Special Report

What Americans Spent on Christmas the Year You Were Born

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The vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas with lights, carols, fir trees and wreaths, as well as, of course, by buying and exchanging gifts. For most people, the celebration means, above all, spending more money. With sales across virtually all retail areas increasing dramatically at the end of the year, the Christmas season is a reliable annual economic boost for many U.S. businesses.

Using a model based on the National Retail Federation holiday spending methodology, 24/7 Wall St. determined how much a person spent on average during the season — in November and December — of each year since 1940. Back then, Americans spent just over $27 billion during the Christmas season, or about $205 per person on average.

Since then, the U.S. population has more than doubled, and spending during the holidays has increased many times over. At a total of $631.7 billion, 2015 holiday spending is the highest on record. The average spending per person over November and December 2015 was almost $2,000, also the highest of any year for which data are available.

Click here to see what American’s spent on Christmas the year you were born.

Gifts, mostly for Christmas, will continue to account for a good chunk of the holiday spending. According to a Gallup poll conducted from November 9-13, 2016 the average American plans to spend approximately $750 on just gifts this holiday season.

For over a decade, U.S. jewelry stores have relied on the holiday season for between 25% and 30% of their annual revenue. Last year, 27.4% of jewelry sales occurred in November and December, the highest percentage of all industries. For reference, with no seasonality whatsoever, the average two months of sales would amount to 16.7% of annual revenue. For the jewelry industry specifically, an average two-month period outside the holiday season almost never brings in more than 15% of the year’s revenue.

To determine Christmas spending in each year, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed consumer spending in November and December published by the U.S. Census Bureau each year from 1992 through 2015. Using a model based on the National Retail Federation holiday spending methodology, we estimated spending levels in each year since 1940. In line with figures published by the NRF, average spending over November and December includes all purchases except spending on restaurants, cars, and gas. Personal income per capita, adjusted for inflation, in each year came from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Here is what Americans spent on Christmas each year since 1940.

wmcnationaltree - 1940 Christmas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1940
> Holiday spending per capita: $205.26
> Personal income per capita: $7,621.53
> Total holiday spending: $27.12 billion
> Population: 132,122,446

wmcmerchantseaman-1941
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1941
> Holiday spending per capita: $212.94
> Personal income per capita: $8,762.62
> Total holiday spending: $28.41 billion
> Population: 133,402,471

wmcgrace 1942
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1942
> Holiday spending per capita: $220.94
> Personal income per capita: $9,975.54
> Total holiday spending: $29.80 billion
> Population: 134,859,553

christmas_ornament_1943
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1943
> Holiday spending per capita: $228.26
> Personal income per capita: $11,107.73
> Total holiday spending: $31.21 billion
> Population: 136,739,353

flickrsanta-1944
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/

1944
> Holiday spending per capita: $234.80
> Personal income per capita: $11,275.21
> Total holiday spending: $32.50 billion
> Population: 138,397,345

wmcstreet-1945
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1945
> Holiday spending per capita: $240.95
> Personal income per capita: $11,108.39
> Total holiday spending: $33.72 billion
> Population: 139,928,165

wmcsanta-1946
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1946
> Holiday spending per capita: $247.18
> Personal income per capita: $10,680.97
> Total holiday spending: $34.95 billion
> Population: 141,388,566

wmcparadesanta-1947
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1947
> Holiday spending per capita: $251.44
> Personal income per capita: $10,133.64
> Total holiday spending: $36.24 billion
> Population: 144,126,071

wmcunderwatertree-1948
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1948
> Holiday spending per capita: $256.52
> Personal income per capita: $10,352.30
> Total holiday spending: $37.61 billion
> Population: 146,631,302

state_street_chicago_christmas_1949
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1949
> Holiday spending per capita: $259.82
> Personal income per capita: $10,134.31
> Total holiday spending: $38.76 billion
> Population: 149,188,130

wmcneworleans1950s-1958
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1950
> Holiday spending per capita: $263.99
> Personal income per capita: $10,866.39
> Total holiday spending: $40.20 billion
> Population: 152,271,417

wmcrichardwebb-1951
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1951
> Holiday spending per capita: $269.52
> Personal income per capita: $11,311.41
> Total holiday spending: $41.74 billion
> Population: 154,877,889

