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How Much Do Grandparents Spend on Holiday Gifts?

Written by
Alex Huntsberger
Alex Huntsberger is a personal finance writer who covered online lending, credit scores, and employment for OppU. His work has been cited by, Business Insider, and The Motley Fool.
Read time: 10 min
Updated on July 27, 2023
The researchers at OppLoans surveyed over 1,700 grandparents nationwide to find out!

One of the best things about being a parent is the hope that one day you’ll get to be a grandparent. That’s when the fun really begins. Instead of worrying about raising those grandkids, you get to swoop in with gifts and sweets and pay your kids back for all the times they ever annoyed you when they were children.

Then again, while it’s fairly commonplace for parents to spend a lot of money on holiday gifts for their kids—and sometimes racking up expensive consumer debt in order to do so—the holiday spending rules for grandparents aren’t so clear. This got us wondering: How much do grandparents actually spend on holiday gifts for their grandkids?

For the 2018 Holiday Season, our team at OppLoans decided to find the answer. We surveyed over 1,700 grandparents across all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia), asking them how much they spent on holiday gifts, whether they felt their gifts were appreciated, and whether they ever foresaw stopping the grandkid gravy train altogether.

Once we had our answers, we broke the results down by state, age, and gender. Here’s what we found!

Which state’s grandparents spend the most?

State Amount
Oklahoma $339
Connecticut $336
District of Columbia $330
Louisiana $328
California $311
New York $297
Tennessee $285
Massachusetts $282
Maine $270
Colorado $268
New Jersey $261
Mississippi $259
Texas $258
Kentucky $245
Alaska $243
West Virginia $243
Delaware $237
Alabama $228
Idaho $227
Missouri $221
Arkansas $213
Florida $211
Indiana $207
Ohio $207
Rhode Island $207
South Dakota $207
Pennsylvania $201
Kansas $197
South Carolina $196
Virginia $195
North Carolina $194
Arizona $185
Michigan $185
Utah $175
Maryland $171
Georgia $169
Oregon $168
Iowa $160
Montana $160
Illinois $157
Vermont $150
New Hampshire $146
Wisconsin $145
New Mexico $140
Nevada $129
Hawaii $129
Minnesota $128
Washington $121
North Dakota $118
Wyoming $113
Nebraska $93

Oklahoma Grandparents are A-OK.

Congrats are in order for grandparents in the Sooner State, who reported spending $339 per grandkid on gifts, more than respondents from any other state in the whole country. But grandparents in Connecticut and Washington D.C. are hot on the heels, with a reported $336 and $300 spent per grandchild, respectively.

In last place were grandparents from Nebraska, who apparently take that Midwestern sense of frugality thing to a whole new level. They only spent $93 on holiday gifts per grandchild, a full $20 less than grandparents in Wyoming, who came in second to last. Rounding out the bottom five were North Dakota ($118), Washington ($121), and Minnesota ($128).

Of course, the more grandparents spend on holiday gifts for their grandkids, the more they run the risk of overspending and racking up debt. When we mentioned “Midwestern thriftiness” in the previous paragraph, we didn’t mean it as a slight. Quite the opposite.

“It is key to budget, track and prepare when shopping to avoid overspending,” said Ken Mahoney, CEO of Mahoney Asset Management (@mahoneygps). “We often add an extra item to the basket or must have the most recent toy or fashion item, however, these expenses soon pile up. Creating a Christmas list to stop impulse buying and additional unneeded purchases is necessary.”

Mahoney had some additional advice for grandparents to help them stay within their budget:

“Don’t hesitate to inquire with a sales associate to uncover ways to save. For example—unadvertised coupons, upcoming sales—inquire about senior citizen saving days or promotions, and layaway programs. Whether it be 10 percent or even 20 percent off, it could be the easiest $100 you save.”

Grandpas spend more than grandmas.

On average, our survey found that grandparents spend $218 on holiday gifts for their grandkids.  But we were a little bit surprised when we found that grandpas actually spent more on holiday gifts than grandmas: $244 to $202. We would have thought it was the other way around!

We also asked our survey respondents to place themselves within three age groups: 35-44, 45-54, and 55+. Our results showed that, as grandparents got older, they spent less and less on gifts. Grandparents aged 35-44 spent $312, grandparents aged 45-54 spent $248, and grandparents aged 55+ spent $179.

Honestly, it was good to see older grandparents (who are more likely to be living on a fixed income) spending their money responsibly.  And, heck, for grandparents who want to spend more, there are ways for them to earn extra income!

Here’s a great recommendation from a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch (@AndreaWoroch):

“One way to get away from stressors and maintain some freedom is by spending quality time with fun-loving pets. Sites like can connect you with good paying dog-sitting and dog-walking opportunities in your area.  And lots of people are in need of pet care around the holidays.

“Sitters are able to choose their own rates and have the flexibility of scheduling their work around their availability. Rover’s sitters/walkers can easily find a gig daily and earn well over $1,000 per month. That kind of cash influx goes a long way in budgeting for the holidays.”

