cut back this year compared with just under half (48%) who said the same in 2022.

“The rate of inflation may be slowing but the damage has been done after a long stretch of rising prices. There could be a number of reasons why more are cutting back this season. Perhaps those who kept to their usual spending habits as we came out of the pandemic are seeing it catch up with them now. Or maybe their budgets are the same, but they are exchanging fewer gifts or buying for fewer people. Whatever the reason, there is greater pessimism on the holiday gift-giving front,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Despite making cuts to their gift lists, most Americans plan on diving into a full range of holiday activities. This includes playing Christmas music (76%), decorating their homes (75%), and making Christmas candy, cookies or desserts (69%). More than 4 in 10 (43%) also say they will volunteer for charitable activities this holiday season. These current results are between 5 and 8 percentage points higher than they were in a national poll conducted for U.S. News & World Report magazine nearly 30 years ago. On the other hand, very few Americans (9%) plan to go caroling this year, which is down from an already low 22% recorded in the 1996 poll.

Speaking of holiday baking, nearly half of the country has a favorite Christmas cookie. Among those who can make a single choice, frosted sugar cookies lead the list (32%), with gingerbread (12%) and chocolate chip (11%) rounding out the top three. Snickerdoodles (6%) come in fourth place, followed by butter (4%), peanut butter (4%), and chocolate (4%) tying for fifth. Many other varieties are also represented on the list, although some of those polled simply said something like “mom’s cookies.”

“If you want to please your family’s palate this holiday season, your best bet is icing up a batch of Christmas tree or snowflake shaped sugar cookies. But frankly, you really can’t go wrong with pretty much any cookie on this list,” said Murray.

The poll also asked Americans which of Santa Claus’ lists they think they’ll end up on this year. The vast majority (79%) say they are definitely making the “nice list.” Just 10% feel they’ll find their names on Santa’s “naughty list” and another 11% are unsure about which list they will end up on. More women (87%) than men (72%) believe they have been put on Santa’s nice list.

Women (80%) are also more likely than men (59%) to plan on making holiday goodies and are more likely to name a favorite Christmas cookie (55% of women and 40% of men). In other demographic findings from the poll, slightly more women (82%) than men (71%) play Christmas tunes during the season. Among adults under the age of 55, those with children at home (80%) are more likely than those without children (64%) to decorate their houses. Parents (55%) are also more likely than others to plan on volunteering this holiday season.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from November 30 to December 4, 2023 with 803 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points for the full sample. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

I’ve had my dream job of waking up with all the great listeners and members of Brookdale Public Radio since January 3, 2005. Prior to this job, I began my career in radio at NJ 101.5 FM as a producer. From there, I took time off from radio to do other things. (including becoming a mom!)