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Analysis: A Look at US Holiday Spending

Ah, a new year. The holidays are over and now it’s time to assess the damage… to your bank account. Surprisingly, it looks like consumer confidence took a huge leap from last year. American Research Group reported that consumer’s expected to spend $854 on holiday gifts, which is over $200 more than last year, and is in line with pre-recession era holiday spending (2006 spending was $907).

We wanted to dig a little deeper, so we created a map of the U.S. that highlights the general projected holiday spending budgets of 25 major metropolitan areas.

The Holiday Spending Heat Map (cool name, huh?) displays the percentage of net savings and net income spent on holiday gifts in 25 major metropolitan areas. We calculate net savings by adding national average checkings and savings balances and subtracting median revolving annual debt for each metropolitan area. We calculate net income by subtracting median household income data and median revolving annual debt.

One trend we noticed right away was a pretty significant drop in average checkings and savings account [3] balances from last year. Mind you, checkings and savings data is per state, the median income figures are per household, and the holiday spending figure ($854) is, we assume, estimated per person. So this is merely a general glimpse into how we spend our money during the holidays, not an exact scientific study.

Roll over the cities to see how they performed.

The results fall in line with expectations. You can see a trend with the coastal cities generally performing well in both net savings and net income due to their generally higher median incomes and average checkings and savings balances — so a $845 holiday budget leaves a smaller dent. What is surprising is to see all 3 Texas cities performing well in net income (due to generally decent median income across all 3 cities) but having completely abysmal net savings percentages due to their surprisingly low checkings and savings balances.

Conversely, Miami and Tampa rank 24th and 25th, respectively, in median household income, yet Florida as a whole ranks fairly well in net savings — guess Floridians knows how to stretch their dollars better.

Washington D.C. is impressive on both fronts thanks to an extremely high median income and checkings/savings balances.

Overall I think the map paints an interesting picture of the country and how we approach holiday spending in relation to our savings and income.

I ran my own numbers and spent roughly 10% of my net savings (checkings + savings balances minus my debt) on holiday gifts, which is a little higher than my area’s average (9.68% for Miami/South Florida). If I use net income numbers, I spent around 1.4% of my annual income, which is a good bit lower than Miami’s average (1.901%).

How did your area do? And how do you personal numbers compare to your area’s average?

Holiday spending data provided by American Research Group.
Annual Consumer Savings and Checkings Account Averages provided by PitneyBowes.
Median Household income and debt data provided by Bargaineering.com