23 Women Reveal How Much They Really Spent on Holiday Gifts For The People In Their Lives

by Natalia Lusinski
Black haired woman wearing sunglasses holding a wrapped gift

The holidays are usually one of the most expensive times of the year. While some people save up all year for December gifts and make elaborate spreadsheets, others shop last minute, without really having budgeted in advance. You probably know people who fall into both categories. But the amount people spend on holiday gifts can vary as much as the gifts themselves. For instance, you may spend a different amount on a gift for your boss than you would on one for your lifelong best friend. Plus, the gift for your BFF may be much more personal, given that you two have a history of reading each other’s minds and knowing what the other would like most.

A new Bank of America survey of customers’ spending and transaction history — which included more than 50 million active credit and debit cards — found that consumers who made a retail purchase last holiday season spent $1,143 on average. Gen Xers spent more than millennials — $1,307 versus $1,058, respectively. Meanwhile, baby boomers spent $1,125, while Gen Z spent less than all three groups, averaging $512.

As for where consumers were spending money, the average spend per customer broke down as follows: department stores: $196; clothing stores: $306; and electronics stores: $306.

So, as you can see, what people spend — and who they spend money on — varies greatly. Below, women reveal how much they spent on a holiday gift, and for whom. If you’re seeking some holiday shopping inspo, look no further.


Josie, 35, Glendale, California: $29

“For my friend Victoria, I always get her some kind of gift box from Benefit Cosmetics, which costs around $30.”


Lauren, 25, Orlando, Florida: $49

“I got this monogrammed leather tech holder for a colleague.”


Gina, 46, North Bethesda, Maryland: $20

“I’ve gotten past Christmas gifts for my mom for less than $100 — like a calendar of family pics from Snapfish for under $20!”


Anonymous, 37, Los Angeles, California: $25

“I bought a pair of Pendleton Woolen Mills 'Westerly Camp Socks' for my dad, stepmom, older sister, and myself. This is the same pattern on a sweater worn by ‘The Dude’ in the movie The Big Lebowski, which is a running joke in my family.”


Jennifer, 41, Chicago, Illinois: $50

“When it comes to gift-buying for various people, it’s not a one-size-fits-all, unfortunately. For my manager (aka boss), I got her a $50 AMEX gift card.”


Jessica, 32, Washington, D.C.: $2–$75

“I don’t worry about price — if I find something that I think will mean a lot to somebody, I buy it no matter what it costs. For my brother in Seattle, I got him a bike share membership for around $75. Although that company is no longer in business, there are many others around these days in certain cities, like JUMP."


Alisa, 40s, Los Angeles, California: $20

“I got my child’s kindergarten teacher a $20 Starbucks gift card.”


Fabiana, 23, Austin, Texas: $21

“With friends and family, I try to make the gifts much more personal and thoughtful, which means that I am not normally breaking the bank. For example, for my sister who’s a high school student, I would get something cute but practical as she prepares for college — like kitty ear headphones for around $20.”


Elena, 40, Las Vegas, Nevada: $300

“This was for our son. To celebrate his birthday, we had a staycation at his favorite hotel. It’s $150 a night and we stayed for two nights.”


Dana, 35, San Jose, California: $12

“My friend’s been going through a rough time lately, so I actually gave her her Christmas present early: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. (Although it’s only $5.99 on Kindle, I got her the paperback for about $12; paperbacks are a dying breed.) The book is very inspirational and changed my life, and whenever someone’s having a tough time, I get it for them, Christmas or not.”


Casey, 29, Los Angeles, California: $61

“I don’t think my mother ever learned how to sit still — she constantly has to be in motion by organizing this or updating that or tinkering with something I didn’t even know she owned. A few years ago, when she began to have issues with her back and hips, she struggled with stillness — even knowing it would give her body a much-needed break. I decided to get a little sneaky and got her a motorized massage mat that fit perfectly on top of her favorite spot on the couch. Now, she doesn’t have as much trouble taking the time to get off her feet and sit still. And, the leopard print cracks her up. I highly recommend getting one for your own fidgety family member!”


Zoe, 31, New York: $21

“I love making people gifts, whether I make them myself or a company does for me. I often make people a photo cube from Shutterfly; I find this works best for people I know pretty well — so we naturally have lots of pics together! My best friend gets one from me every Christmas, since the cube literally shows some of our best adventures from the past year! I highly recommend them!”


Allison, 42, Homewood, Illinois: $60

“I recently ordered this copper kitchen utensil set from Williams Sonoma for my daughter — it will likely be her main stocking stuffer. She is really into copper and gold tones lately, and she also loves to cook.”


Jaime, 29, San Diego, California: $34

“I got my best friend this journal/planner for Christmas (I do my shopping early!). We’re both big goal-setters and journal-writers, so I thought this was perfect. I’ve heard a lot about it, as you can break goals into 90-day time periods. I even ordered one for myself, too!”


Lea, 31, London, UK: $244

"An expensive tool set or a trunk cover I bought my mom, both of which came out at about $250 dollars. Not exactly exciting, but good for farm life!"


Amy, 29, Brooklyn, New York: $23

"Flower tea from The Qi for my BFF, because it's so beautiful! Also because it's new (I have not seen this from anywhere else). Also I know my best friend can benefit from something like this. Lastly, I know I'll get cool brownie points on this one."


Anonymous, 30, Athens, Greece: $895

"[A] pair of Balenciaga shoes that I bought for my boyfriend. I knew he wanted those shoes badly and I decided to surprise him with an early Christmas gift. The shoes cost €729.00 but the smile on his face was priceless."


Michelle, 31, New York: $14

“I bought this for my brother for Christmas when he was just starting out his food Instagram account. He had complained about restaurants with dark lighting, so I figured this would come in handy. It was only $14, but he loved it. He brings it with him everywhere now!”


Maria, 30, Boulder, Colorado: $35

“My niece is really into writing letters, so I found this customized stationery on that I’ll get for her. I may get it for a friend, too, as flower stationery doesn’t just have to be for kids! ;)”


Erika, 28, Santa Monica, California: $43

“My roommate’s not only a Hello Kitty fanatic, but she’s also afraid of the dark, so my holiday gift to her is this Hello Kitty nightlight that projects fun, colorful stars onto the ceiling. I know she’ll love it!!”


Daniella, 33, Park Ridge, Illinois: $59

“My friend is obsessed with Yankee Candles, so I always try to get her some holiday scents in time for the holidays — meaning, I usually give her her Christmas gifts early! Although I try to buy Yankee Candles when they are on sale (they’re not cheap!), sometimes I get them at-cost on their site or in a store. So far, I have bought her two candles ($29.50 each), the Christmas Cookie scent and the Apple Cider. Not the cheapest gift, but one that I know she’ll use! Plus, I love being over at her house when she has them lit (and, trust me, I’m there a lot).”


Valerie, 31, Madison, Wisconsin: $39

“I recently visited my brother in Boston and his plastic food storage containers were a mess — stains from old food in them, etc. Disgusting! I was so excited to go online and order these glass food storage containers for him for Christmas — an 18-piece set! I already own them (so I know they work), and I can’t wait 'til he uses them, too.”


Marie, 32, Denver, Colorado: $6

"I got this for my brother's girlfriend last year. It's the perfect gift when you're not totally sure if you're exchanging gifts with someone, because it's cute, fun, but also not over-the-top. Basically, if they didn't get you a gift it's NBD."

As you can see from the women above, their gift choices run the gamut, but seem to have a common theme — thoughtfulness and knowing their audience. After all, at the end of the day, it’s the thought that counts, and “thought” does not have to break your bank.