Christmas 2012 Gift Advice: No Towels or Sporks for Grandma

Study reveals we buy according to our age and life stage. But, for gifts, is cemetery lot maintenance really a crowd pleaser?


During the holiday season, many struggle with the anxiety of wondering if a recipient will really like his or her gift.

Are you considering opera tickets for your great aunt? What about purchasing a photograph session for a person under 30? Or, maybe grabbing a game for granddad?

If the data in a recent article on The Atlantic’s website is any indication, you may want to think foremost about a person's stage in life before purchasing.

The article cites a report from HS Dent, an economic forecasting firm that looked at U.S. Census data regarding spending behavior by age groups.

Some of the data is less that shocking – spending on hearing aids, prescription drugs and the upkeep of cemetery lots rises dramatically as we age. Expenditures on camping equipment, toys and games and photography peaks in younger years.

Spending on alcohol stays steady from age 21 to about age 70.

Some of the more surprising stats include:

  • Spending on magazines plateaus in middle age, and drops dramatically in our 60s, 70s and 80s. (Whatever happened to the Saturday Evening Post?)
  • People in their 30s spend almost four times as much on plastic dinnerware as those in their 70s and 80s. (Sporks may be the new hot gift in office Secret Santa exchanges.)
  • Older people spend significantly less on admission fees for entertainment activities than when in the 20-50 age range. (Keep the concert tickets for yourself and send your grandparent a nice Manheim Steamroller Christmas album on vinyl.)
  • Neither the young nor the old spend a lot on bathroom linens, but those in their 40s, 50s and 60s do. (Time for good towels after the kids leave.)

You can learn which age group spends the most on lawn care, living room chairs, calculators and many more in the 35 graphs in the article.

Does your family go against type? What gifts will go over big with your generation? Tell us in comments.

Bailey Henneberg November 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Up until I'm 99, I'll be accepting gift tickets to a Broadway show or a movie. My dad collected photography equipment until he was in his 80 and blind — even then he got the latest gadgets. Anyone else have an age-defying gift they want for Christmas? Or would you say you fit within age-pattern gift choices?
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