wmcpotatohead-1952
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1952
> Holiday spending per capita: $273.92
> Personal income per capita: $11,645.38
> Total holiday spending: $43.16 billion
> Population: 157,552,740

wmcseattle-1953
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1953
> Holiday spending per capita: $278.23
> Personal income per capita: $11,979.42
> Total holiday spending: $44.57 billion
> Population: 160,184,192

wmcneworleans-1954
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1954
> Holiday spending per capita: $281.00
> Personal income per capita: $11,788.06
> Total holiday spending: $45.81 billion
> Population: 163,025,854

wmcseattleparty2-1955
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1955
> Holiday spending per capita: $285.10
> Personal income per capita: $12,374.17
> Total holiday spending: $47.31 billion
> Population: 165,931,202

christmas-catalog-1956
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wishbook/

1956
> Holiday spending per capita: $289.17
> Personal income per capita: $12,791.28
> Total holiday spending: $48.84 billion
> Population: 168,903,031

wmcseattleparty-1957
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/seattlemunicipalarchives/

1957
> Holiday spending per capita: $292.71
> Personal income per capita: $12,895.04
> Total holiday spending: $50.34 billion
> Population: 171,984,130

red_skelton_allen_jenkins_cop_and_the_anthem_1958
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1958
> Holiday spending per capita: $295.78
> Personal income per capita: $12,759.66
> Total holiday spending: $51.73 billion
> Population: 174,881,904

Barbie 1959
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1959
> Holiday spending per capita: $299.74
> Personal income per capita: $13,134.86
> Total holiday spending: $53.30 billion
> Population: 177,829,628

flickrsadsanta-1960
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usmcarchives/

1960
> Holiday spending per capita: $303.48
> Personal income per capita: $13,327.84
> Total holiday spending: $54.83 billion
> Population: 180,671,158

wmcship-1961
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1961
> Holiday spending per capita: $306.81
> Personal income per capita: $13,543.76
> Total holiday spending: $56.36 billion
> Population: 183,691,481

wmckennedy-1962
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1962
> Holiday spending per capita: $311.18
> Personal income per capita: $14,018.47
> Total holiday spending: $58.05 billion
> Population: 186,537,737

wmcblueroom-1963
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1963
> Holiday spending per capita: $315.40
> Personal income per capita: $14,349.11
> Total holiday spending: $59.69 billion
> Population: 189,241,798

wmcrudolph-1964
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1964
> Holiday spending per capita: $320.68
> Personal income per capita: $14,954.26
> Total holiday spending: $61.53 billion
> Population: 191,888,791

christmas-dinner-1965
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24736216@N07/

1965
> Holiday spending per capita: $326.91
> Personal income per capita: $15,725.50
> Total holiday spending: $63.52 billion
> Population: 194,302,963

santa-christmas-1966
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rich701/

1966
> Holiday spending per capita: $334.04
> Personal income per capita: $16,482.90
> Total holiday spending: $65.66 billion
> Population: 196,560,338

christmas-toys-1967
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wishbook/

1967
> Holiday spending per capita: $340.95
> Personal income per capita: $17,060.01
> Total holiday spending: $67.75 billion
> Population: 198,712,056

dayton_christmas_trolley_bus_in_1968
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1968
> Holiday spending per capita: $349.88
> Personal income per capita: $17,844.56
> Total holiday spending: $70.22 billion
> Population: 200,706,052

pat_nixon_greets_white_house_visitors_1969
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1969
> Holiday spending per capita: $359.30
> Personal income per capita: $18,515.65
> Total holiday spending: $72.82 billion
> Population: 202,676,946

christmas-1970
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/flissphil/

1970
> Holiday spending per capita: $367.57
> Personal income per capita: $18,886.84
> Total holiday spending: $75.37 billion
> Population: 205,052,174

wmchomechristmas-1971
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1971
> Holiday spending per capita: $375.72
> Personal income per capita: $19,285.78
> Total holiday spending: $78.02 billion
> Population: 207,660,677

Christmas 1972
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/

1972
> Holiday spending per capita: $386.74
> Personal income per capita: $20,260.49
> Total holiday spending: $81.18 billion
> Population: 209,896,021

christmas-1973
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/91591049@N00/

