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Worst Holiday Spending Hangovers by State

Some shoppers are starting 2020 with regrets

Profile picture of Kathryn Parkman
by Kathryn Parkman ConsumerAffairs Research Team
woman christmas shopping with credit card

A hangover is when you wake up after overdoing it. With the 2019 holiday shopping season behind us, ConsumerAffairs wanted to know which states' residents woke up to the cold light of January with the most regrets about their November and December purchases.

Methodology: We surveyed 1,390 consumers on how much they spent on holiday shopping last year and if they felt like they overspent. We then normalized the average spending and sentiment per state. We factored in median household incomes to calculate holiday spending-to-income ratios (the percentage of annual income spent on holiday gifts) and determine the states with the worst holiday spending hangovers in 2020. We also asked about the best gift they bought and how much it cost to provide contextual information.

We also ranked the highest and lowest holiday spenders by state. Nationally, we found that the average amount spent on holiday shopping last year was $594.03 — 15% of consumers spent less than $150, while just 2% spent more than $5,000 — and 74% of people used a credit card for holiday shopping. Overall, about 23% of American shoppers feel like they overdid it.

Some survey responses indicated that the best holiday gifts had more sentimental value than financial value, and several people said the best purchase they made was a large holiday dinner for their family. Reports from more frugal consumers helped us create our tips to cure a holiday spending hangover.

woman wearing santa hat asleep at computer

Top 10 states with worst holiday shopping hangovers

ConsumerAffairs' data indicates that West Virginia, Alabama, Rhode Island, Maine, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, Ohio, Colorado and South Carolina have the worst holiday shopping hangovers going into 2020.

1. West Virginia
West Virginia ranks first with the very worst holiday shopping hangover in 2020. Consumer spending was high relative to the state’s median household income, and 43% of respondents reported feeling like they overdid it on holiday shopping last year, according to our survey.

Almost 60% percent of people in the Mountain State spent between $150 and $499, and 29% reported spending between $1,000 and $4,999. The average holiday shopping bill in West Virginia was $628.57. Fifty-seven percent used a credit card to make holiday purchases.

When asked what their best purchase was, responses included a television, an air fryer oven, AirPods, a Smithsonian telescope, a slushy machine and a child-size John Deere tractor.

West Virginia consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 43%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.24%
  • Average credit card debt: $5,363
  • Median household income: $50,573

Sample best West Virginia gifts:

2. Alabama
Many Alabama consumers woke up to a financial headache in January 2020. According to our survey, average holiday spending in Alabama totaled $537.50 last year, and 41% feel like they overdid it.

Those who spent between $500 and $999 were most likely to regret how much they spent. Overall, 55% of Alabamans spent less than $500 on holiday shopping, 32% spent between $500 and $999 and 14% spent between $1,000 and $4,999.

Alabama overspenders were also more likely to use a credit card to make purchases. Nearly 80% of those who felt like they overspent used a credit card to purchase gifts — twice as many as those who don’t feel like they overspent.

Alabama consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 41%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.08%
  • Average credit card debt: $8,515
  • Median household income: $49,936

Sample best Alabama gifts:

3. Rhode Island
Nearly 38% of Rhode Island residents feel like they overspent on holiday shopping. The average amount spent in Rhode Island on holiday shopping last year was $696.88. According to our survey, those who feel like they overspent budgeted between $500 and $999. Rhode Islanders who spent either less than $500 or more than $1,000 have fewer regrets.

Despite having a lower median household income, Rhode Islanders spent more on holiday shopping last year than their neighbors in Connecticut ($595.45) and Massachusetts ($655.56). Rhode Island consumers were also more likely to put holiday shopping on a credit card. Eighty-eight percent said they used a credit card for purchases, compared to 70% and 80% in Connecticut and Massachusetts, respectively.

Rhode Island consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 37.5%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.12%
  • Average credit card debt: $6,375
  • Median household income: $62,266

Sample best Alabama gifts:

4. Maine
About 44% of Maine shoppers feel like they overspent on 2019 holiday spending. About 50% percent of those who felt like they overdid it spent more than $1,000. The average amount spent on holiday shopping in Maine was $643.75, and most consumers (89%) used a credit card.

