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How much do the holidays cost?

How much do the holidays cost?

According to the new 2019 Cost of Holidays Survey, 68% of families identify lack of time as the No. 1 holiday stressor, 52% of families plan to spend $500 or more on holiday gifts and four out of five families say they give holiday tips. 

‘Tis the season for decking the halls, throwing festive parties, cozying up with family, and for many American families, spending plenty of hard-earned cash. Celebrating the holidays often means buying gifts, booking travel, tipping the people who help year-round, as well as handling the planning and prep work for all the fun. The typical demands of a busy holiday season come with a hefty helping of stress for many families as well, but some say they are able to hire help to alleviate some of that stress. 

The 2019 Cost of Holidays Survey, compiled with insights from more than 4,500 families nationwide about their holiday spending, shows how the cost of the holiday season impacts families, what services families are willing to enlist, how much they’re willing to spend to ease the holiday burden and more. Let’s take a look. 

What causes the most holiday stress for families?

According to our survey, 59% of families polled say they find the holiday season stress-inducing and overwhelming. They also list these top three struggles as the causes of this stress:

  1. Time: 68% say they don’t have enough time to do things like shop, decorate, etc.

  2. Cost: 60% say they can’t afford things like gifts, activities, decorations, etc.

  3. Crowds: 56% say they have to deal with crowds and long lines.

Other pain points they list as sources for holiday stress include:

  • 29% – Attending holiday parties (e.g., family events, work functions).

  • 27% – Hosting family for the holidays.

  • 25% – Traveling with young children

  • 22% – Not having child care for when the kids have winter break.

  • 10% – Too much togetherness.

  • 6% – Alone for the holidays.

What holiday helpers families are hiring

Because the majority of families polled (68%) list lack of time as their biggest obstacle during the holidays, many say they hire help, including child care for winter break, house cleaners around holiday parties and pet sitters to cover travel time. 

Here’s a peek at how families are spending on these holiday helpers. 

Holiday child care

How child care needs change during the holiday season

Most schools are closed the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, but 65% of working parents say they are still expected to work, according to our survey. Parents polled say they plan to use some combination of the following child care solutions during this time:

  • 46% rely on family and friends to watch their child during that week.

  • 33% take PTO to care for their child during that week.

  • 32% hire child care.

  • 30% has their partner/significant other take PTO during that week.

  • 9% have their child stay at a friend’s house.

When to hire holiday child care

For families who hired holiday child care on in 2018, most families posted holiday jobs early in the 2018 season. In fact, according to 2018 data, holiday mentions in job posts peaked on Dec. 5. 

Of families surveyed this year, 27% say they book their holiday sitter the same week they need one, 31% book one week in advance and 18% book two weeks in advance.

How holiday sitters are pitching in

Many families need to cover child care for their kids due to winter break and school closures. However, some hire a child care professional to help them in other ways during the holiday season.

Here are the top three tasks families hire a babysitter to do during the holidays:

  1. 80% ask babysitters to watch the children while they finish holiday shopping.

  2. 59% have sitters watch the kids while they attend holiday parties.

  3. 26% hire babysitters to take care of multiple children during holiday entertaining.

How much families pay for holiday child care

According to data, the cost of a child care during the holidays runs a little higher than during the rest of the year, with a small 36-cent increase per hour. 

To find out what the going rate is in your area, check out our babysitting rates calculator.

When to book a New Year’s Eve babysitter and how much to pay

Only 15% of families polled say they plan on hiring a sitter while they ring in 2020. Of those who will be hiring a sitter for New Year’s Eve, 61% say they will be booking at least two weeks in advance — a good idea to avoid any last-minute scramble to find quality child care.