1973
> Holiday spending per capita: $400.37
> Personal income per capita: $21,178.63
> Total holiday spending: $84.84 billion
> Population: 211,908,788

wmcbingcrosby-1974
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1974
> Holiday spending per capita: $413.86
> Personal income per capita: $20,857.00
> Total holiday spending: $88.50 billion
> Population: 213,853,928

christmas-dinner-1975
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbh/

1975
> Holiday spending per capita: $427.73
> Personal income per capita: $20,854.84
> Total holiday spending: $92.38 billion
> Population: 215,973,199

christmas-1976
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sillysocks/

1976
> Holiday spending per capita: $443.13
> Personal income per capita: $21,468.61
> Total holiday spending: $96.62 billion
> Population: 218,035,164

christmas-1977
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jill_carlson/

1977
> Holiday spending per capita: $460.63
> Personal income per capita: $22,037.29
> Total holiday spending: $101.45 billion
> Population: 220,239,425

hungry-hungry-hippos-christmas-1978
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1978
> Holiday spending per capita: $482.59
> Personal income per capita: $22,903.66
> Total holiday spending: $107.42 billion
> Population: 222,584,545

Santa clause figurine on retro style couch. Christmas 1979
Source: Thinkstock

1979
> Holiday spending per capita: $505.69
> Personal income per capita: $23,251.67
> Total holiday spending: $113.81 billion
> Population: 225,055,487

christmas-1980
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sillysocks/

1980
> Holiday spending per capita: $531.62
> Personal income per capita: $23,191.50
> Total holiday spending: $120.80 billion
> Population: 227,224,681

wmcrockefeller-1981
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1981
> Holiday spending per capita: $561.40
> Personal income per capita: $23,619.05
> Total holiday spending: $128.82 billion
> Population: 229,465,714

wmcbatonrouge-1982
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1982
> Holiday spending per capita: $582.27
> Personal income per capita: $23,733.42
> Total holiday spending: $134.89 billion
> Population: 231,664,458

christmas-1983
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sillysocks/

1983
> Holiday spending per capita: $604.22
> Personal income per capita: $24,094.68
> Total holiday spending: $141.26 billion
> Population: 233,791,994

christmas-1984
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/

1984
> Holiday spending per capita: $638.35
> Personal income per capita: $25,429.90
> Total holiday spending: $150.54 billion
> Population: 235,824,902

Nancy Regan 1985 Christmas
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1985
> Holiday spending per capita: $665.04
> Personal income per capita: $26,083.38
> Total holiday spending: $158.23 billion
> Population: 237,923,795

wmcreagantree-1986
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1986
> Holiday spending per capita: $689.13
> Personal income per capita: $26,802.49
> Total holiday spending: $165.48 billion
> Population: 240,132,887

christmas-1987
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1987
> Holiday spending per capita: $715.59
> Personal income per capita: $27,371.67
> Total holiday spending: $173.38 billion
> Population: 242,288,918

Christmas 1988
Source: Thinkstock

1988
> Holiday spending per capita: $751.04
> Personal income per capita: $28,221.60
> Total holiday spending: $183.63 billion
> Population: 244,498,982

gameboy-1989
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1989
> Holiday spending per capita: $788.71
> Personal income per capita: $28,956.46
> Total holiday spending: $194.67 billion
> Population: 246,819,230

christmas-1990
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wishbook/

1990
> Holiday spending per capita: $819.80
> Personal income per capita: $29,163.31
> Total holiday spending: $204.51 billion
> Population: 249,464,396

christmas-1991
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/26531284@N02/

1991
> Holiday spending per capita: $838.83
> Personal income per capita: $28,886.92
> Total holiday spending: $211.51 billion
> Population: 252,153,092

christmas_in_dublin_ca 1992
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1992
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,056.47
> Personal income per capita: $29,687.78
> Total holiday spending: $269.43 billion
> Population: 255,029,699

christmas-1993
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/

1993
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,116.09
> Personal income per capita: $29,904.63
> Total holiday spending: $287.71 billion
> Population: 257,782,608

barbie-christmas-1994
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/15157516@N02/