Compared to their neighbors in New Hampshire, Maine consumers are more likely to feel like they overspent, even though they spent less overall. In New Hampshire, where average holiday spending totaled $1,875 in 2019, only about a quarter of consumers surveyed feel like they overdid it.

Maine consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 44%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.1%
  • Average credit card debt: $6,327
  • Median household income: $58,663

Sample best Maine gifts:

5. Alaska
According to our survey, 40% of Alaska consumers said they feel like they overspent on holiday shopping during the 2019 holiday season. Alaskans spent $643.75 on average, and about 60% of Alaskans spent between $500 and $999.

Interestingly, Alaskans who spent between $150 and $499 were more likely to feel like they overspent than those who spent more than $5,000. Some of the best gifts purchased on The Last Frontier were a Sportspal canoe, Sony wireless speaker, GoPro camera and Garmin watch.

Alaska consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 40%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.94%
  • Average credit card debt: $5,961
  • Median household income: $68,734

Sample best Alaska gifts:

6. Iowa
Forty-five percent of Iowa residents who responded to our survey said they feel like they overspent on holiday shopping. Iowans who overspent reported buying expensive electronics and travel purchases, while those who stayed within their budgets mostly bought books, clothing and small craft items.

According to our survey, average holiday spending totaled $556.82 in Iowa last year. More than half of our respondents spent between $150 and $499, and about 10% spent from $1,000 to $4,999. Iowa consumers who felt like they overdid it typically spent between $500 and $999.

Shoppers who feel like they overspent were more likely to put holiday purchases on a credit card — 80% of those who feel like they overspent used a credit card, compared to only 50% of those who do not feel like they overspent.

Iowa consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 45%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.81%
  • Average credit card debt: $5,581
  • Median household income: $68,718

Sample of best Iowa gifts:

7. Mississippi
According to our survey, the average Mississippi shopper spent $707.50 on holiday shopping last year. However, spending amounts and consumer sentiments vary significantly — 20% of respondents spent less than $150, while 30% spent between $1,000 and $4,999. Of those who spent more than $1,000, about one-third feel they overspent, one-third do not feel they overspent and one-third aren’t sure.

Thirty-seven percent of Mississippians who used a credit card also feel like they overspent on holiday shopping in 2019. The median household income in Mississippi is the lowest in the country, which contributed to a high spending-to-income ratio. The state's residents also had the lowest average FICO scores in 2019, at 667.

Mississippi consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 30%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.65%
  • Average credit card debt: $5,897
  • Median household income: $42,781

Sample best Mississippi gifts:

8. Ohio
Overall, 33% of Ohio consumers feel like they spent too much on holiday shopping in 2019. Feelings over financial overexertion increased to 42% for Ohioans who spent more than $1,000. The average 2019 holiday spending totaled $652.86.

According to our survey, around 60% of Ohio consumers put any holiday shopping on a credit card, which is lower than the national average of 74%.

Like overspenders in other states, shoppers are more likely to feel like they overdid it if their best gift purchase was more expensive. In Ohio, some of the most popular presents bought by overspenders included jewelry, electronics and travel purchases. Shoppers who don’t feel like they overspent were more likely to buy clothing, art and gift cards during the 2019 holiday shopping season.

Ohio consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 33%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.06%
  • Average credit card debt: $5,843
  • Median household income: $61,633

Sample best Ohio gifts:

9. Colorado
According to our survey, average holiday shopping in Colorado totaled $852.27 last year, and about 30% of consumers feel like they overspent. About three-fourths of Colorado consumers spent more than $500 — only about 5% of respondents reported spending either less than $150 or more than $5,000. Overall, 78% used a credit card for their holiday shopping.

Colorado shoppers’ holiday spending hangover is significantly worse than their neighbors in Utah, New Mexico and Kansas, which rank on our states with the mildest holiday hangovers list. Not only did Colorado shoppers spend more than those in Utah, New Mexico and Kansas, more people feel like they overdid it.

