SoFi Spending & Saving Study: Holiday Edition

November 03, 2023 · Reading Time: 15 minutes

Here come the holidays, and during these uncertain economic times, Americans are undeniably feeling stressed about their finances. They’re still prepared to open their wallets, however, to celebrate the season and make memories. SoFi Checking & Savings conducted its second annual SoFi Spending & Saving Study, surveying more than 3,000 consumers about their holiday buying habits.

The results offer unexpected insights into how much shoppers plan to spend this season, which money concerns loom largest, how finances are affecting shoppers’ moods, and the surprising contrasts between the different generations and genders across the board.

Surprising News About Who’s Spending This Season

According to SoFi’s Spending & Saving Study, many consumers are planning to spend generously on the holidays this year. The typical shopper will spend $1,175.70 on gifts this season.

Surprisingly, it’s the younger generation, rather than the wealthier Boomers, that plans to spend the most. Boomers currently control at least 50% of U.S. assets, totaling approximately $78 trillion, while Millennials control the purse strings on 8.5%, or about $13 trillion.

But when it comes to spreading holiday joy, SoFi’s research reveals that younger shoppers plan to spend the most on gifts, with Millennials earmarking $1,495 for holiday presents on average. The older generation, however, plan to spend the least: Boomers say they’ll spend $858 on gifts on average.

How much do you plan to spend on holiday gifts this year?
All Respondents Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages
Female Male Non-binary
Average $1,175.70 $1,092.40 $1,495 $1,079.70 $858 $988.60 $1,370.40 $717.40

Holiday spending also varies with gender. While many people may assume that women drive most of the holiday shopping, the SoFi Spending & Saving Study found that there’s a counter-intuitive trend afoot.

Men plan to spend $1,370.40 on gifts, on average, while women plan to spend $988.60 on gifts over the 2023 holidays.

The Perfect Per-gift Price

How deep will shoppers dip into their wallets for an individual gift? The average figure tilts into the triple digits this season, with consumers planning to spend $104 per gift.

Once again, it’s the younger generation who will be the most generous. Millennials expect to spend $128 on average per gift, while Boomers plan to pay $69.40 on average per present.

How much do you spend on average per gift?
All Respondents Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Average $104.10 $108.10 $128.30 $90.10 $69.40 $83.70 $125.10 $64.80

Mirroring the total planned spending, the individual budget for gifts that will be under the tree shows a gender gap, as well, with men ready to pay $125 on average per item, which is almost 50% more than the $84 on average per gift that women plan to spend.

Whether Inflation Will Slow Down Holiday Spending

When looking at these spending statistics, one might wonder whether inflation is impacting how freely consumers may swipe and dip their way through their holiday gift list. While the rate of inflation has plummeted from its recent eye-watering highs, it is still a significant factor for many Americans. As of the end of summer in 2023, prices for consumers were up 3.70% from the previous year.

SoFi’s Spending & Saving Study revealed that more than half (55%) of people say inflation is forcing them to rethink their holiday traditions this year. Specifically, 44% of people say their group has agreed on a spending limit for each gift. To save money, 15% are opting for a Secret Santa set-up to help them economize on presents, and 12% say that a potluck holiday feast is in the works to defray costs.

And call them Scrooges if you like, but 18% say they have agreed not to give gifts this year, likely to protect their personal finances, and perhaps to explore new traditions as well.

How are families adjusting traditions given economic concerns?
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Opting for potluck feast 11.8% 11.4% 12.8% 12% 9.6% 10.1% 12.9% 47.1%
Choosing to do a Secret Santa 15.4% 17% 15.7% 13.4% 13.5% 16.2% 14.7% 0%
Planning Zoom vs. in-person activities 10.2% 11.9% 13.3% 6% 5.2% 8% 12.6% 5.9%
Deciding on per-gift budgets 44.3% 45.7% 42.9% 44.3% 44.5% 46% 42.7% 35.3%
Agreeing not to give gifts 18.3% 14% 15.3% 24.4% 27.1% 19.6% 17.1% 11.8%

Where the Buys Are

As shoppers look for ways to economize, one of their favorite methods to snag a good deal is to shop the sales. Almost three out of four consumers (70%) say they’ll be shopping on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. This sentiment runs especially strong among Gen Z, with 78% being likely to shop then, according to SoFi’s research.

While these events are known for their amazing offers online, almost half of shoppers (48%) say they prefer to do a mix of brick-and-mortar and online buying. Sometimes, there’s nothing that can compare with seeing and touching items in person.

