There’s nothing better than giving your family member, friend, or SO a great gift during the holidays, but it can be hard when you’re on a college student budget. Being constantly influenced by content creators and targeted ads on social media, you might be wondering how much other Gen Zers are actually spending on holiday gifts, and how much they make to begin with. With the most wonderful time of the year quickly approaching, Her Campus got a closer look into the holiday spending habits of Gen Zers — and the results are super interesting.
To get to the bottom of this generation’s spending ability, power, and habits, Her Campus surveyed 1,521 Gen Zers in October 2023 — 82% of whom are currently enrolled in college — to find out where they stand on everything related to holiday spending. From their financial income to where and when they get their gifts, here’s the inside scoop on how Gen Z spends their money during the holiday season.
Holiday Budgeting Data
Despite almost half of participants (49.7%) making less than $10,000 a year, Gen Zers have somehow found a way to curate thoughtful presents for their loved ones — and it’s not a surprise why. According to Her Campus’ Holiday Spending Survey, 75.3% of respondents save money in advance for holiday shopping, with the majority of them (56.9%) saving anywhere from $100-300. Plus, 58.4% of respondents said they start to save for holiday spending one to two months before shopping, so, it makes sense why Gen Z is able to stick with the trends during the holidays.
But how do Gen Zers decide how much money to budget for holiday shopping? Naturally, it differs from person to person. One respondent from the University of Oklahoma said their budget is determined by how many “other things” there are to pay for, like rent, classes, and medical treatments. Another respondent from the University of Georgia shared their budgeting plan, saying, “First, I’ll plan what I need to buy. I’ll create a shopping list in advance, and then I’ll estimate how many dollars I’ll roughly need based on the list’s contents. I’ll set aside some extra money because I’m not sure if I can stick to my list completely, so my plan is usually quite detailed.”
So, how do Gen Zers pay for gifts? Our survey showed that the majority of respondents (76.2%) purchase gifts with a debit card. Just over half of respondents (51.2%) pay with cash, and 51.1% use a credit card. Interestingly, 27.9% of respondents said they would use a gift card they have received to pay for others’ gifts. A small percentage of participants (15.7%) said they use a “buy now, pay later” platform, like Afterpay or Klarna.
One respondent from Bridgewater State University finds “buy now, pay later” platforms to be helpful for holiday spending, saying they “make me feel like I can buy things now with money that I might not necessarily have in the moment, but will have later down the line.” Another respondent from Rutgers University said these platforms “help to balance my week-to-week spending.”
Holiday Shopping Data
As for shopping destinations and types of gifts, responses in our survey ran the gamut. When asked what type of gifts they were likely to give loved ones for the holidays, 90.5% of respondents said products from a store, while 54.4% of respondents said DIY gifts. If shopping in a store, most respondents (85%) said they would purchase fashion products like clothes and shoes, while a little under half (47.7%) said they would purchase electronics.
Unsurprisingly, a large majority (93%) of our respondents said they get their gifts online — but not necessarily on social media. Less than half (43.4%) of respondents have used social media shopping apps, such as TikTok Shop and Instagram Shopping. And 34.4% said they would trust social media shopping “very little” with their payment information.
A great deal of Gen Zers still shop IRL. Three quarters (74.4%) said they purchase gifts from big box retailers, such as Target and Walmart, and 60.8% support local shops for holiday gifts. A respondent from the Fashion Institute of Technology said, “I love the artisan markets for unique gifts, outlet malls for good deals, and I love T.J. Maxx for stocking stuffers.”
The gifting doesn’t stop there. Gen Zers also stock up on the “gifting extras” that come with the holidays, such as cards, wrapping paper, bows, and gift bags, with more than half (57.7%) of respondents saying they buy greeting cards for their loved ones. The “gifting extras” aren’t an extremely large chunk of most Gen Zers holiday budgets, though — 57.7% said they pay less than $25 on everything.
Gen Z also sets aside some cash in their budget for holiday games. A majority (73.4%) of respondents said games like Secret Santa and White Elephant are popular among their friends and family, with more than half (63.5%) spending anywhere from $15-45 on a gift for a game.
GEN Z Income Data
Gen Z tends to be fairly transparent about their financial status and spending habits, however, the ranges in their income may surprise you. The age demographics of our survey showed that 87% were between the ages of 18-24. Out of these respondents, almost half (49.7%) reported they make less than $10,000 a year. The second-highest bucket of respondents (15.5%) make $10,001-20,000 per year.
When asked how much of their income is spent on non-essential items, our respondents had various answers. The majority of our respondents (57.8%) said a bigger portion of their income goes towards non-essential items. A majority (56.1%) said they limit their own non-essential purchases in some capacity in order to buy gifts for others during the holidays.
Gen Z is a hardworking generation, and they want to make sure they can afford holiday gifts without worrying about how to pay for their Peppermint Mocha in the morning. Half of our respondents said they were likely to pick up a side gig or extra work hours to prepare for holiday shopping. The majority of them (54.7%) said they would pick up a seasonal retail job (God bless them), and 50.8% said they would sell personal belongings. Other side hustles respondents would take advantage of during the holiday season include paid social media collaborations, house/dog sitting, and working pop-up events.
Through picking up extra shifts at their job or working hard to save money for the holidays, Gen Zers show they’re hardworking and thoughtful individuals who want to participate in gift-giving during the holidays. Even if their budget is lower than others or if they’re working with a small yearly income, it’s the thought that counts the most.