Giving: American Style

“Give me, your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” the most famous line of Emma Lazarus’ sonnet, The New Colossus, is forever remembered in a dedication plaque on the lower pedestal level of the Status of Liberty.

All too often, we as Americans, forget how generous, giving, and thoughtful we are during good times and bad. Just last month, “ABC’s Good Morning America Show” launched its “Day of Giving” Sandy relief effort, and raised $15,663,327, to help aid families affected by the storm. By any account, this was amazing generosity from strangers living in this great nation.

Why do I mention this? Well, the holiday season is upon us, and you can’t swing a live lemur more than 3 feet without hitting a news flash, tweet, or wire story about how more and more Americans will be cutting back, spending less, or slightly more on the holidays, than they did in 2011.

A recent study from Ipsos Public Affairs finds almost 1/3rd of consumers surveyed will spend less in 2012 during the holiday season than they did in 2011.

Is it stinginess, or simple frugality associated with the times we are living in post the 2012 Presidential Election?

A further look into the consumer study shows among those planning to spend less on gifts, 63% will spend less per person, 36% will buy for fewer people, 19% will not exchange gifts at all, and 15% will make handmade gifts.

But are Americans really stingy? If you believe the data gathered by Freakonomics Christmas Spending by Country annual study (data from 2011), Americans are considered some of the most generous gift spenders on our planet.

Americans are only outdone by the citizens of Luxembourg with personal spending on Christmas gifts by a mere $70. Luxembourgers have almost twice the GDP per person than Americans, and only outspend us by $70! I guess we are pretty generous and gift-giving after all.

The chart does highlight a few other interesting points…

  • Netherlands – Why are the clog-making, beer-producing, tulip-growing Dutchmen, not flying so high with gift giving? Are they saving for the new millennium, simply frugal beyond everyone’s wildest dreams, or just prudent about holiday gift giving?
  • Ireland – The Irish have a low GDP per person, and a struggling economy, still finds a way to spend at USA levels while its neighboring PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Germany, and Spain) seem to have a vice on their wallets.
  • Greece – Stuck in austerity, and probably the most appropriately charted country with all its recent troubles. Sadly the spending seems to be curbed towards Old St. Nicholas, when it could have been done in so many other places.

At last we turn to some uplifting and positive stats from American Research Group, Inc. Even with a greater % of Americans spending less, or buying for fewer people, the ARG puts its stake in the ground for 2012 spending per American family at $854.00, a whopping 32% jump from 2011.

You can almost hear the folks at Toys R Us, Best Buy, and Victoria’s Secret, sigh a deep breath of relief!!!