US Cities Spending the Most (and Least) for 2016 Holiday Season

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As much as the annual holiday season lifts spirits for most Americans, the holidays also tend to ratchet up spending and borrowing. The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecast 2016 holiday sales to rise to $655.8 billion, an increase of 3.6% from last year’s total of $632.8 billion. Total spending, which includes online sales, is forecast to dip from a record $952.6 billion in 2015 to $935.6 billion this year, a drop of about 1.8%.

Average spending per person, according to the NRF, is expected to dip slightly from $952.6 in 2015 to $935.58 per person in 2016, a drop of 1.8%.

Analysts at consumer research website WalletHub reviewed a total of five separate metrics for 570 U.S. cities in order to determine the expected spending level in each. This naturally leads to a ranking of the cities by level of spending.

The following list includes 10 U.S. cities where average holiday budgets were calculated to be the highest:

  1. Palo Alto, California: $2,821
  2. League City, Texas: $2,362
  3. Sugar Land, Texas: $2,334
  4. Sunnyvale, California: $2,203
  5. Pearland, Texas: $2,080
  6. Missouri City, Texas: $1,985
  7. Cary, North Carolina: $1,948
  8. Mountain View, California: $1,914
  9. Shawnee, Kansas: $1,843
  10. Troy, Michigan: $1,809

The 10 cities with the lowest projected average holiday spending were:

  1. Brockton, Massachusetts: $71
  2. Springfield, Massachusetts: $72
  3. Rochester, New York: $90
  4. Missoula, Montana: $92
  5. Lynn, Massachusetts: $116
  6. Cincinnati, Ohio: $122
  7. Los Angeles, California: $150
  8. Miami Gardens, Florida: $150
  9. Merced, California: $154
  10. Albany, New York: $170

WalletHub also noted that American consumers are on track to close the books on 2016 in December with an added debt load of $80 billion for the year.

WalletHub’s complete list  is available at the website, along with an offer to calculate a custom holiday budget for WalletHub members.

Methodology
In order to determine the cities with the biggest holiday budgets, WalletHub’s analysts compared 570 cities across five key metrics: 1) Income, 2) Age, 3) Debt-to-Income Ratio, 4) Monthly Income-to-Monthly Expenses Ratio and 5) Savings-to-Monthly Expenses Ratio. Our calculation is based on WalletHub’s proprietary algorithm, which takes into account the aforementioned five factors to determine the holiday budget for a particular city.

At a high level, our algorithm considers someone with 1) enough emergency savings to cover at least six months of expenses and 2) a debt-to-income ratio smaller than 22 percent for a renter and 43 percent for a homeowner as being in a comfortable position to engage in holiday spending. Depending on a city’s specific characteristics, the algorithm adjusts upward or downward to create a custom estimate.