Gift Giving – By the Numbers

When we first started taking a look at how we could make gift giving a lot easier on people, we started with numbers and research.

What we found may surprise you. Check out our fancy infographic below.

Gifting by the Numbers

Stuff from the cutting-room floor:

Part of the way through the infographic we switch from talking about the specifics of the holidays to the entire year. Interestingly, it turns out that Americans only do about 40% of their gift giving around the holidays. If we kept it strictly to the holidays, the numbers would still be huge. Americans waste a total of 2.75 billion hours struggling for gift ideas during the holidays.

The other 60% of gift giving is spread out throughout the year. People shop for the same 10 folks over the course of the year (sometimes twice – I’m looking at you Mother/Father’s Day) and struggle just the same, it’s just spread out over 9 months.

We switch back to talking about just holiday spending at the end of the infographic to tell you that the average American wastes $102 per holiday season. The total wasted spending by all Americans in “bad” holiday gifts is $19.7 billion ($49 billion annually). That’s a really big number and important to know. But we wanted to make the message personal, so we kept it $102/person.

After all, the end that we wanted to build to is that the best way out of the mess is to spend time together…



A lot of sources went into this so we’ll break them down for you.

We got the numbers on the physicians/surgeons and the count of the number of math and computer professionals form the good ol’ Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS). You can check our numbers here:

We also went to the BLS for our data on how much time Americans spend in church and attending parties/social gatherings. We were a little surprised at how low the parties number was. Get out there and dance folks!

Volunteering in America did a study to calculate the value of volunteer work in America. They looked at the number of hours volunteered and multiplied that times the value of those hours. We used the calculation they did in figuring out the value of the hours spent struggling on gift ideas.

We used census data in a couple of ways. One is that we used it to estimate the number of gift givers in the USA. We also used it to calculate the number of potentially sexually active people for our estimate on the amount of time Americans spend having sex.

To complete the calculation on sex, we took a look at what Wikipedia and the Kinsey Institute said about the number of times and the duration of time Americans have sex.

We also went to Wikipedia to make sure people could complete the number of marathons we said they could… It’s amazing how fast people can run marathons. We used the qualifying time for women aged 18-34 for the Boston marathon.

It was remarkably hard to find the number of cars GM makes in a year. But we loved the Oprah plug so we kept at it. We finally found it at the “Old Gray Lady”:

Not so hard to find was the market valuation of Amazon. For reference, we took the valuation as of July 3, 2013 (about the time we were working on the numbers for this graphic). It was less than the $149B in labor costs spent on gifts for hard to shop for people. But as of the writing of this post, Amazon is almost exactly $149B. Update: now it’s $166B. You would have made a good investment…

Unity Marketing has a bunch of good research. We used it for validation on the number of people you shop for and struggle with and the average holiday/gift budget.

With regards to the amount of money wasted by the average American on gifts, well that comes from fancy economists and their calculations. You can read more about that in our blog here:

Finally we used our own survey to determine how many people you struggle to figure out gifts for and how long you spend struggling:

Giftovus Survey, 2011

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Written by Brian Jessup

Written by Brian Jessup on October 30, 2013

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