How much families pay for New Year’s Eve babysitting

In 2018, the national average rate for a New Year’s Eve babysitter was $17.30 per hour, which is a slight increase from 2017, when it was $16.55 per hour. According to data, the city of San Jose, California, topped the list of most expensive metro areas for New Year’s Eve babysitters followed by these other cities: 

  1. San Jose, California: $22.38 per hour.

  2. San Francisco, California: $21.06 per hour.

  3. Fort Myers, Florida: $20.88 per hour.

  4. New York, N.Y.: $19.03 per hour.

  5. Denver, Colorado: $18.85 per hour.

The states with the highest hourly rate for New Year’s Eve sitters were:

  1. California: $18.61 per hour.

  2. Florida: $17.45 per hour.

  3. Texas: $16.57 per hour.

  4. New York: $18.88 per hour.

  5. Colorado: $18.87 per hour.

Other types of holiday help

Of the 23% of families who say they plan to hire help to make the holiday season easier for their family, 84% will hire a sitter. These are the other top jobs for which families seek assistance:

  • 49% of those who hire help will hire a housekeeper.

  • 19% of those who hire will hire a pet sitter.

According to data, there is also a slight bump in pay for these popular jobs over the holidays:

  • Housekeeping: 42-cent increase per hour.

  • Pet care: 79-cent increase per hour.

  • Senior care: 75-cent increase per hour.

Holiday gifting and tipping

Spreading holiday cheer isn’t cheap by any means. The majority of families polled (60%) list cost as their second biggest stressor during the holidays. 

How families intend to spend this holiday season

Of families polled, 47% say they plan to spend the same amount on holiday expenses this year as they did in 2018, while 20% say they plan to spend more in 2019, and 33% of families plan to spend less.

Of those that plan to spend more:

  • 83% plan on spending at least $100 more. 

  • 53% plan on spending at least $200 more.

Of those that plan to less:

  • 71% plan on spending at least $100 less.

  • 41% plan to spend at least $200 less.

How much families intend to spend on holiday gifts

According to our survey, here’s how much money families plan to spend on holiday gifts in 2019.  

How much families intend to spend on holiday entertaining

When it comes to holiday entertaining, 32% of families will also spend $100 to $249, according to the survey results. And here’s how much all the surveyed families plan to spend: 

Less than $50

$50 to $99

$100 to $249

$250 to $499

$500 to $749

$750 to $999

$1,000 or more








How much families intend to spend on holiday tipping

According to the holiday survey, 80% of families polled (four out of five) say they give holiday tips, and 54% tip at least three people. The top three people they say they tip during the holidays include: child care providers (56%), personal care staff (54%), such as a manicurist or personal trainer and servers (42%) they regularly see, such as a barista or waiter. 

When asked how much they would spend on holiday tipping, here’s how the surveyed families responded: 

Less than $50

$50 to $99

$100 to $249

$250 to $499

$500 to $749

$750 to $999

$1,000 or more








How much you give and who you give it to is entirely up to you, but there are some things to keep in mind:Plus, 66% of families (two in three) say they plan to spend the same amount on holiday tips this year, while 20% plan on spending more and 13% plan to spend less.

  • Check out our holiday tipping guide to see suggested tip amounts and gift ideas. 

  • Make tipping simple and tip all of your caregivers via your favorite payment app or the Payment Center, if you hired through 

Hiring in 2020 

As part of our holiday survey, we also asked families about their plans to hire household help for 2020, and many families already have their hiring plans in the works. 

  • 44% of families will be hiring a part-time babysitter for 2020.

  • 17% of families will be hiring a housekeeper.

  • 14% of families will be hiring a full-time nanny.

When to hire for 2020

Most families say they started hiring process in November. Keep these timelines in mind if you have plans to hire help for 2020.

  • November (33%).

    • 24% in early November.

    • 9% in late November.

  • December (17%).

    • 11% in early December. 

    • 6% in late December.

  • January (19%).

    • 12% in early January.

    • 7% in late January.

About the 2019 Cost of Holidays data data, such as hourly rates and advance booking averages, are based on 2018 member behavior on the site. The 2019 Cost of Holidays Survey captured responses, which were recruited from, from more than 4,500 people in the U.S. during the month of October 2019.

Previous Cost of Care surveys