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What Are Young Consumers Gifting Themselves For The Holidays This Year?

‘Tis the season—plenty of young consumers are buying gifts for loved ones, but they’re also getting gifts for themselves. What exactly are they getting? We asked…


Let’s face it: It’s been a tough year for everyone. While young people have been treating themselves for years, the pandemic accelerated that mentality even further. And YPulse’s recent holiday shopping plans report found that holiday spending is making a major rebound this year after a 2020 dip, and that includes spending on self-gifting.  In fact, 72% of young holiday shoppers are planning to buy things for themselves this holiday season, and nearly half say they plan to buy  themselves gifts. The average amount self-gifters plan to spend on themselves has also spiked between 2020 and 2021. So what exactly do they plan to buy themselves this holiday season? We asked…

What do they plan to buy for themselves this holiday season?
Among 13-39-year-olds who plan to shop for themselves 

  1. Clothes
  2. Shoes / Boots
  3. Gaming console
  4. Smartphone
  5. Beauty products / Cosmetics
  6. Jewelry / Accessories
  7. Food / Beverage / Snacks
  8. Video games
  9. Perfume / Fragrance / Cologne
  10. Holiday décor / Lights
  11. Laptop / Computer
  12. Television
  13. Candy / Chocolate
  14. Electronics
  15. Vehicle (car / truck / motorcycle)
  16. Watch / Smartwatch
  17. Toys / Figurine
  18. Alcohol (wine / beer / spirits)
  19. Home décor / Candles
  20. Headphones / AirPods

Clothes are the top item young shoppers say they will be getting themselves this year followed by shoes/boots. Young people’s sense of style has changed drastically during the pandemic, with more of them pivoting to loungewear and athleisure. YPulse’s fashion preferences and style report found that comfortable lounging clothes are one of the top clothes they’re interested in buying. Quarantines also inspired young people to get into new trends to showcase on social media, from cottagecore to Y2K-era fashion. But as lockdowns ease up, young people have started to get back to the activities they enjoyed pre-pandemic—and of course, they’re most likely looking for new ‘fits to go out in. Our behavioral research also found that the majority of 13-39-year-olds are excited to dress up again now that quarantines are over. So, we can expect to see young people shop for an array of outfits that include comfy clothes and going out clothes for the holidays—and attire to welcome in the new year and beyond.

Gaming consoles are the third item on their rankings, while video games took the eight spot— gaming surged in popularity during lockdowns, but has always been a focus on these generations and the holidays is a traditional time for console upgrades. We found that a quarter of Gen Z and Millennials bought new gaming consoles during the holiday season on 2020, and our Post-Holiday Shopping Review survey found that 25% of Gen Z and 16% of Millennials received video games or a gaming console as a gift for the 2020 holidays. Based on their self-gift rankings many will be getting a new console again this year, despite the fact that Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo aren’t releasing new versions this season.

​​Beauty / cosmetics products are a few spots down—taking the fifth spot. YPulse’s recent personal care and beauty shopping report found that more than half of young consumers say COVID has made them more comfortable with not wearing makeup. But that doesn’t mean they’ve completely stopped wearing makeup altogether: Like clothing, young people’s relationship with makeup transformed during lockdowns. We told you about all the beauty trends Gen Z and Millennial females are interested in—and chances are young people want to buy the beauty and cosmetic products centered on the trends they’re interested in trying. And major beauty retailers like Sephora and Ulta are trying to reach them by unveiling their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals early. In the same realm, perfume / fragrance / cologne is ranked ninth on their list—and with all the recent perfume drops, it’s no surprise that young consumers are flocking to try new perfumes. For instance, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty debuted a new perfume over the summer, Ariana Grande can’t stop releasing new scents based off her singles, and Billie Eilish launched her debut fragrance this week just in time for the holidays.

Alcohol is 18th on their rankings—and we told you how it was one of the things that couldn’t live without lockdowns. Our nightlife and drinking report found that 58% of 13-39-year-olds say they enjoy drinking at home often since COVID-19 started, while 66% say they prefer to drink at home than go out, so of course, they’ll be opting to buy alcohol for themselves for the holidays this year. Meanwhile, home décor / candles follow alcohol—and since young consumers continue to spend more time at home, it seems like they’re continuing to invest in items for the home, especially to make their homes cozy for the winter holidays and the upcoming new year. YPulse’s recent shopping for the home report found that the majority of 13-39-year-olds plan to buy something for their home in the next year. In the last several months, brands like Etsy have launched interactive AR home shopping experiences ahead of the holidays to get customers to visualize what furniture and home decor could look like in their spaces. 

But while there are several food and decor items on the rankings, tech items dominate their self-gifting plans, with smartphone,  laptop/computer, televisions, watch/smartwatch, headphones/airpods, and the general “electronics” response all making the top 20. There’s little doubt that young consumers are planning to take advantage of holiday sales to not just buy gifts for others but to get themselves the big ticket tech items that have been on their own wishlists.

When we dug into what young females and young males are buying themselves for the holidays, we found a few notable differences:

While both groups ranked clothes and shoes/boots at the top of their list, young females are more likely to say they want to get themselves things related to personal care and accessorizing, including beauty products and cosmetics, jewelry, and perfume, while young males are more likely to buy themselves tech devices or something they can eat,  like a gaming console, smartphone, or food. Overall, the top gifts Gen Z and Millennials are buying for themselves are dominated by tech devices and things that bring them comfort either at home or when they go out. Brands should continue to pay attention to what young consumers are treating themselves to not only for the holidays, but for the year ahead.

YPulse Business users can access the full Holiday Shopping Plans behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.