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Liz Looks at: Holiday Spending Trends

We’re All Millennials

Now that the holiday season is behind us (sniff, sniff), I wanted to do a deeper dive into some of the spending trends among SoFi members to see if there were any notable nuggets or perhaps early indicators of shifts in spending. SoFi Relay is a financial insights offering on the SoFi platform that connects all of a user’s accounts in one dashboard, and is the source of the data in this article.

The reason I say “we’re all millennials” is because the broadly held opinion is that millennials prefer to spend money on experiences over stuff. When we look at the changes in how SoFi Members spent their money in November and December of 2021, the experience portion won the race.

Revenge of the Stir Crazy

If we are going to make year-over-year comparisons between 2020 and 2021, we have to remember that the holiday season of 2020 was still in some level of shutdown for major parts of the country due to a winter resurgence in Covid cases. The lower base makes absolute levels of y/y spending seem exaggerated, so instead I’m looking at how the components of people’s spending changed among four categories: dining, shopping, entertainment, and groceries. The holiday shopping season corresponding to the chart below is defined as Nov. 1 – Dec. 25 each year.

The “experiences” categories of dining and entertainment saw increases as a percent of total spending, while the “stuff” categories of shopping and groceries saw decreases. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given there was more available for consumers to do in 2021, but the interesting part is that they still went out and did things despite Delta and Omicron ripping through the country.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Trend

These movements may look small, but many trends start small. The changes in spending patterns is a very encouraging sign for various reasons:

•   Consumers are more resilient – demand for services remained robust even in the face of a surge in new cases.

•   Less fuel for goods inflation – as people shift their spending back to services, this could be another data point supporting the idea that the worst of the supply shortage is behind us.

•   We’re nearing pre-pandemic levels of services spending, even when adjusted for inflation. For November 2021, Personal Consumption Expenditure on Services was $8.48 trillion, very close to the February 2020 level of $8.55 trillion.

Services are a major part of the U.S. economy both in terms of GDP and employment. They were also the portion of our economy hit hardest during the pandemic, and the slowest to recover in the aftermath. We aren’t quite out of the woods yet, but this data tells me we’re getting delightfully close.


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Communication of SoFi Wealth LLC an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. Information about SoFi Wealth’s advisory operations, services, and fees is set forth in SoFi Wealth’s current Form ADV Part 2 (Brochure), a copy of which is available upon request and at Liz Young Thomas is a Registered Representative of SoFi Securities and Investment Advisor Representative of SoFi Wealth. Her ADV 2B is available at

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Liz Young Thomas ABOUT Liz Young Thomas Liz Young Thomas is SoFi's Head of Investment Strategy, responsible for building out the function and providing economic and market insights. Prior to joining SoFi, Liz was the Director of Market Strategy at BNY Mellon Investment Management where she formulated and delivered views on macroeconomic themes and their effects on capital markets. Earlier in her career, she was a due diligence analyst at Robert W. Baird and a research analyst at BMO Global Asset Management. Liz is passionate about educating others on markets and investing in order to help people feel empowered to take a more active role in their financial futures.

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