Emotionally stable individuals spend more during the holidays, study finds

WASHINGTON — Holiday season is about to be in full swing, but for some, stress this time of year can drown out the joy. Between finding gifts for loved ones, sending out greeting cards, and navigating office holiday parties, many people find themselves a bit more emotional than usual at the end of each year. Now, a new study finds that an individual’s mental and emotional state may have a direct correlation on how much they spend during the holiday season.

The study, titled “Who are the Scrooges? Personality Predictors of Holiday Spending,” indicates that emotionally stable and less-stressed people tend to spend more during the holidays, and individuals who are generally more nervous and neurotic tend to spend less.

Consumer spending habits, especially during the holidays, can be very valuable information for most retailers. Especially when one considers that holiday sales can comprise up to 20% of a store’s annual revenue. Besides just retailers, this study also may prove valuable for consumers looking to understand their own spending habits.

In addition to emotionally unstable people spending less than others, the study also showed that individual personality traits, such as a low stress-threshold, can be related to spending behaviors,  consequently impacting long-term financial goals and plans.

“We’ve known for a while that personality is related to what we call ‘broad outcomes:’ how much money you make or how happy you are or how long you live,” says co-lead author Sara Weston, of Northwestern University, in a release by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. “But we know less about why personality is related to those things.”

The researchers aggregated more than two million individual transactions from the bank accounts of 2,133 participants and compared the relationship between the “Big 5” personality traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) and spending data during the holiday season.

Additionally, the study found that more conscientious people spend more money, while those with more artistic interests and active imaginations spend less.

Researchers made it a point to emphasize that personality traits are just one part of identifying individual consumers’ spending habits. Many other factors, such as income bracket and household size, play a role as well.

The study is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.