Who Spends the Most Money?

Black Friday has arrived, and with it, rabid hordes of shoppers. But are men blowing more cash than women? Conservatives more than liberals? Anneli Rufus on 15 spending stats.

Shoppers wait in line while shopping at Toys"R"Us during the Black Friday sales event on November 27, 2009 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

1. Men spend 19 percent more than women do.

And they spend 3 percent more on holiday shopping than women, according to research by the personal-finance firm Bundle.com and the National Retail Federation. "It's interesting that men are generally not looked at as bigger spenders than women," says Avis Cardella, author of Spent: Memoirs of a Shopping Addict. "I think one of the things that keeps the myth about women spending more than men alive is that men often couch their shopping in functional items—'Oh, he bought a car!'—or hide their shopping habits in hobbies. It's harder for women to say that shoe shopping is a hobby, although I know a few who have tried."

The 2010 Bundle Report: Singles vs. married vs. parents. Who spends more? AND Ellen Davis: 10 Top Holiday Trends for 2010, a National Retail Federation survey.

2. People in Austin, Texas spend four times as much money as people in Detroit.

Austin is home to the biggest spenders in the country—the average resident of Texas' liberal enclave blows over $67,000 per year, and that doesn't include mortgage or rent. Austin is followed by Scottsdale, Arizona and San Jose, California, according to rankings compiled by Bundle.com based on household expenditures for shopping, eating, drinking, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment. Detroiters spend the least, around $16,400 per year, with New Yorkers and Angelenos right in the middle.

The 2010 Bundle Report: The 25 top-spending cities in the U.S.

3. Conservatives donate 30.4 percent more money to charity than liberals do.

According to Syracuse University business professor Arthur C. Brooks, whose book cites this figure, conservative American households give $1,600 a year on average, compared with the $1,227 given by liberal households. Brooks adds that Americans who believe the U.S. government spends "too little money on welfare" (e.g., liberals) are less likely than those who believe the government spends "too much money on welfare" (e.g., conservatives) to return extra change to cashiers or give money to homeless panhandlers.

Arthur C. Brooks. Who Really Cares? The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism. New York: Basic Books, 2006, page 36 and page 57.

4. People who consistently shop online spend 24.6 percent more than people who shop in stores.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, online shoppers also start their holiday shopping earlier than brick-and-mortar shoppers and are 4 percent more likely to buy things for themselves while holiday shopping on the Net. Among those who own smart phones, 27 percent will use them to make holiday purchases. "Online shopping is a magnet for compulsive buyers," warns psychologist April Benson, author of To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. "Anonymity is a big factor, because when you shop online, no one has to see how much you're spending or what you're spending it on."

National Retail Federation 2010 Holiday Survey (link is to full study)

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5. People from Connecticut are the nation's biggest spenders, outspending Montanans by 112 percent.

Residents of the District of Columbia, Hawaii, and California are the USA's second, third, and fourth biggest spenders—all states known for encouraging a pricey lifestyle. Not so Montana, where the average resident spends only $27,000 per year. West Virginians spend the very least, according to this study, a mere $24,500.

The 2010 Bundle Report: Annual household spending by state

6. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults spend 26 percent more on holiday gifts than heterosexuals.

In a Harris Interactive survey that was conducted last year and whose contrasts are so steep as to reflect consistent patterns, 31 percent of LGBT adults surveyed said they planned to spend more that year than the previous year on holiday gifts for relatives, compared to only 5 percent of heterosexual adults surveyed.

LGBT Households Remain More Optimistic about Finances (2009), compiled by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications (full study not available online)

7. Americans aged 50 to 65 spend 74 percent more money per year than Americans aged 18 to 25.

15 Best Stores for Black FridayThe average 50 to 65 year old spends over twice what the average 18 to 25 year old spends on healthcare, and nearly three times as much on housing. Each age group divvies up its expenditures differently, with the younger set allocating 21 percent of their everyday spending to food and drink, more than any other age group. While all other groups allocate about 24 percent of their everyday spending to shopping (a category that includes clothes, shoes, electronics, hobbies, and other merchandise), seniors allocate the least: 16 percent. The 50-to-65 crowd also spends a startling 78 percent more than the 18-to-25 group on shopping, and over twice as much on travel. No big surprises here, Benson says. After 50, "people have accumulated money for travel, and their health is starting to decline. And how many seniors are going out drinking?"

The 2010 Bundle Report: Annual spending by age

8. Democrats tip better than Republicans.

They may not give as much to the homeless, but they sure take care of their waiters and waitresses. A survey by HCD Research found that, when given good service, Democrats tip an average of 19.8 percent, outgunning their friends across the aisle, who generally tip 18 percent. But independents were even cheaper than that, leaving 17.9 percent for good services. The same survey found that Jews tip more generously than Christians: 20.8 percent versus 18.3 percent: Take that, stereotypists.

