More Spending, But Not on Gifts, This Holiday Season

NEW YORK (BankingMyWay) -- In the hoopla over holiday spending, there seems to be a gap developing between holiday shopping versus holiday spending, and it may be redefining the American holiday experience.

Here's the deal: While adults may be spending more for the holidays, they're "spreading the wealth" to parties, food, decorations and charity, giving less to actual holiday gifts.

Data culled from the most recent American Express Spending & Savings Tracker, released Friday, shows Americans are more interested in "dining out and looking great" for the holidays than in spending hefty sums of cash on gifts for family and friends. (One exception: Americans are spending more on workplace gifts this year.)

"Economic concerns coupled with an aggressive push by retailers earlier in the season created a unique push and pull between shopper and retailers," says David Rabkin, a senior vice president with American Express. "Americans aren't sacrificing on holiday fun; they're still giving and spending to look great at their holiday get-togethers, but they are relying more and more on deals and discounts to help them stay within their budgets."

One area where Americans are digging deeper into those bank accounts this holiday season is for social events. Amex says revelers are increasing spending on going out to dinner, lunch or brunch, going to a concert or show, and going to a holiday party this year compared with last year.

Americans are also feeling charitable this year. Although 54% of consumers say the brittle economy is forcing them to watch every nickel and dime, 64% say they are putting money aside for charity.

Amex says "primping" is another popular spending target. Budgets for hair stylists, new outfits, manicures and spa treatments are all up this year. In fact, spending has doubled on manicures, waxing and massages from 2012 to 2013.

To save cash on presents, Americans are getting creative, with 73% of U.S. consumers agreeing with the statement that regifting is OK, even though only 32% said they passed along a gift to someone else last year.