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More than any other generation, Baby Boomers plan to flex their spending power during the holidays, but Millennials plan to stay within budget

Baby Boomers and Millennials differ greatly in their shopping trends year-round, but nowhere is this more apparent than during the holiday season.

According to NerdWallet’s second Consumer Holiday Shopping Report, Baby Boomers plan to spend the most in the 2017 holiday season, predicting they will spend over $800 on average. This is nearly double than what Millennials are planning to spend, which hovers just under $450.

Whether shopping in the stores or online, Baby Boomers were the most likely generation to accumulate debt (63%) during the 2016 holiday season, compared with 58% of Gen Xers and 40% of Millennials. However, Millennials and Gen Xers are more likely than Baby Boomers to still have it! Nearly a quarter of Millennials still had yet to pay off their debt from the 2016 holiday season in November 2017, compared with just 8% of Boomers.

While Baby Boomers may be the generation to consistently spend a lot, Millennials’ spending power is growing. The study found that Millennials are far more likely (34%) to say they will spend more this year than last year compared with Gen Xers (15%) or Baby Boomers (13%). This is key for marketers to note: Millennials may be spending less now due to restraints like student debt, but they haven’t lost the desire to shop.

The key might just be to attract Millennials earlier in the holiday shopping season, as they are the most likely generation to get a head start. The study found that more than a quarter of Millennials say that they plan to shop for the holidays before Thanksgiving, compared with 20% of Gen Xers and 18% of Baby Boomers.

Millennials may also be shopping ‘smarter’ than Boomers or Gen Xers. The study found that Millennials might give themselves a shorter shopping window this year than last. In 2016, 61% of those who planned to shop on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday planned to spend five hours or less actively shopping, compared with 67% in 2017. This could be due to the prevalence of online shopping and the growing availability of rapid-fire delivery options like Amazon Prime.

The real game-changer is going to be when Gen Z truly enters the holiday shopping market. We already know that Gen Z is a financially responsible generation, with 77% of them already working and earning money in some capacity and 12% already saving for retirement. But how will this translate into holiday shopping in the future? It will be crucial for marketers to pay attention to their spending habits and see whether they flex their full spending power like Baby Boomers do, or if they have a slower, more cautious build like Gen X and Millennials.

The Center for Generational Kinetics is proud to lead research and separate myth from the truth with real data when it comes to Millennials, Generation Z, and every generation.

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