More gifts, more debt? Achieve’s Season of Spending survey examines the holiday season’s impact on household finances

Achieve's post-holiday survey reveals unexpected overspending, with few regrets. Key factors include gift-giving trends, inflation impacts and generational perspectives.

January 16, 2024

SAN MATEO, Calif., Jan. 16, 2024 — While many consumers were overly optimistic about their ability to stick to their budgets for the 2023 holiday season, very few have regrets about how much the “Season of Spending” cost them, according to a post-holiday survey by Achieve, the leader in digital personal finance.

The survey was conducted in early January 2024 by the Achieve Center for Consumer Insights, a think tank that publishes research and commentary from Achieve’s team of digital personal finance experts. It follows Achieve’s 2023 Season of Spending survey and research, which examined payment and debt trends among holiday shoppers, as well as the effects of tip fatigue on holiday tipping and gifts for service workers.

The survey looked at several ways the holiday season has impacted household finances, including:

  • Actual versus planned spending: percent of consumers who spent more or less than planned

  • Spending in 2023 versus 2022: percent of consumers who spent more or less

  • Impact of inflation, value received on spending

  • Purchasing regret

  • Holiday debt: percent of consumers who are carrying debt into 2024

  • Post-holiday shopping and gift-giving

  • Spending more than planned

Achieve’s post-holiday survey found that the share of respondents who went over their budgets was double the percent of respondents who thought they might overspend in Achieve’s pre-holiday survey. Likewise, the share of respondents who actually came in under budget ended up being about half of the percentage who thought they would underspend. The number of respondents who reported staying on budget in the post-holiday survey was nearly identical to the pre-holiday survey.

Holiday Spending Reality Check


Post-holiday survey (January)

Pre-holiday survey (October)

Under budget



On budget



Over budget



Q: January: Thinking about your total holiday spending in 2023, did you spend less than/about as much/more than you planned on spending? October: How close will you realistically stick to your spending plan for the 2023 holidays? (n=1,000) Source: Achieve Center for Consumer Insights

"The holiday season doesn’t necessarily end with the start of a new calendar year,” said Austin Kilgore, Analyst for the Achieve Center for Consumer Insights. “A significant portion of the population will still be paying off holiday bills well into the spring, if not longer.”

2023 versus 2022 spending

In Achieve’s latest survey, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they originally planned on spending about as much on the 2023 holiday season as they did in 2022. But in reality, just over half were able to keep their spending flat, with most of the shift resulting in consumers spending more than they did a year ago.

Annual Comparison of Holiday Budgets


Actual spending

Expected spending

Less than 2022



Equal to 2022



More than 2022



Q: Actual Spending: How did your actual total holiday spending in 2023 compare to what you actually spent during the 2022 holiday season? Expected Spending: Thinking about your spending plan going into the 2023 holiday season, did you plan on spending… (n=1,000) Source: Achieve Center for Consumer Insights

The number of gifts that respondents purchased was the most common factor influencing how 2023 spending compared to 2022. About 34% of the survey’s respondents named this reason, which was more frequently cited than other factors, like changes in the number of recipients or the price point of gifts purchased.

Impact of inflation, value received

Another important factor in consumers’ holiday spending habits is the impact of inflation, as rising prices remain a challenge for household budgets. Nearly one-in-four (24%) said their money didn’t go as far in 2023 as it did in 2022. However, 66% of respondents said the value they received for the amount that they spent during the 2023 holiday season was comparable to that in 2022, compared to 21% who said the quality and quantity of the holiday goods and services they purchased decreased in 2023.

(Little) regret for amount spent

Only 10% of respondents said they had regrets about how much their households spent during the holidays. But among members of Generation Z, that figure was nearly double, while Gen Xers and Baby Boomers were less likely to have buyer’s remorse.

Holiday Shopping Buyer’s Remorse


Gen Z


Gen X

Baby Boomer











Q: Do you have any regrets about the amount of money your household spent during the 2023 holiday season? (n=1,000) Source: Achieve Center for Consumer Insights

40% of consumers carrying holiday debt

Overall, 40% of respondents said they will carry debt from the holidays for more than a month, with about half of these consumers using debt to pay for more than one-fourth of their total holiday spending.

Paying for Holiday Bills

Debt percentage of holiday spending

Percent of consumers











Q: Of the total that you spent during the holidays, what percent will be debt that you will carry for more than a month? (n=1,000) Source: Achieve Center for Consumer Insights

85% of Gen Z is post-holiday shopping

From redeeming gift cards received as presents to shopping at end-of-year sales, 68% of consumers continued their holiday spending after the December holidays they observe. The most common after-holiday purchases were presents for other people, including 55% of Gen Z respondents who said they were still buying these gifts after the holidays. Overall, 85% of Gen Z respondents did some form of post-holiday gift shopping, compared to 73% of Millennials, 70% of Gen Xers and 49% of Baby Boomers.

Post-Holiday Shopping and Spending

Type of post-holiday shopping

Percent of consumers

Bought presents for other people


Used gift cards/certificates or other funds given to you as a gift


Bought presents for yourself


Bought items during a post-holiday sale


None of the above


Q: Did you make any of the following purchases following the December holiday(s) that you observe? (n=1,000) Source: Achieve Center for Consumer Insights


The data and findings presented are based on an Achieve survey conducted in January 2024 consisting of 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 18 and older, and is representative of Census Bureau benchmarks of the U.S. population for age, gender, race and ethnicity. Achieve’s pre-holiday season survey was conducted in October 2023 and consisted of the same sample parameters.

About the Achieve Center for Consumer Insights

The Achieve Center for Consumer Insights is a think tank that leverages Achieve’s team of digital personal finance experts to provide a view into the state of consumer finances. In addition to sharing insights gleaned from Achieve’s proprietary data and analytics, the Achieve Center for Consumer Insights publishes in-depth research, bespoke data and thoughtful commentary in support of Achieve’s mission of helping everyday people get on the path to a better financial future.

About Achieve

Achieve, THE digital personal finance company, helps everyday people get on, and stay on, the path to a better financial future. Achieve pairs proprietary data and analytics with personalized support to offer personal loans, home equity loans and debt resolution, along with financial tips and education and a free mobile app, Achieve MoLO (Money Left Over). Achieve has 3,000 dedicated teammates across the country with hubs in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas. Achieve is frequently recognized as a Best Place to Work.

Achieve refers to the global organization and may denote one or more affiliates of Achieve Company, including (NMLS ID #138464); Achieve Home Loans, Equal Housing Lender (NMLS ID #1810501); Achieve Personal Loans (NMLS ID #227977); Achieve Resolution (NMLS ID # 1248929) and Freedom Financial Asset Management (CRD #170229).


Erica Bigley

Vice President

Corporate Communications

[email protected]



Austin Kilgore


Corporate Communications

[email protected]


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