American workers are ready to deck the halls, but won’t hit the malls

New survey from Principal shows more people shopping online, giving back

‘Tis the season for holiday spending. According to the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM, 32 percent of American Workers will primarily shop online for holiday gifts, up from 20 percent last year.

“The shift toward online shopping gives consumers more control, and may be just the time-saver they need to fit it all in,” said Luke Vandermillen, vice president at Principal Financial Group®. “The ability to price shop and compare reviews helps people make smart financial choices. Whether it’s $5 or $500, saving is always a good thing.”

Where are people shopping for holiday gifts?

Graphic which shows the percentage people said they were shopping in-store, online, or both equally in 2016, 2015, and 2014.

This year, most people (62 percent) plan to spend the same amount on gifts as 2015, with only 14 percent planning to spend more than last year. While only around half (51 percent) plan to set a budget, most of those individuals (82 percent) say they’re likely to stick to it.

“For most families, it’s a good idea to set a holiday budget, or things can get out of hand quickly,” added Vandermillen. “At the risk of being cliché, it really does help to make a list and check it twice. Then you can think about how much you want to spend on everyone.”

Even with saving time shopping online, many Americans are stressed this holiday season. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) feel holiday expenditures will put some level of stress on their personal financial situation. On top of that, the majority are trying to watch their weight this holiday season. Fifty-three percent (up from 45 percent last year) are planning to exercise regularly, and 48 percent (up from 41 percent last year) are planning to eat healthy this holiday season.

On a jollier note, more plan to give back this holiday season, with 75 percent planning to donate money or volunteer their time, up from 68 percent last year.

Top budget blunders of 2016

Americans are reporting fewer overarching financial shortfalls, but they did still break the bank in a few areas. Only 15 percent of people said not saving enough was their biggest financial blunder of the year, down from 20 percent in 2015. There was a slight uptick in those saying that taking on more debt was their top financial blunder (10 percent) or that budgeting properly was their top problem area (8 percent).

Americans are still blowing their budget dining out. A quarter said that was a top budget buster for 2016, followed by food and groceries (20 percent) and travel (20 percent).

Where did people blow the budget in 2016?

The top items that people said they spent money on which blew their budget.

Resolving to do better financially

More people are planning to make financial resolutions this year (73 percent vs. 68 percent in 2015). The top resolutions are:

  1. Put a set amount of money into savings each month
  2. Pay off credit card debt
  3. Reduce spending by a specific amount each month
  4. Defer more into my defined contribution plan
  5. Stop using my credit cards

Top 5 financial New Year's resolutions for 2017

The top items that people said were their financial resolutions for 2017.

“If setting goals is the first step, then taking action is the next,” added Vandermillen. “We know that a lot of well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions can quickly fall off the wagon. So write it down. Do a quick assessment of where you are with your finances. Take those great intentions and turn them into great success.”

News Release Contact


Hillary Gebert

About the Principal Financial Well-Being Index

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American workers surveyed 1,117 adults aged 18 and over nationwide who work at companies with 10 to 1,000 American workers. The Index is part of a series of quarterly studies commissioned by the Principal Knowledge Center examining the financial well-being of American workers and business owners. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll® from October 21-28, 2016. The first Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted in the United States in 2000.

About Principal®

Principal helps people and companies around the world build, protect and advance their financial well-being through retirement, insurance and asset management solutions that fit their lives. Our employees are passionate about helping clients of all income and portfolio sizes achieve their goals – offering innovative ideas, investment expertise and real-life solutions to make financial progress possible. To find out more, visit us at

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