1994
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,184.32
> Personal income per capita: $30,489.53
> Total holiday spending: $308.31 billion
> Population: 260,327,021

christmas-1995
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24736216@N07/

1995
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,216.51
> Personal income per capita: $31,300.76
> Total holiday spending: $319.70 billion
> Population: 262,803,276

Christmas presents 1996
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1996
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,249.77
> Personal income per capita: $32,234.53
> Total holiday spending: $331.47 billion
> Population: 265,228,572

wmcnationaltree-1997
Source: Wikimedia Commons

1997
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,291.51
> Personal income per capita: $33,332.75
> Total holiday spending: $345.85 billion
> Population: 267,783,607

Close-up of Christmas presents in front of a Christmas tree 1998
Source: Thinkstock

1998
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,357.30
> Personal income per capita: $35,151.88
> Total holiday spending: $366.81 billion
> Population: 270,248,003

Young man Christmas shopping 1999
Source: Thinkstock

1999
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,455.29
> Personal income per capita: $36,117.27
> Total holiday spending: $396.84 billion
> Population: 272,690,813

Snow in New York City - fantastic image 2000
Source: Thinkstock

2000
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,453.36
> Personal income per capita: $36,821.87
> Total holiday spending: $410.08 billion
> Population: 282,162,411

Decorated Christmas tree and house covered in snow 2001
Source: Thinkstock

2001
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,475.35
> Personal income per capita: $37,236.72
> Total holiday spending: $420.43 billion
> Population: 284,968,955

Christmas 2002
Source: Thinkstock

2002
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,474.70
> Personal income per capita: $37,061.47
> Total holiday spending: $424.16 billion
> Population: 287,625,193

Christmas 2003
Source: Thinkstock

2003
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,530.86
> Personal income per capita: $37,358.69
> Total holiday spending: $444.12 billion
> Population: 290,107,933

Lush Christmas decoration in a shopping mall 2004
Source: Thinkstock

2004
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,613.43
> Personal income per capita: $38,274.14
> Total holiday spending: $472.42 billion
> Population: 292,805,298

nycchristmas-2005

2005
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,690.32
> Personal income per capita: $38,929.52
> Total holiday spending: $499.52 billion
> Population: 295,516,599

wmchousedecorations-2006
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2006
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,735.11
> Personal income per capita: $40,310.66
> Total holiday spending: $517.72 billion
> Population: 298,379,912

wmccapitaltree-2007
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2007
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,755.80
> Personal income per capita: $41,026.11
> Total holiday spending: $528.90 billion
> Population: 301,231,207

wmcmacys-2008
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2008
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,658.25
> Personal income per capita: $41,086.24
> Total holiday spending: $504.27 billion
> Population: 304,093,966

merry christmas gift box with white ribbon on red paper background. vintage tone and over light 2009
Source: Thinkstock

2009
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,649.16
> Personal income per capita: $39,426.08
> Total holiday spending: $505.92 billion
> Population: 306,771,529

girl choosing Christmas decorations 2010
Source: Thinkstock

2010
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,709.81
> Personal income per capita: $39,677.81
> Total holiday spending: $528.93 billion
> Population: 309,346,863

Closeup of red bauble hanging from Christmas tree 2011
Source: Thinkstock

2011
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,771.34
> Personal income per capita: $40,826.78
> Total holiday spending: $552.16 billion
> Population: 311,718,857

Head of the family cutting the turkey Christmas dinner 2012
Source: Thinkstock

2012
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,801.55
> Personal income per capita: $41,745.86
> Total holiday spending: $565.87 billion
> Population: 314,102,623

Christmas Tree at Rhode Island State House 2013
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2013
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,831.24
> Personal income per capita: $41,361.52
> Total holiday spending: $579.46 billion
> Population: 316,427,395

2014_capitol_christmas_tree_lighting_15954550195
Source: Wikimedia Commons

2014
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,913.06
> Personal income per capita: $42,545.92
> Total holiday spending: $610.09 billion
> Population: 318,907,401

Christmas Dinner 2015
Source: Thinkstock

2015
> Holiday spending per capita: $1,965.37
> Personal income per capita: $43,909.15
> Total holiday spending: $631.71 billion
> Population: 321,418,820

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