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Winter Holiday Spending Leaves the Average U.S. Renter $400 in Debt

Some things are priceless, like being surrounded by your loved ones and enjoying their company. Spending time with them during the winter holidays, however, does come with a price tag, if we take into account all the expenses associated with the end of the year celebrations. Food, drinks, decorations, and gifts are just a few of the things that challenge our pocketbooks this time of the year. Knowing how to successfully juggle holiday financial management along with regular expenses like rent and utilities takes some skills.

Here’s a snapshot of what the average American renter household spends during the 2018 winter holiday season in November and December:


Using rent data from Yardi Matrix and median renter household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we set out to see exactly how much money the average American family of renters spends during the winter holidays, and more importantly, how much they’re left with after the magic of the holidays fades away. To get the average consumer spending, we used information provided by the National Retail Federation. After we put it all together, we found that Thanksgiving and Winter Holiday spending combined adds up to an average of $1,100 per household, leaving the average renting family with a not so great financial management resulting in a debt of $400 at the end of the holiday season.

New York and San Diego stand out as the most expensive metros during the winter holidays

Renters living in 10 of the 20 largest metros in the U.S. will close the year in debt after the holidays, but those in New York metro and San Diego metro will feel the financial strain the most. New York may be magical during the holidays, but not for renters. The average renter living in New York metro would need $4,200 in savings in order to have a good financial management and cover the end of the year expenses. Getting through the holidays in New York can really break the bank considering the already high price of rent. New York metro renters shell out on average about $7,600 for two months: November and December.

San Diego metro, on the other hand, despite being less expensive than New York metro, is still leaving renters with a negative balance of $1,700 after the winter celebrations.

Financial Management during Winter Holidays

But in the holiday spirit, let’s try to be positive and look on the bright side, although the bright side might not seem bright enough. Nationally, the average American renter would need to rack up $400 in credit card debt, the same as renters living in Chicago metro and Philadelphia metro. However, only in 5 of our top 20 largest metros, renters would witness their end of the year balance go below -$400. Minneapolis metro renters are the only ones to end the year with exactly $0, making their 10th position in our top 20 be seen as the bridge between affordability and debt.

Moving on to merrier news, average renters in Seattle metro can feel free to splurge more during the winter holiday celebrations, as their end of the year balance is the highest in our top, at $1,700. They are followed by renters in St. Louis metro and Washington D.C. metro.

Financial Management: Will you afford the winter holidays?

Holiday spending varies from person to person, therefore to give you a helping hand with your financial management this winter, we put together an easy-to-use calculator that will estimate the money you should be left with at the end of the year, after covering all holiday-related expenses. Enter the annual household income, your monthly rent, number of adults, and find out if your balance will be a positive or negative one.

How will you close the year after the holiday spending?

This tool gives you a rough estimate for the final two months of the year based on the formulas used in this study, tailored to your income, rent, and the number of earners in your household.

See how much of your savings will you need to use this season, or how much will you be able to put in the piggy bank after the holidays. 



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Description Information Quantity Amount
Discount :
Money left this winter after all spendings

For more detailed information on the 20 largest U.S. metros, take a look at the interactive table below. Browse and sort metros or use the search box to select a specific metro:

The Average Renter Household’s Year-End Balance in the 20 Largest Metros

MetroMedian Renter Income
(2 months)
Average Rent
(2 months)
Cost of Living
(2 months)
Holiday SpendingBalance
(2 months)
St. Louis$9,200$1,900$4,400$1,500$1,500
Dallas -
Fort Worth
Minneapolis -
St. Paul
San Diego$5,900$3,900$2,700$1,000-$1,700
New York$8,000$7,600$3,300$1,300-$4,200


  • This analysis includes national averages based on nationwide data and metro averages for the 20 largest U.S. metros by population.
  • All rent amounts are based on November and December 2018 average rents for multifamily rental communities with 50 or more units, as provided by Yardi Matrix.
  • For income figures, our analysts used the past 12 months’ median renter household income values according to the 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, at national as well as metro level.
  • To estimate the average household’s holiday-related expenses, we used the National Retail Federation’s 2018 holiday spending forecast.
  • The cost of living was calculated in all cases based on 2017 stats released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which include all expenses related to food, transportation, healthcare, personal insurance and pensions, entertainment, and all other expenditures. We only adjusted the annual food costs in order to exclude the amount spent on festive foods (which is part of the winter holiday-specific expenses). The cost of living obtained this way represents 46.2% out of a household’s gross income at a national level (before taxes), and we calculated the values for each metro separately.
  • Besides the holiday-related expenses, which were calculated for the last two months of the year, we also adjusted all other factors to reflect two months’ values.
  • Amounts may be rounded to the nearest hundred. 


All sums generated using the calculator are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as financial advice. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content generated through this tool without seeking professional financial advice. The content generated this way contains general information, which may not accurately reflect the current market conditions or address your specific situation. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on the results obtained using this calculator.

Fair use and redistribution

We encourage you and freely grant you permission to reuse, host, or repost the images in this article. When doing so, we only ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to or this page, so that your readers can learn more about this project, the research behind it and its methodology. For more in-depth, customized data, please contact us at

Florentina Sarac
Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 9-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email. Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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