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Coinstar Holiday Survey: Results Reveal the Majority of Holiday Gift Givers Set a Budget, Yet Hidden Expenses Put Many in the Red

Over one-quarter of shoppers will buy gifts throughout the year to take advantage of sales. Entertaining family and friends was reported as the highest holiday expense outside of gift purchases.
BELLEVUE, Wash. - 
October 10, 2017

The Coinstar® Holiday Survey, conducted among 2,000 U.S. adults, was released today and reports that the majority (65%) will set a budget this holiday season. One quarter of survey respondents say they will buy all or most of their gifts throughout the year when they are on sale. Other Coinstar Holiday survey results uncover budget strategies including creative gift giving and ways to recover post-holiday if budget limits are exceeded.

The survey asked consumers about factors that contribute to holiday spending beyond gift purchases. Besides gifts, the highest anticipated holiday expense reported is entertaining family and friends at 34%. This was followed by dining out, travel, decorating or improving one’s home, and buying special occasion clothing.

“The Coinstar Holiday Survey provides insights into how consumers shop, give gifts and budget for the holidays,” said Sandi Stoller, director of brand strategy and marketing at Coinstar. “We’re reminded that the holiday season can put a strain on family budgets, but encouraged that people are developing strategies to stay on track and even recover after the holidays.”

Shopping for holiday gifts throughout the year is more prevalent than expected.

Last minute shoppers get a bad rap, but surprisingly, only 14% fall into this category. According to the Coinstar Holiday Survey, most people purchase their gifts throughout the year either when they find the right gift (33%), or when they go on sale (27%), and 7% of respondents say they complete the bulk of their shopping before Thanksgiving. Twelve percent of shoppers take advantage of Black Friday or Cyber Monday to make purchases.

Cashing in spare change and reducing entertainment expenses are among the top strategies for staying on budget during the holidays.

Two in five consumers (39%) reported they plan to jump start their holiday budget by cashing in spare change, closely followed by 35% who will cut back entertainment such as movies or concerts to contribute to the holiday fund . Other ways survey respondents plan to make ends meet during the holidays include dining out less frequently (33%), purchasing gifts on layaway (26%), taking money out of savings (23%), and using credit cards (20%).

More than half of consumers think the emphasis on holiday gift giving has increased over the past several years.

With gift-giving expectations increasing, it stands to reason that 68% of people celebrating the holidays plan to give some gifts that are not purchased at retail (online or brick & mortar). These types of gifts are only limited by time and creativity. The most common non-retail gifts cited include confections or other food items made at home (31%) and hand-crafted non-food items (28%). Other popular presents include gifts previously received (regifting), services such as house cleaning, childcare or a day of pampering, and more altruistic, giving to charity in lieu of a gift.

Of those who will give gifts outside of retail purchases, millennials are more inclined than boomers to give hand-made gifts and to regift. Thirty-five percent of millennials compared to 23% of boomers will give a hand-crafted item and 25% of millennials will regift compared to 14% of boomers.

Family members top the list when it comes to obligatory gifts and giving the metaphorical lump of coal at holiday time.

Seventy-four percent of people feel obligated to give gifts to certain people during the holidays. Extended family (nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins) are hit hardest with 29% of respondents saying they feel obligated to give gifts to these family members. About two in five respondents feel obligated to give gifts to their spouse or significant other and children.

Scrooge plays a role with 68% of respondents who report they would like to give the metaphorical lump of coal to someone on their holiday list. Nearly half who responded this way say family members are most likely to end up on the “naughty list.” Siblings top the list at 12%, followed by a spouse or child, in-law and lastly a parent. Bosses, co-workers and neighbors fared pretty well, all reported under 10%.

Seventy-seven percent of holiday consumers expect to go over their planned budget after the winter holidays.

The vast majority of holiday shoppers expect to go over their planned budget post-holiday and 37% will set a budget to recover. The top ways people plan to get back on track include cutting back on treating themselves with expensive dinners or shopping, reducing everyday expenses such as groceries or entertainment, and delaying funds going into a savings account. Few respondents (less than 10%) will turn to delaying bill payments such as utilities or credit card balances.

Survey Methodology

The Coinstar Holiday survey was conducted online within the United States by Atomik Research, an independent market research agency, between July 11 and 14, 2017, among 2,002 adults 18+ who give gifts to others in observance of a winter holiday. The survey is representative of the United States population age, gender, and region. Margin of error is +/- 2 percent. Research conducted was in accordance with Market Research Association guidelines and regulations.

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About Coinstar, LLC: Based in Bellevue, Wash., Coinstar owns and operates the largest fully automated, multi-national network of self-service coin counting kiosks. With more than 20,000 kiosk locations, Coinstar provides convenient and reliable coin counting services at mass merchants, grocery and drug stores and financial institutions. Consumer solutions include coin-to-cash, coin-to-eGift card and charity donation options. For kiosk locations and information, visit

Media Inquiries

Marci Maule Housley
Mpact Group
[email protected]