Americans to Focus on Savings After Holiday Binge

Americans are saving some, spending more and saying see-ya to holiday stress. As the year winds to close, new research from Principal Financial Group® digs in to the holiday spending mindset of Americans, and where they’re headed financially in 2020.

Holiday Spending & Budgeting

Sixty-seven percent of Americans are spending the same or more than last year’s holiday season, with more than half (57%) planning to spend less than $500 on gifts. On average, more than 75% of holiday spending is planned for tangible gifts, with 25% planning to purchase gift cards and 9% gifting experiences.

Americans are making smart choices to manage their money during the holidays. Fifty-six percent plan to set a budget for holiday gifts and 29% have saved for gifts throughout the year. These strong saving habits are reflected in low stress levels – 69% say the holidays put little to no stress on their personal finance situation.

“The holidays are a great time to give your loved ones something special, but the expenses add up pretty quickly if you’re not yet prepared on how to manage costs,” said Sri Reddy, senior vice president of retirement and income solutions at Principal®. “Strong savings habits throughout the year can make a big difference in how you finish 2019 and head to 2020.”

The 2019 budget-busters

While holiday spending and savings are looking strong, Americans still identified a number of places they broke the bank in 2019, including: Dining out (27%), food/groceries (24%), entertainment (19%), clothing/apparel/shoes (16%), and vehicle expenses (16%).

These budget-busters also contributed to this year’s top financial blunders, with not saving enough (22%) and not budgeting properly (11%) leading the mishaps. Others included:

  • Accumulating credit card debt (11%)
  • Spending outside my means (10%)
  • Taking on more debt (7%)

A sneak peek at 2020

Americans remain optimistic about 2020, with more than half (52%) saying they’re somewhat or extremely optimistic about the 2020 economic outlook. Despite the sunny disposition, concerns remain, including: health care changes (40%), gas prices (35%) food prices (35%), 2020 elections (34%) and political uncertainty (28%).

This year, as in prior years, Americans are committed to making a number of financial New Year’s Resolutions. This year’s top personal finance resolutions are to:

  1. Save more each month (45%)
  2. Reduce spending each month (38%)
  3. Pay off credit card debt (33%)
  4. Build an emergency fund (30% – up from 24% in 2018)
  5. Save more for my retirement (21%)

“The new year is a great time to re-evaluate your financial situation and take tangible steps toward better habits,” said Reddy. “There’s no secret sauce to spending versus saving, but the more consumers can consider how both fit into their lives, the better the potential financial outcomes in 2020.”

The Holiday Spending & 2020 Outlook results come from an online CARAVAN survey of 1,002 U.S. consumers over the age of 18. The survey was conducted by Engine from November 4-6, 2019. Completed interviews are weighted by 5 variables: age, gender, geographic region, race, and education to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total U.S. population (18 years of age and older). Each respondent is assigned a single weight derived from the relationship between the actual proportion of the population based on U.S. Census data with a specific combination of the 5 variables listed above. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to multiple sources of error including but limited to sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponses, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.