Colorado consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 30%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.17%
  • Average credit card debt: $6,718
  • Median household income: $73,034

Sample best Colorado gifts:

10. South Carolina
Holiday spending in South Carolina last holiday season averaged $639.81, and 30% of residents are feeling a shopping hangover. Slightly more than 70% of the state's residents used a credit card for their holiday spending. Those who feel like they overspent were also more likely to use a credit card for holiday purchases — 87.5% of shoppers who reported feeling they overspent used a credit card, compared to 61% who didn’t.

However, a plurality of consumers in South Carolina — 67% — don’t feel like they overspent at all last year. “I bought Christmas ornaments for 13 family members,” said one survey respondent. “These ornaments portrayed their life. Like my grandson’s fishing, black belt, Air Force. … It was a win for everyone.”

South Carolina consumer statistics:

  • Percentage that overspent: 30%
  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.11%
  • Average credit card debt: $6,157
  • Median household income: $57,444

Sample best South Carolina gifts:

  • "Hamilton" ticket: $150
  • Trip to Ireland: $1,800
  • Heated throw blanket: $29.74 on Amazon
woman opening wallet

States with mildest holiday spending hangovers

ConsumerAffairs' research indicates that Vermont, South Dakota, Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Delaware, New Mexico, Kansas, Idaho and Nevada have the least severe holiday spending hangovers in 2020.

1. Vermont
Vermont consumers have the mildest holiday shopping hangover symptoms of any state. According to our survey, the average Vermont consumer spent $325, and nobody regrets it. “I bought nothing very expensive,” reported one resident. “I have a very large family, bought small things for adults and gave checks to the children.”

Overall, 70% of Vermonters spent less than $500 on holiday shopping last year.

Vermont consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.46%
  • Median income: $70,066
  • Average credit card debt: $7,161

Sample best Vermont gifts:

2. South Dakota
According to our survey, average holiday spending totaled $325 in South Dakota last year. The low average spent on holiday gifts helped contribute to a spending-to-income ratio of only 0.55%. Most shoppers spent either less than $150 or more than $500, and none of the consumers we surveyed from South Dakota feel like they overspent on holiday purchases in 2019.

South Dakota consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.55%
  • Median income: $59,463
  • Average credit card debt: $5,692

Sample best South Dakota gifts:

  • Television: $300
  • Christmas dinner: $80
3. Montana
Montana shoppers are going into 2020 with some of the mildest holiday shopping hangover symptoms. According to our survey, 75% of Montanans set a shopping budget of less than $500, and most consumers stuck to their budget.

The average Montana shopper spent $431.25 on holiday purchases in 2019, which is about $163 less than the national average. Some Montanans were pleased with their decision to spend much less than other states.

One resident said the best gift they bought in 2019 was “treating a grandson to a movie and lunch,” which cost them less than $30.

Montana consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.75%
  • Median income: $57,679
  • Average credit card debt: $5,845

Sample best Montana gifts:

  • Sorel winter boots: $104
  • Smart TV: $750
4. Utah
According to our survey, only 9% of consumers in Utah felt like they overspent and are currently battling a holiday shopping hangover. On average, Utahans spent $518.18 on holiday purchases last year, and 81% used a credit card. Some of the most popular gift items included gift cards and bicycles.

Utah consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.67%
  • Median income: $77,067
  • Average credit card debt: $5,960

Sample best Utah gifts:

5. North Dakota
Almost nobody we surveyed from North Dakota showed the symptoms of a holiday spending hangover. The average holiday shopper spent $608.33 and used a credit card last year. According to our survey, some of the best gifts purchased in North Dakota include a Lego set found on clearance, assorted nuts and a paper shredder.

North Dakota consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.91%
  • Median income: $66,505
  • Average credit card debt: $6,671

Sample best North Dakota gifts:

  • Lego set: $65
  • Paper shredder: $94
6. Delaware
Overall, most Delaware consumers feel just fine about how much they spent on holiday shopping last year. The average Muskrat spent $561.11, and only about 11% feel like they overdid it. Those who spent more than $1,000 have about a 50-50 chance of regretting it in early 2020.