Popular ways to keep from blowing a holiday gift budget: 33% use “Buy Now, Pay Later” offers to check items off their list, and 32% say that cashback websites (such as Rakuten and Honey) help them save.

How Consumers Save When Holiday Shopping
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Shop Black Friday/Cyber Monday 70% 78% 75.4% 66% 49.7% 71.3% 68.6% 81.3%
Use cashback websites 31.9% 36.2% 40.2% 25.9% 15.9% 30.7% 32.7% 53.1%
Buy Now, Pay Later 32.5% 39.2% 38.7% 27.7% 13.7% 34.7% 30.3% 28.1%

Timing Holiday Shopping Just Right

When do consumers start spending for the December holidays? While nearly 15% snap up presents year-round, most wait to start their holiday shopping. 21% start shopping around Halloween, and 31% say Thanksgiving is when they kick off their present purchases.

How early do you start your holiday shopping?
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Memorial Day 2.7% 2.3% 3.8% 2.1% 1.9% 1.9% 3.4% 3.1%
Fourth of July 4.3% 4.1% 5.5% 4% 2.4% 2.6% 5.9% 3.1%
Labor Day 7.2% 6.6% 8.3% 6.6% 7.5% 7.3% 7.3% 3.1%
Halloween 20.6% 22.2% 22.1% 19.3% 16.5% 22.3% 18.9% 21.9%
Thanksgiving 31.2% 30.9% 32.4% 32.5% 27.8% 33% 29.5% 31.3%
Early December 19.5% 19.1% 17.6% 19.3% 24.2% 18% 21.1% 12.5%
All year 14.5% 14.7% 10.3% 16.1% 19.7% 14.9% 13.9% 25%

The Big Question of How to Budget for the Holidays

Given consumers’ plans to spend what is often a four-figure chunk of change on holiday gifts, the SoFi Spending & Saving Study also delved into how people plan to manage this expense.

When asked how their spending will compare vs. the previous year, most respondents (37%) felt they would spend the same amount as last year, 32% say they’ll spend less, and 31% expect to spend more.

Almost two out of three people (64%) save in advance for the holidays, with 80% of those sticking to a budget.

Many people manage to buy the gifts on their lists by cutting out spending in other areas. The most popular ways to save money this way includes: not shopping for oneself (24%) and dining out less (23%). However, 19% don’t plan to cut anything out as they save for their holiday spending.

When Holiday Shopping Triggers Debt

But advance savings notwithstanding, plunking down more than $1,000 for holiday gifts can lead to the bane of many people’s personal finances: high-interest credit card debt. And that high-interest debt is indeed at a very lofty level, with new offers averaging a rate of 22.77%.

The SoFi Spending & Saving research found that close to a third of adults (31%) have gone into debt in the past to finance their holiday shopping. The relatively free-spending Millennials were most likely to go into debt (38%) when snapping up presents.

Have you ever gone into debt to finance your holiday gift giving?
All Respondents Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Yes 31.4% 28.2% 37.8% 31.3% 25.3% 32.2% 30.9% 18.8%
No 68.6% 71.8% 62.2% 68.7% 74.7% 67.8% 69.1% 81.3%

Another finding: As people think about the gift shopping they are about to do this year, 25% say they expect to go into debt as they purchase presents and spread good cheer this season. The younger generation anticipates this most strongly, with 33% of Millennials believing they’ll be stuck with debt after they check off their holiday shopping lists.

Holiday Spending Can Equal Major Stress

Though consumers are committed to digging deep into their pockets to make the holiday season one to remember, there’s no dodging the fact that the costs of gifts, travel, entertainment, and more can cause substantial stress for Americans. Almost half (49%) of adults in America say they feel stressed or nervous about their finances as the holiday season kicks off.

In fact, when looking at things that most commonly trigger stress over the winter season, the biggest worry is not orchestrating travel and entertaining, changing up routines, or even avoiding politics around the dinner table. The SoFi Spending & Saving Study revealed that the #1 stressor at holiday time is money.

Among the Gen X generation, those typically caring for both kids and parents, 39% say finances are their top stressor ahead of the holidays, the highest number among the generations surveyed.

What’s more, there’s a gender difference here, too, with women (40%) feeling more stressed than men (28%) about finances, despite the fact that men are planning to spend more. This follows the typical pattern in the U.S. of females experiencing more stress than males.

Landing in the number-two slot for holiday season stress is shopping, with 22% of survey respondents saying it’s weighing upon them.

