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The Economics of Christmas — How Much Americans Spend on Presents, Cards, Travel and More

Matt Cardy, Getty Images

Christmas means toys, food, holiday cards, laughter, singing, family squabbles and lot of sweets stuffed inside your belly. The festive season also means a ton of money will be spent on those near and dear to us—and with so many sales going on, maybe just a bit on yourself as well.

While some economists disagree about the overall benefit of massive holiday shopping, there’s no doubt retailers make the most of the giving (and the purchasing) spirit come December. Spending trends vary from year to year, often reflecting the state of the economy, but a substantial amount of money gets passed around regardless.

  • More than 90 million people will travel more than 50 miles during the Christmas season, which means the highways and the skies above will get pretty crowded.
  • Americans will dish out about $6.5 billion on Christmas cards this year, with women buying 80 percent of those cards. Also, close to a billion dollars’ worth of imported holiday decorations (mostly from China) will land on our shores, and in our stores, if they’re not here already.
  • Most of us will feed ourselves very well during the Yuletide season. Around 22 million Turkeys will give up the “Christmas ghost” so we can satiate our appetites. About 1.7 billion candy canes will be produced, along with nearly 20 million chocolate Saint Nicks. If only he knew how many people were biting off his head every year …
  • We’ll average around $800 each on buying presents for other people
  • Americans will buy approximately 37-40 million Christmas trees.
  • If you’re skinny, the good news is you’ll probably only gain a pound or so in weight. If you tend to be on the big-boned side, get ready to add on an extra five to seven pounds over the holidays. Sorry.

Christmas is an amazing time of year—as long as you’re not a Christmas tree or a turkey. Be prepared to lose some weight in the wallet department and gain some of it back around your midsection. Other than those small (or large) annoyances, we hope you have a wonderful festive season.

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