The nation’s shopping list: research reveals spending peaks for Brits in 2018


Christmas might be over for another year, but research from American Express reveals that Brits just can’t get enough of the festive season as it tops the chart as the biggest expenditure of the year for UK shoppers. Over the past year, American Express has explored the spending habits of the nation. From wedding bells to sleigh bells, Brits are happy to spend on the moments that matter most.


ActivityAverage spend per person (£)
Christmas (including gifts, food, decorations, getaways etc.)£1,206
Summer holidays (including accommodation, travel, activities etc.)£1,190
Children’s birthdays (spend by parents)£415
Bank holiday getaways (accommodation, travel, new clothes etc.)£407
Attending a wedding£303

As soon as sleigh bells started ringing shoppers were set to spend. For Christmas 2018, Brits spent an average of £1,206 on all their festive shopping – equating to £60 billion across the nation (4).  In 2018, nearly five million Brits started their Christmas shopping as early as April (5).

With Christmas out of the way, many Brits turned their attention to warmer climes. Whether close to home or a far flung destination, holidays are one of the biggest expenses of the year. Holidaymakers spent an average of £1,190 this year on costs such as booking accommodation, travel and excursions (2). Men were more likely to splash out on accommodation, spending almost £100 more than women (£510 for men vs £417 for women).

More than 21 million Brits planned a bank holiday getaway for 2018, and people were happy to spend to make the most of these long weekends (3). As a nation, we spent £8.6 billion on bank holiday trips – an average of £407.

Third on the list was children’s birthdays with parents spending an average of £415 on the big day, including gifts and parties (6). Londoners were the most generous when it came to kids’ presents, splashing out an average of £147 compared to the national average of £108. 

2018 was a bumper year for nuptials with two royal weddings in the diary, and Brits spent an average of £303 attending wedding celebrations (1). When it came to gifts for the happy couple, baby boomers were more inclined to pay out, with those aged 55 and over spending £94 on average for a wedding gift, compared to £44 spent by those aged 18 – 34.

Stephen Steinhardt, Director at American Express, said: “As shoppers look to 2019, they can be savvy when it comes to planning for the big spending moments which come on top of their usual expenditure. Office for National Statistics data shows that average weekly household spending totals over £550(7). By planning their spending carefully, consumers can go into the New Year with a realistic budget in mind and well prepared for any extra costs.” 


Set up a spending calendar – It pays to be organised. By thinking about the year ahead and planning for spending peaks alongside everyday expenditure, you can make sure you don’t come across any unexpected costs and go over your budget.

Year round bargains – Keep your eyes peeled all year for bargain opportunities. For example, some retailers offer special deals to celebrate customers’ birthdays who are registered for their newsletters so this is a good way to treat yourself to some extra presents you really want.

Consider cashback – The American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card offers 5% cashback up to £100 for purchases made in the first three months. If you apply for a Card at the beginning of the year, you can earn cashback on big purchases like holidays, attending weddings or birthday spending, as well as everyday spending.

Pause before clicking – Impulse buying seems fun at the time but can leave you with a financial hangover at the end of the month. Browse in-store and online before you purchase to find out which shops give you the best value for money.

Sort out your suitcase – The holiday rush can make us forget to pack some of the most basic necessities, which means you can end up buying duplicate items at the airport. Plan your packing in advance to avoid spending on unnecessary purchases before you fly.