What is your biggest stress ahead of the holidays?
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Finances 33.7% 31.4% 34.7% 39.2% 28.1% 39.9% 27.9% 15.6%
Shopping (i.e. making time to shop for gifts) 22.3% 23.4% 21.1% 22.6% 22.1% 23.3% 21.4% 15.6%
Family gatherings 15.8% 14.8% 16.1% 15.1% 18.4% 14.1% 17.3% 34.4%
Change in routine 12.9% 12.8% 10.9% 12.0% 18.6% 9.7% 16.1% 15.6%
Holiday events/parties 8.8% 9.8% 9.7% 6.6% 8.6% 8.6% 9.1% 6.3%
Travel 6.4% 7.9% 7.4% 4.5% 4.1% 4.5% 8.2% 12.5%

The High Price of Presents Can Cause Stress to Spiral

More specifically, 45% of SoFi survey respondents are feeling anxiety about the cost of gift giving. Almost 53% of Millennials are worried about how much they’re expected to spend on gifts this year vs. 26% of Boomers — and 50% of women are stressed about this vs. 40% of men.

Are you stressed about how much you’re expected to spend on holiday gifts this year?
All Respondents Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Yes 45.1% 49.2% 52.9% 42.1% 25.9% 50.1% 40% 50%
No 54.9% 50.8% 47.1% 57.9% 74.1% 49.9% 60% 50%

However, despite these concerns, the majority of consumers are still dedicated to gift-giving: nearly 70% would rather buy everyone on their list a gift than take a trip just for themselves this holiday season.

Overspending Because…Everyone Else Is

Interestingly, there’s an interplay between how much people expect to spend on shopping and how much they are doling out to keep up with the holiday Joneses. The SoFi survey uncovered the fact that more than four in 10 (41%) say they overspend on gifts in order to match what others spend on them.

Millennials, at 53%, feel the most pressure to give as lavishly as they get; 49% of Gen Z feel that same stress. And, again, women outpace men in this measure of stress, with 43% of females vs. 38% of males saying they feel driven to keep up with the way others splash out on gifts.

Wondering about the dollar amount of spending this kind of peer pressure can trigger? The SoFi data shows that, on average, people spend $823 extra on presents to keep up with what others will spend on them. Younger shoppers feel this most acutely, with Millennials expecting to shell out an additional $1,106.80 to keep up appearances. And there’s a significant gender split here, too: Men expect to spend $987 extra vs. women’s $666 to make sure they don’t look like they’re skimping as presents are opened.

How much do you go over budget, on average, to match what others are spending on you?
All Respondents Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Average $823.10 $878.10 $1,106.80 $689 $355.50 $666 $987.70 $380.30

Managing That Other Major Holiday Expense: Travel

Gift giving can definitely stretch a holiday budget to the max, but so can travel. SoFi’s Spending & Saving Study found that more than a third of consumers will hit the roads (or skies) this season: 36% expect to travel.

Interestingly, 42% of men say they’ll travel vs. just 31% of women, possibly indicating that many women are hosting instead of flying during the holidays. And as you might guess, it’s the younger consumers who are most likely to hit the road, with 47% of Gen Z and 42% of Millennials saying they’ll be on the move.

Getting loved ones to celebrate the holidays together is no simple financial feat. People intend to spend $2,574 on average to travel, with Millennials expecting to average $2,996 — almost $3K to get where they want to be this season. Men are looking at booking for the higher price tag of $3,110 vs. $2,007 for women, nearly 50% more.

How much do you plan to spend on holiday travel this year?
All Respondents Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Average $2,574.40 $2,535.40 $2,996.90 $2,633.20 $1,223.60 $2,007 $3,110 $814.50

With such considerable spending in the works, it’s reasonable to wonder how consumers afford getting from point A to point B. More than one in five (22%) admit to going into debt to finance their holiday travel. Half of survey respondents, or 50%, say traveling home is their gift for the holidays. Gen Z (56%) and Millennials (54%) are especially likely to think their travel home is their present to their parents and other family members.

But not everyone is going to grandma’s house this season. Yes, most people (40%) are hopping on planes, trains, and automobiles to see family. Women, at 44%, are more likely to do so than men, at 36%.

However, 30% are using the holidays as an excuse for some fun leisure travel. Gen Z, at 33%, is most likely to be in motion this way, despite being the group you think would be most likely to head home for the holidays. In addition, almost a third of respondents (30%) say they’ll be combining a family visit with fun travel over the winter holidays.

When to Start Hunting for Holiday Travel Deals

Approximately half of people don’t start searching for travel deals early. They wait until October or even November, when good buys may be scarce. Then it can take some time to find a bargain: 42% spend one to two hours searching for holiday travel deals, and 26% invest two to four hours.

