A Merry, Merry Christmas?

According to pollsters at the American Research Group, a typical family of four in the United States spent about $861.00 on Christmas gifts this year.  That’s an increase of 35% since the holiday season of 1985.

Trouble is, median incomes for such nuclear families have gone up by only 6.5% in the last 30 years.  Had holiday and gift spending kept pace only with the rise in median income, our family of four would have spent only about 1/6th, or 0.167, of that $861.  The stockings hung by the chimney with such great care would therefore have held only about $143.79 worth of goodies.

Many consider the so-called Millennials responsible for the disproportionate increase in holiday gift spending.  These young folks are thought to consider themselves entitled to uber-giving.  However, a New Jersey resident and the mother of three Millenials considers out-of-proportion gift spending to be the fault of parents.  As she put it, “They [parents] seem to be the ones who need to give expensive gifts.  …  It's the parents who are playing the ‘Let's keep up with the Joneses’ game."

That theory holds some water.  Let’s take one more look at how Christmas gift spending has, you should pardon the expression, gone to the dogs.    In 2003, a Jolly Ball, a toy for large dogs, cost $7.00 . Today, that same toy retails for as much as $22.00.

It appears that the ability to give generously is the responsibility of the giver.  In that as in so many of the details of our financial lives, it’s the 1% who control not only our economy but also what we can do with what we do gain.

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Michele Petrovsky holds a Master's Degree in Computer Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She spent over two decades teaching in colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and currently publishes two blogs: Thoughts4Change and I Owe It All to J Thaddeus Toad. Petrovsky resides in Glen Mills, PA.


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