Food for Thought: Study reveals that Democrats are better tippers than Republicans (2010), a survey prepared by HCD Research.

9. African Americans spend 25.5 percent less on restaurant tips than Caucasians do.

Only 5.6 percent of African Americans regularly tip more than 15 percent of their tabs, compared to 31.1 percent of Caucasians, according to a recent Cornell University study. According to the authors, "these effects were unlikely to be due to chance" and, because they were statistically controlled for education and income, "Black-White differences in tipping are largely independent of socio-economic differences between the races." But the study also found that blacks were less familiar with the customary 15-20 percent restaurant tip standard, and said that “research suggests that the 15- to 20-percent norm powerfully affects people's tipping behavior.”

Michael Lynn (2006): Race differences in restaurant tipping: a literature review and discussionof practical implications. Journal of Foodservice Business Research, 9 (4), 99-113

10. The world's most avid clothes shoppers are the Chinese, with 31 percent saying that clothes shopping is their "favorite thing to do," compared to 14 percent of Italians and 13 percent of Argentines.

According to consumer-research firm ACNielsen, the global average in this category is 22 percent. The study also found that people in Hong Kong top the world in shopping at least once a week "for entertainment"—34 percent of Hong Kong residents do this, compared to the global average of 15 percent. This doesn't surprise Cardella: "It seems the Chinese are heading down the same road that many Americans have been on over the past two decades," she says. Chinese shoppers are motivated by different factors than Western shoppers, Cardella notes, as "culturally their traditional values—Confucianism—play a role in their consumption of luxury goods," with which they're now "being bombarded."

Hong Kong people the world's greatest shopaholics (2006), a survey compiled by ACNielsen.

11. Southerners spend the most money on sports-logo apparel.

And that's a lot of sports-logo apparel, according to the National Sporting Goods Association, whose research shows that $8 billion worth of the stuff—spanning the sports world from football to Nascar to Mixed Martial Arts—was bought in 2009. Men accounted for 60.9 percent of all purchases, while women bought the rest. Gender aside, Southerners spent the most, accounting for 34.9 percent of all sports-logo apparel purchased in the U.S. last year. Westerners bought the least, at only 19.2 percent.

Americans spent more than $8 billion on sports-logo apparel in 2009, a study prepared for the National Sporting Goods Association and SBRNet by Irwin Broh Research in March 2010

12. Gay male travelers spend 48 percent more on vacations than heterosexual travelers do.

In a study conducted by Harris Interactive, this figure reflects solo travelers' expenditures. When traveling with companions, gay men only spend 7 percent more than heterosexuals traveling together and 12 percent more than lesbians traveling together.

Comprehensive Travel and Tourism Study of Gays and Lesbians Highlights Leisure Travel Insights (2006), compiled by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications for the Travel Industry Association (full study not available online)

13. College-educated people spend less on "conspicuous consumption" merchandise than high school-educated people.

People with a college education spend about 13 percent less than their high-school-only counterparts on "visible goods," which the researchers describe as such items as clothing, jewelry, and cars. The same study, conducted by researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania, found that Hispanic single men spend 40 percent more than single white men on these items, and Asian-American single men spend 9 percent less on these than white men. But when it comes to consumption in general, white people lead the pack —aside from housing, other races spend less than similar whites in all other consumption categories. Moreover, "female-headed households are 15 percent more likely to spend on visible goods than their male-headed counterparts."

Kerwin Kofi Charles et al. (2007): Conspicuous consumption and race, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 13392

14. Heterosexual shoppers are 85 percent more likely to bargain-shop this holiday season than lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender shoppers.

In the survey that yielded this stat, only 35 percent of LGBT respondents said that "finding the best sales and discounts is important" when buying gifts, compared to 65 percent of heterosexual respondents.

LGBT Households Remain More Optimistic about Finances (2009), compiled by Harris Interactive and Witeck-Combs Communications (full study not available online)

15. Women spend 83 percent more money than men on virtual goods, purchased online to be used while playing digital games.

Men outspend women in the real world, but women way outspend men in virtual reality, according to a report by PlaySpan and VGMarket, which tracked spending on virtual goods (such as imaginary currency) and microtransactions among online gamers. "Male players still drive most digital good sales, but women 25 and over spend disproportionately on virtual goods," reads the report. "The average paying female player spent $55 in social games while the average paying male player spent only $30." Female players also spent twice as much as male players on virtual currency.

2010 Digital Goods Report, compiled by PlaySpan and VGMarket for EngageDigital

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and the Nautilus Award-winning Stuck: Why We Don't (or Won't) Move On, and the coauthor of still more, including Weird Europe and The Scavengers' Manifesto. Her books have been translated into numerous languages, including Chinese and Latvian. In 2006, she won a Society of Professional Journalists award for criticism.