Is This Really What Gen Y Wants for Christmas?

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — What do you buy Gen Y for a merry little Millennial Christmas? An iTunes gift card? A Netflix subscription? Or, perhaps a smart watch? No, most Millennials (70%) are hoping to receive money for college, according to research by Sallie Mae.

Even more to the point, more than half (54%) of Gen X parents hope their children receive some college funding in that Christmas stocking. And to complete the generational trifecta, nearly half (42%) of Baby Boomers would like to give money for college as a gift.

"Coming out of the recession Americans are increasingly looking for practical and meaningful gifts, such as the gift of education," says John Ward, senior vice president at Sallie Mae.

To be honest, maybe this is really Sallie Mae's holiday wish list.

No surprise, but the survey also revealed that most of us will be doing our holiday shopping online. Millennials are most likely to shop online to save time (81%) and money (60%), closely followed by Gen Xers.

But one out of five Gen Y shoppers plan to spend less this year and online (87%) and in store (69%) coupons are part of that game plan.

Apparently, a lot of Americans are out to beat the holiday rush. Over half (53.8%) of those surveyed say they have already started their Christmas shopping, according to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey.

While Sallie Mae may have you believe that college funding should be at the top of your Christmas gift list, the NRF says some six in 10 (60.7%) consumers will be shopping for fashion and accessories. Well more than half (59.2%) of holiday shoppers will also be looking to purchase gift cards, the most-requested gift item for seven years in a row.

Getting wiser about debt, more than four in 10 (43.7%) will rely on debit cards as their primary form of payment. Nearly three in ten (28.5%) will charge their gifts, while more than one-quarter (25.4%) will use cash. Only a meager 2.4% will hold up the checkout line by writing a check.