Delaware consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.86%
  • Median income: $65,012
  • Average credit card debt: $6,366

Sample best Delaware gifts:

7. New Mexico
Only about 14% of New Mexicans said they feel like they overspent on holiday shopping last year. The average consumer spent $446.43 on holiday purchases. Shoppers who spent more than $1,000 are most likely to feel the holiday spending hangover in January. When asked about the price of their best gift purchase, one respondent simply said: “Car. Too much.”

Some consumers in New Mexico appear to be shifting from traditional presents to more personal or experiential gifts. “We all sacrificed gifts in order to have a decent meal,” said one survey respondent. “Mashed potatoes, veggies, gravy, more veggies, desserts and drinks for the kids and adults. … It cost us about $82.”

New Mexico consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.92%
  • Median income: $48,283
  • Average credit card debt: $7,151

Sample best New Mexico gifts:

  • Apple Watch: $550
  • Set of cabin socks: $49
8. Kansas
Overall, Jayhawks are in much better shape than their neighbors in Colorado, who ranked No. 9 for states with the worst holiday shopping hangovers this year. The average Kansan spent $537.50 on holiday purchases last year, and only about 17% feel like they overdid it, according to our survey.

“Didn’t buy any earth-shattering gifts,” said one Kansan who budgeted between $500 and $999 for holiday spending last year. “Probably the most I spent on any one person was around $100, and that was for several items.”

Kansas consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.84%
  • Median income: $63,938
  • Average credit card debt: $6,082

Sample best Kansas gifts:

9. Idaho
About 90% of Idaho residents we surveyed said they don’t feel like they overdid it on holiday shopping in 2019. One Idaho resident, who said the best gift they bought was a DVD series, was excited that “all purchases were budgeted and money saved to cover expenses — for the first time ever!”

About 10% of consumers in Idaho aren’t sure if they overspent, including one resident who spent between $500 and $999. When asked the price of their best gift purchase last year, they said, “Loft bed I built for my son. Cost about $150 for supplies."

Idaho consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 1.28%
  • Median income: $58,728
  • Average credit card debt: $5,155

Sample best Idaho gifts:

10. Nevada
Few than 20% of Nevada consumers are showing signs of a holiday spending hangover. According to our survey, the average Nevadan spent $431.25 on holiday purchases. Those who spent more than $500 are most likely to feel like they overspent, while 77% of shoppers who spent less than $500 are comfortable with their holiday spending.

Overall, it does not appear that spending less on the holidays resulted in a less joyous season. “The best Christmas gift I bought was not buying presents this year,” according to one respondent. “We really did have a better, non-stressed Christmas. Of course, if there were little children in our family, we would have purchased gifts for them — but so far, no wee ones yet.”

Nevada consumer statistics:

  • Holiday spending-to-income ratio: 0.7%
  • Median income: $61,864
  • Average credit card debt: $5,511

Sample best Nevada gifts:

grandma giving grandchild gift

Methodology: How we determined the worst holiday spending hangovers

To determine which states have the worst holiday spending hangover, we surveyed 1,390 consumers across the United States from Jan. 1 - 6, 2020. We asked survey respondents how much they spent on holiday shopping in 2019, if they felt like they overspent and the price of the best holiday gift they purchased.

Once we gathered the data above, our research team members normalized, rescaled and weighted it, allowing them to establish levels of importance to certain factors. All of the data was then combined to produce the final rankings.

We also looked at the median income by state and contextualized our findings with the average credit card balances and credit scores by state. While these factors weren’t used to inform our final rankings, we used the data to look for correlations between credit card balances and holiday spending habits.

While we took all of the necessary steps to ensure the accuracy of the data, the process of weighting data is somewhat subjective. When polling for this article, we had a 95% confidence level with a 3% margin of error, according to ConsumerAffairs’ Vice President of Data and Analytics George Earl.

christmas shopping with credit card

Worst holiday spending hangovers, ranked by state

We ranked all 50 states in order from most to least hungover from holiday spending in 2020. Rankings are based on reported spending, consumer sentiment and median household income.

