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The Holidays Are Here: How Are Americans Spending Their Money?

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When it comes to gift shopping, vacation planning, meal prepping, and everything else you need to do to make the holidays happen, holiday shopping might feel like an overwhelming wave you see coming every year and yet never manage to get on top of. 

If that’s how you feel, take a deep breath: You are not alone. Marcus asked over 1,500 Americans about their holiday spending plans, including who likes to shop Black Friday deals, who’s using “buy now pay later” options to finance their gifts, holiday travel plans, and more. So read on to be more prepared for this holiday spending season than ever before!

Do you plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

These days, scoring holiday deals comes in all sorts of flavors. You can do your Black Friday shopping online, shop in person for middle-of-the-night deals, or maybe you choose to avoid that experience all together. 

According to our survey, 32% of Americans plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. If we look at a regional breakdown, most of those who plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday are concentrated in the Northeast, though deal-hunters seem to be pretty evenly distributed across the country:

  • 35% of Americans in the Northeast plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday
  • 32% in the Midwest
  • 32% in the West
  • 30% in the South

What are these savvy-savers shopping for? Of those 491 Americans who plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, 65% will look to buy electronics, 63% will look to buy clothing, and 40% will look to buy toys. 

In addition to electronics, clothes, and toys, of the 491 survey respondents who plan to shop Black Friday or Cyber Monday, 28% will look to buy beauty products and 28% will look to buy jewelry.

Do you plan to use a buy now, pay later option for any of your holiday spending?

“Buy now, pay later” options for financing purchases have gone up in popularity recently. According to our survey, 17% of respondents plan to use a BNPL option for their holiday spending. At the helm of this popularity seems to be Gen Z and Millennials who, according to our survey, are using a “buy now pay later” option the most, at 28% and 27% respectively. They’re followed by Gen X at 18% and Boomers at 7%.

If you’re not one of these folks, you might be wondering what “Buy now pay later” (or BNPL as the cool kids call it) even means. Simply put, BNPL options allow customers to make a purchase and pay it off in installments. The BNPL program will cover the full cost of the item(s) when you’re checking out, and then you’ll pay for it over time. As long as you make your payments on time, you often won’t be charged any interest or fees.

So if you haven’t considered using a BNPL option, perhaps the holiday season could be a be time to try it out.

What are your travel plans this holiday season?

Traveling during the holidays may need to be considered an Olympic event these days. From the planning, to the financing, to navigating TSA, it’s an understatement to say holiday travel is stressful. It’s no wonder then that according to our survey, only 21% of Americans plan to travel this holiday season (with 51% specifically reporting they do not plan to travel).

And when it comes to costs of holiday travel, of the 331 respondents who plan to travel, 89% reported they plan to spend the same amount or more on holiday travel this year compared to 2020 (50% plan to spend more and 39% anticipate spending the same amount).

We were curious of the folks traveling this holiday season, what they were traveling for (since there’s only so many ugly holiday sweater parties and white elephant gift exchanges a person can attend). So we asked those same 331 respondents planning to travel this holiday season if they were traveling for vacation or to attend a holiday gathering: 61% plan to travel for vacation and 52% plan to travel for a holiday gathering (respondents could choose more than one option).

If we take a look at how folks are traveling this season, it’s certainly a case of planes, trains, and automobiles! Hitting the road takes the lead, with 63% of those 331 respondents choosing car travel. Next up is 40% who plan to travel by plane, followed by 10% who plan to travel by bus, and closing it out are the 9% who plan to travel by train.

Additional survey insights

Methodology: The Holiday Spending Survey was conducted by Marcus by Goldman Sachs in September 2021 among 1,548 Americans.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for individualized professional advice. Articles on this site were commissioned and approved by Marcus by Goldman Sachs®, but may not reflect the institutional opinions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., Goldman Sachs Bank USA or any of their affiliates, subsidiaries or divisions.