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New Yorkers will still spend on holiday gifts, survey says, but more will feel a financial pinch

A Christmas tree stands on display for shoppers in a Costco warehouse on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Thornton, Colorado.
David Zalubowski
The Associated Press
A Christmas tree stands on display for shoppers in a Costco warehouse on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, in Thornton, Colorado.

New Yorkers may be a little more conservative with their holiday spending this year — or if they aren’t, they may try to stretch out the payments. 

That’s one takeaway from a just-releasedsurvey on holiday spending this season from Siena College.

Don Levy, director of the Siena College Research Institute, said that nearly half of state residents surveyed said that what they spend on the holidays will have a serious effect on their finances. 

“Whether that's on gifts and food and decorations, the entire gamut of holiday spending, almost half say it's going to have a somewhat or very serious effect on their financial condition. They're going to overspend and they're ready for it,” Levy said. "They know they're going to do it. But it's going to take a toll.” 

But Levy said that even if holiday spending is more challenging for some people, that won’t necessarily slow down their shopping. In fact, one in five New Yorkers said that they will pay the bills for their holiday spending over a period of time that could extend well into 2024. 

And Levy said even though many New Yorkers — nearly two-thirds of them — are excited about the upcoming holiday season, regardless of how hard spending on gifts will hit their wallet, a number of state residents may cut down on that holiday spending. 

“Half of New Yorkers, for example, say that ... their intent is to keep their gift buying at or below $500," Levy said. "We know that $500 doesn't get that far with many of the gifts, especially if you start looking over into electronics, for example." 

Unsurprisingly, a lot of what New Yorkers plan to spend during the holidays depends on their income level. Levy said that only about one in six New Yorkers plan on $1,000 or more this season, with the greater number of people spending that kind of cash having annual incomes of $100,000 or more. 

The annual Siena survey about annual holiday spending also looks at some other traditions, including purchasing Christmas trees; 73% of New Yorkers plan to put up a tree in their home, but by a wide margin, 69-31%, they prefer an artificial tree to a real one. 

And what about the guy in the red suit with the sleigh pulled by tiny reindeer? The Siena poll annually asks about whether New Yorkers believe in Santa Claus. 

“We ask it right at the end of the survey,” Levy said, “'Would you say that you believe in Santa Claus or not?' Only 26% of us right now say we believe in Santa Claus. Last year, that number was close to 40%.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.