Personal Finance

How to get out from under that gift-giving pressure this holiday season

Key Points
  • Consumer confidence is high and unemployment is low, yet about 45 percent of consumers still say they feel pressured to give more than they should this holiday season.
  • The two groups most susceptible to holiday gift-giving stress: women and parents, according to a new survey from
  • To keep those pressures in check, be sure to come up with a realistic budget, be careful of what you promise your children and resist your own fear of missing out.

Consumer confidence recently rose to an 18-year high. And unemployment has reached its lowest point since 1969.

That means that — recent stock market volatility aside — consumers are expected to spend more this holiday season.

Americans will spend a total of $1 trillion on retail and online shopping, according to research provider eMarketer.

Individuals anticipate they will spend an average of about $1,000 this year, according to the National Retail Federation. Gifts are expected to comprise $637 of that total.

A shopper holds a number of gift bags along Fifth Ave. 
Getty Images

For many consumers that adds up to one thing: pressure.

That's according to a new survey from, which found that 45 percent of Americans feel compelled to go beyond their comfort zones when buying holiday gifts.

Women are more likely to feel the gift-giving stress, according to the survey, with 51 percent of women feeling pressured to overspend versus just 40 percent of men.

Parents also reported feeling more gift-giving stress, with 54 percent feeling the need to keep up with the Joneses versus 42 percent of non-parents.

Millennials and Gen Xers also reported that they were more stressed about gift giving than older generations.

The results show that not everyone is in a good place financially, despite what broader economic indicators might say, according to Adrian Garcia, data analyst at

"Not everyone is feeling the wage growth and the positivity of the economy," Garcia said. "Not everyone is feeling great."

There are two things that most people do not want to resort to — not giving gifts at all or buying second-hand items, according to the survey.

Yet gift givers may want to rethink that policy on used goods, according to Garcia. "Just because it comes from a place that is 'used' or second-hand doesn't mean it's not good quality, doesn't mean the person won't like it," Garcia said.

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There are some practical money tips you can use to approach the holiday season wisely, according to Douglas Boneparth, certified financial planner and president of Bone Fide Wealth.

Take stock of your budget

Now is a great time to take a step back and look at your spending for the year, Boneparth said.

Keep in mind that you do not want to let the short-term joy of the holidays interfere with your long-term budget goals, he said.

Consider going to cash

If you want to keep to a certain spending limit, going to cash can be one way to make sure you do that.

"Once the cash is gone, that's that," Boneparth said.

Break your spending into categories

Identify your spending priorities — such as charitable giving and gifts to family and friends — and how much you want to spend on each.

Be sure to include everything, even that extra martini at a bar, Boneparth said.

Be mindful of what you promise your children

Certain toys inevitably sell out during the holiday season.

But if you promise your children that gift, that could end up costing you even more.

"You might end up spending the same amount of money on other gifts, only to end up getting that thing after the holidays," Boneparth said. "Now you've spent twice as much."

How to outsmart the holiday shopping season
How to outsmart the holiday shopping season

Resist FOMO

Fear of missing out is a powerful motivator for many consumers, particularly during the holidays.

Remind yourself of your family's priorities and what you can afford.

"Think about experiences that you can do together that will create lasting holiday memories, not just another device that's going to use up your batteries," Boneparth said.'s online survey was conducted in October and included 1,000 adults ages 18 and up.