Will inflation put a damper on holiday decorations?

After all, everything from sugar cookies to menorah candles to plane tickets to Grandma’s house costs more this year. A McKinsey Consumer Pulse Survey conducted in September found that 52 percent of Americans indicated concern about rising prices this holiday season.

But that didn’t stop them shopping. A record number of folks flooded stores over the Thanksgiving weekend. And that suggests that of all the things escalating costs have put stress on this year, seasonal festivities — including decorating — may not be one.

Overall, the cost of furnishings and decorations is up 7.6 percent, according to Dept. of Labor data. Let’s look at some holiday decor cost data (and a few fun facts), to see if inflation is the grinch who steals Christmas — and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa — in 2022.

Holiday decorating cost data

  • 94 million U.S. homes — 75 percent of households — had a Christmas tree in 2021.
  • Of homes with trees, 84 percent had an artificial one. Interestingly, 6.5 million homes displayed both a real and an artificial tree.
  • $69.50 was the median cost of a real Christmas tree in 2021; adjusted for inflation, this is expected to be $74.29 in 2022.
  • Americans spent an average of $231 last year on holiday decorations and non-gift items. Adjusted for inflation, this figure is expected to clear $247 this year. Trees aside, decorations alone averaged $63 last year, which would be almost $68 in 2022.
  • A simple light display can cost $100-$300 for an average-sized home.
  • LED lights have a minimal impact on your electricity bill, but incandescent bulbs can cost substantially; a single strand costs an average of $15.12 to run for the season.
  • The North American Christmas tree market revenue totaled $32.8 million in 2020.
  • 30 percent of those who decorate for the holidays say their primary inspiration is seeing how other people decorate their homes.
  • 72 percent of people say they decorate inside their homes for winter holidays; only 43 percent decorate outside.
  • Blue and gold colors are in this year, according to tree and decor retailer Balsam Hill, along with nostalgic decorations like bottle brush trees and vintage ornaments.

How is inflation impacting the cost of decorations?

Over the last year, inflation has touched nearly every element of Americans’ day-to-day lives, from grocery bills to mortgage payments. This holiday season, decorations and gift wrap are up an average of 13 percent over 2021 costs, a significant spike, especially considering limited wage growth over the last year.

Item Cost in 2021 Cost in 2022
Sources: Lowe’s, National Christmas Tree Association
Christmas trees $69.50 $74.29
Christmas lights $11.29 $12.98
Wreaths $86.98 $99.98
Ornaments $26.08 $29.98
Garlands $19.99 $22.98
Poinsettias $34.78 $39.98
Candles $20.42 $23.48

Factors affecting prices

Christmas trees are one of the most prevalent holiday decorations, with an overwhelming number of households opting to display one. Unfortunately, they — along with other greenery — are feeling the inflation bite the most. Jill Sidebottom of the National Christmas Tree Association says that transportation costs are hitting the Christmas tree market hard this year. Trees trucked to urban areas are often sporting triple-digit price tags.

But, she adds, there are many expenses that contribute to a Christmas tree’s price. “Trees will be in the field for anywhere from five to 15 years, sometimes more,” she says, and there are routine costs along the way, from regular pruning to pest prevention. Plus, cutting trees down and “taking them out of the field is an extremely labor-intensive and expensive process.”

Bankrate Insight
Transportation costs aren’t just affecting Christmas trees. Whether you travel by car or plane to see family and friends in December, expect to pay more. With gasoline costs rising by 19.3 percent from October 2021 to October 2022, airfare and road trips alike have grown more expensive over the last year. As a result, a whopping 79 percent of travelers have indicated changes in their plans for the 2022 holidays, such as planning a shorter trip or opting for less-expensive accommodations.

When do people decorate for Christmas?

Higher costs or not, Americans are getting into the holiday spirit earlier now than in years past.

While people love to grumble over premature decorations in stores (“They’re putting up Christmas lights and it’s not even Halloween!”), they’re actually skewing their own efforts earlier in the year. A 2021 YouGov.com poll shows that most American households decorate before Dec. 1, with 51 percent of respondents saying they start hanging and trimming between Thanksgiving Day and the end of November (and another 15 percent start earlier that month). In 2015, a survey by Alpharetta, Ga.-based company Christmas Lights Etc pointed to only 43 percent of respondents tackling their holiday decorations before December.

The YouGov poll also notes that most people would like to see holiday decorations up in their communities around the same time, with only 16 percent preferring early December or later. And not everyone minds mistletoe mingling with the pumpkins. Some 10 percent of survey respondents consider “before Halloween” and “Halloween or a few days after” a fine time for communities to decorate.

Final word on holiday decoration and inflation

While inflation will impact spending habits this holiday season, Americans seem to be demonstrating clearly that, even if their plans will change, their overall intentions to celebrate will not. Overall, consumers aim to spend $832.84 on average on gifts and holiday items such as decorations and food — a bit less than last year’s $997.73, but still in line with averages for the past decade, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual “Holiday and Seasonal Trends Survey.” The money may not buy as much, and the decorative trimmings may be scaled back to fit tightening budgets. But despite consistently higher prices, the holiday spirit will not be squashed.