Christmas Conundrum Cracked: The Gifts Americans Actually Want

Hint: It’s not the iPhone XR.
  • A GOBankingRates survey found that more than half of respondents want cash and gift cards more than any other gift this holiday season.
  • The next-most-wanted gifts are clothing and accessories, and an experience or trip.
  • Most Americans said they would rather donate to charity than receive a gift.

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as picking out the perfect gift for someone — but the time and effort you’re putting into thoughtful gift-giving could be a waste. According to a GOBankingRates survey of over 5,000 Americans, all people really want for Christmas is cash.

Respondents were asked to choose what they wanted to receive the most during the holiday season from a choice of a big-ticket household item, cash or gift cards, clothing or accessories, electronics, an experience or trip, or toys or games. More than half of Americans — 54 percent — said that cash and gift cards topped their Christmas wish list. Additionally, 38 percent said cash and gift cards were the best presents they ever received.

“Gift cards are great because they let the recipients get something they really want,” said Cameron Huddleston, personal finance expert and GOBankingRates’ Life + Money columnist. “Just be sure to get a gift card for a retailer that sells a variety of products such as Amazon, Target or Walmart — that is, unless you know what the recipient’s favorite store or restaurant is.” Huddleston said you can save money by using sites such as Cardpool and Raise to buy gift cards at a discount.

More People Want Experiences Than a New iPhone

Although cash and gift cards were by far the most popular choice, the No. 2 choices were clothing and accessories, and an experience or trip, each of which were selected by 13 percent of those surveyed. Electronics and high-tech gadgets came in third with 12 percent, followed by toys or games (5 percent) and a big-ticket household item (3 percent). So think twice before splurging on a new refrigerator for your mom or significant other.

Americans Value Quality Time Over Gifts

Survey takers were also asked if they would choose any of the following over a traditional gift: lower credit card debt, lower housing or rent expenses, lower student loan debt, more paid time off or quality time with family and friends. They could also choose to stick with a traditional gift.

The most popular choice was quality time with friends and family, which was selected by 41 percent of the Americans surveyed. The next-most-popular choice was sticking with a traditional gift, with 24 percent.

Check Out: Do Your Holiday Shopping at These 15 Companies That Give Back

Many People Are Prepared to Be Disappointed This Christmas

When asked if they expected to receive everything they want or ask for this holiday season, 57 percent said they did not. But interestingly, 52 percent said they received everything they wanted or asked for last year during the holidays.

Use These: 50 Tips for Saving Money During the Holidays

‘Tis the Season for Giving — And Americans Are All for It

Whether they’re being genuinely altruistic or just answering how they thought they should answer can’t be known, but 59 percent of Americans said they would rather donate to a charitable cause than receive a gift this holiday season. Now that’s a sentiment that should fill you with Christmas cheer.

Click through to see America’s largest charitable organizations.

More on the Holidays and Saving Money

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