RankState
1West Virginia
2Alabama
3Rhode Island
4Maine
5Alaska
6Iowa
7Mississippi
8Ohio
9Colorado
10South Carolina
11Massachusetts
12Tennessee
13New Jersey
14Illinois
15Arizona
16Hawaii
17Nebraska
18Indiana
19New Hampshire
20Kentucky
21Minnesota
22Connecticut
23New York
24Pennsylvania
25Wyoming
26Texas
27Arkansas
28Virginia
29Louisiana
30Maryland
31Washington
32Oklahoma
33Georgia
34Oregon
35California
36Missouri
37Wisconsin
38Michigan
39Florida
40North Carolina
41Nevada
42Idaho
43Kansas
44New Mexico
45Delaware
46North Dakota
47Utah
48Montana
49South Dakota
50Vermont
christmas shopping at mall

Holiday spending, ranked 

ConsumerAffairs calculated average consumer spending last holiday season based on 1,390 survey responses from around the United States. Our research team found that some states with high average spending also have higher median incomes, which leads to fewer people feeling like they overspent.

For example, our survey found that New Hampshire residents spent more on holiday shopping in 2019 than any other state. However, New Hampshire has one of the higher median incomes in the U.S., and only 25%of the state's residents said they feel like they overdid it. Likewise, some of the states with the lowest holiday shopping bills still overspent relative to their median household incomes, and consumer sentiment wasn’t necessarily better or worse.

Highest spendersLowest spenders
1. New Hampshire1. Nebraska
2. Kentucky2. Arkansas
3. Colorado3. Vermont
4. Idaho4. South Dakota
5. Mississippi5. Montana
6. Rhode Island6. Nevada
7. New Jersey7. Hawaii
8. Massachuesetts8. New Mexico
9. Ohio9. Oregon
10. New York10. Indiana
man waking up with hangover

5 tips to cure holiday spending hangover

Starting the new year with some financial anxiety? You’re not alone. Nationwide, about 23% of consumers feel like they overspent on holiday shopping last year. Here are some tips to alleviate your financial anxiety if you’re entering 2020 with budgeting regrets.

  1. Make a plan for next year: Don’t wait until December to find funds for Christmas presents. Set aside money throughout the year for holiday expenses, then buy gifts during sales or using discount codes. If you want to draw a hard line on holiday spending, you might even rearrange your “Naughty and Nice” list to buy fewer gifts next year.

    Avoid extra costs by setting a budget for holiday-related expenses outside of gifts, such as travel, food and entertainment. Gas money and buying dinner for the family may not feel like presents, but they add up in costs.

  2. Get gifts through contests and surveys: One of our survey respondents in Indiana gave us this idea, so we’ll let them explain: “I actually purchased my gifts by winning contests, filling out surveys and trying and rating products. I won an awesome poker set from Skoal tobacco worth $150 — my nephew loved it.”
  3. Look for easy-to-customize items: If you have a lot of people to buy for and you're running low on inspiration, try customizing simple gifts for everyone on your holiday shopping list. For example, one of our survey respondents in South Carolina bought custom paint-by-number sets that featured their family photo for Christmas gifts this past year.
  4. Give the gift of handmade: Handmade gifts have a sentimental value that gift cards just can’t match. Break out your knitting needles or enroll in a pottery-making class to create one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones.
  5. Consider balance transfer cards: If you’re struggling with credit card debt, you can reduce your payments with a balance transfer credit card. Turning several payments into one bill can also help you avoid high interest rates. Overspent holiday shoppers should consider balance transfers if they’re searching for an alternative to paying multiple balances at once.
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Profile picture of Kathryn Parkman
by Kathryn Parkman ConsumerAffairs Research Team

As a member of the ConsumerAffairs Research Team, Kathryn Parkman believes everyone deserves easy access to accurate and comprehensive information on products and businesses before they make a purchase, which is why she spends hours researching companies and industries for ConsumerAffairs. She believes conscious consumption is everyone's responsibility and that all content deserves integrity.