Don’t let that holiday spirit lead to a high-interest hangover.

Although this wasn’t one of the questions we included in our survey, it’s a fair bet that many of the grandparents who responded are putting their holiday shopping purchases on a credit card. And while credit cards can be a great way to earn points, maintain your credit score, and avoid those “it’s two days till payday” blues, they can also be pretty dang risky.

As such, here are some helpful tips from Brittney Mayer, credit strategist at (@CardRates), to help grandparents shop smarter and avoid making “get out of all that holiday debt” their default New Year’s resolution:

Don’t max out your cards. Avoid carrying high balances. states that your utilization ratio (which is what you owe over your available credit) is a huge part of your credit score.

Don’t use more than one or two cards when possible. Spreading out all of your purchases can make juggling monthly payment harder to manage.

Don’t sign up for multiple retail credit cards. They may be enticing at checkout when the clerk offers a 10-20 percent discount off your entire purchase, but oftentimes these cards can come with high interest rates and your credit score can also be adversely affected by opening multiple accounts.

Use cards that offer rewards. You’ll get cash back, points, and miles depending on the type of card you use.  All of your holiday purchases can add up very quickly so you might as well maximize your rewards.  You’ll have to make sure you are paying off your balance each month, though.

Use your card’s activity alerts. You can set up notifications to alert you of purchases made with your account. This can help you stay on track and avoid any fraudulent activity during the busy shopping season and save you a lot of money recovering stolen information or, heaven forbid, personal funds.”

Most grandparents feel their gifts are appreciated.

One of the other questions we asked was whether or not grandparents felt their gifts were appreciated, and we were glad to find that the vast majority of them do!

A whopping 80 percent of grandparents feel their grandkids appreciate the gifts, with only 11 percent feeling their grandkids appreciate the gifts a little bit, and four percent responding that their grandkids don’t appreciate the gifts at all.

Maybe those latter grandparents are the ones who plan to stop giving when their grandchildren reach a certain age. Seventy-six percent of respondents said they never plan on stopping giving gifts to grandchildren, but the ones who did cite an average age of 20 as their planned stopping point.

Clothing, toys, and gift cards were the favorite gifts for grandparents to give, according to our survey. But grandparents who plan to keep giving gifts to older grandkids might want to consider giving them the gift of money instead of the gift of, well, gifts.

“For older grandkids—cash is king,” said Andrew Moore-Crispin, the Director of Content at Ting Mobile (@tingftw), citing data from the Ting Holiday Shopping Survey. “51 percent of younger people, aged 18-30, said they would rather receive cash or gift card to help them pay a monthly expense (i.e. student loan bill, mobile bill, etc.).”

Lastly, 15 percent of those surveyed said they had been given a spending limit by parents. But that’s the great thing about being a grandparent, right? Sure, they can give you a spending limit, but that doesn’t mean you have to abide by it …

If you enjoyed this piece, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:

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Ken Mahoney headshot Ken Mahoney is a licensed financial advisor with over 27 years’ experience and is the CEO of New York-based Mahoney Asset Management (@mahoneygps). He is the author of several books including A GPS for Your Retirement and is a regular guest contributor on CNBC and FOX Business. Ken is also a staple on morning drive-time radio providing financial advice and can be heard on 100.7 WHUD.
Brittney Mayer headshot Brittney Mayer is a credit strategist for (@CardRates), where she uses her extensive research background to write comprehensive consumer guides and in-depth company profiles. Leveraging her vast knowledge of the financial industry, Brittney’s work can be found on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, US News & World Report,, Lexington Law, and Brittney specializes in translating complex financial jargon and ideas into readable, actionable advice on lending best practices.
Andrew Moore-Crispin headshot Andrew Moore-Crispin is Ting Mobile’s (@tingftw) Director of Content and Brand. He leads the team that looks after anything that can be considered content (the blog, social media, video, commercials, ad copy, and other fun stuff).  Andrew started out with a degree in print journalism and an internship at a computer magazine. He progressed to become a technology magazine journalist and editor. You can imagine how the rest of that story goes. Except, perhaps, for the part where he ended up in front of the camera as the resident tech expert guest on a national news program in Canada for several months running. Or the part where he went to Malaysia to be the editor of a city lifestyle magazine for a year.  While he’s admittedly a bit of a geek, he’s built a career on talking about tech stuff in an understandable and approachable way.
Andrea Woroch headshot Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-savings expert, writer, and TV personality who is dedicated to helping Americans find simple ways to spend less and save more without sacrificing their lifestyle. She is a regularly-featured contributor for popular shows like Today, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, and KTLA Morning News. In print and online, her advice has appeared in popular media such as New York Times, USA Today, Money Magazine, Cosmopolitan, People, Consumer Reports, Reader’s Digest and many, many more. Read more about Andrea at or follow her on Twitter.

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