The research also found that men may be the most dedicated to deals, here, with 30% of them spending two to four hours searching for a travel deal vs. 21% of women.

America’s Current Money Mood

Beyond looking at holiday budgeting, SoFi’s Spending & Saving Study also captured some larger learnings about how Americans are feeling about their finances as the season begins.

More than half, or 58%, don’t feel comfortable with the amount they have in savings right now. Women are especially anxious, with 66% feeling the stress vs. 49% of men. Gen X is the most anxious generation by far when it comes to this topic: only 34% feel comfortable with their savings.

Here’s one potential cause of that money stress: One-third of adults have less than $500 in savings right now, and only 18% have between $500 — $2,000.

Do you feel comfortable with the amount you have in savings?
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
No 57.5% 54.5% 55.0% 65.7% 56.1% 66.0% 48.7% 75.0%
Yes 42.5% 45.5% 45.0% 34.3% 43.9% 34.0% 51.3% 25.0%

Money stress also can’t be easily brushed off: 71% feel their finances impact their mental health. Women are about twice as likely as men to feel this way: 75% of women say money influences their emotional outlook vs. 66% of men. At 51%, Boomers are actually the least likely to feel impacted emotionally by their finances, though that percentage is hardly low.

Do you feel your finances impact your mental health?
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Yes 71.1% 74.3% 76.5% 73.1% 50.8% 75.4% 66.3% 96.9%
No 28.9% 25.7% 23.5% 26.9% 49.2% 24.6% 33.7% 3.1%

Avoiding Money Talk to Reduce Stress

How deep does this cash anxiety run? The SoFi survey found that 45% avoid checking their bank balance out of stress over money. This behavior runs highest among Gen Z (55%) and Millennials (52%), and women experience this at a rate of 51% vs. 40% among men.

Do you ever avoid checking your bank balance due to stress over money?
Total Ages 18 – 26 Ages 27 – 42 Ages 43 – 58 Ages 59 – 77 Female Male Non-binary
Yes 45.3% 54.5% 52.2% 40.9 20.1% 50.7% 39.5% 68.8%
No 54.7% 45.5% 47.8% 59.1% 79.9% 49.3% 60.5% 31.3%

What’s more, the majority of respondents would rather avoid money talk. Almost 53% said they would prefer to just spend as they usually do and figure out finances later, vs. 47% who want to speak to their family about spending expectations over the holiday. This is also true of 55% of men compared to 51% of women. It seems as if continuing with the season’s traditions and dealing with the financial impact later is the preferred route.

When conversations about money do arise, people say they would rather share the total amount of money they spend on presents than who they spent the most money on. This could be out of a desire to protect others’ feelings, but it could also be a way of avoiding the details of how they’re spending their holiday money.

As the holiday season unfolds, people’s big-picture financial concerns right now are keeping up with bills at 34%, paying down debt at 21%, and not having enough money for things they enjoy (16%).

Despite these worries, SoFi’s Spending & Saving Study indicates Americans are still ready to spend a significant amount of cash to make the season festive and spoil their loved ones. It appears many consumers are ready to put money towards enjoyment and connection during what’s been a challenging financial year for many.


Research findings are based on an online survey conducted by SoFi Checking and Savings in the U.S. between September 27 –September 30, 2023. For this survey, 3,250 consumers were asked about their spending habits, mental health and perspective on personal finances as it pertains to the Holidays . This survey targeted general population consumers between 18 – 77 years of age.

About SoFi

SoFi (NASDAQ: SOFI) is a member-centric, one-stop shop for digital financial services on a mission to help people achieve financial independence to realize their ambitions. The company’s full suite of financial products and services helps its more than 6.2 million SoFi members borrow, save, spend, invest, and protect their money better by giving them fast access to the tools they need to get their money right, all in one app. SoFi also equips members with the resources they need to get ahead – like career advisors, Credentialed Financial Planners (CFP®), exclusive experiences and events, and a thriving community – on their path to financial independence.

SoFi innovates across three business segments: Lending, Financial Services – which includes SoFi Checking and Savings, SoFi Invest, SoFi Credit Card, SoFi Protect, and SoFi Insights – and Technology Platform, which offers the only end-to-end vertically integrated financial technology stack. SoFi Bank, N.A., an affiliate of SoFi, is a nationally chartered bank, regulated by the OCC and FDIC and SoFi is a bank holding company regulated by the Federal Reserve. The company is also the naming rights partner of SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles.

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