Three things people spent money on in 2020

Hi, I’m Jakub, a software engineer at Datawrapper. In this week’s article, I’ll talk about everyone’s favorite thing: money. And also about everyone’s least favorite thing: the year 2020.

There are many ways to tell the story of last year. Each person has their own experience. How do we describe the whole as well as its parts? Today, I will try by asking one particular question: What were people spending their money on in 2020? I will give three different answers, to tell three different stories.


One thing people apparently liked to (or had to?) spend their money on last year were PCs. While in 2019, manufacturers shipped 263 million personal computers worldwide, in 2020, the number increased by 10% and even more at the beginning of 2021. Whereas in the years before, the changes were rather modest (-3% in 2017, -1% in 2018, +1% in 2019). The current jump in computer sales is a story of digital transformation — work from home, remote learning, gaming.


Another area that saw an increase in spending was charity donations. In Germany, people donated 5.4 billion Euros last year, which is 5.1% more than the year before. This increase is not as big as the one due to the refugee crisis of 2015, when donations rose by 11% compared to 2014. The money spent on charity tells a story of altruism. In Germany, people donated more to humanitarian causes, refugees, children and youth organizations, animal shelters, and cultural heritage organizations, less to sports.

It’s also interesting to notice that although the amount of money donated increased, the number of people who donated decreased. This has been a trend for several years — 33% of people donated in 2014, but only 28.5% in 2020. We can see that as a story of inequality — some are more able to give than others.


It wouldn’t be a listicle if there weren’t one weird item. So in this tradition, my final answer to “What were people spending their money on?” is… nothing. People didn’t spend their whole income: Household savings raised sharply in 2020. This tells us a story of precaution, risk of future unemployment, postponement of big purchases, but also of not being able to go on vacation.

That’s it for my Weekly Chart. Now let’s sit back, relax, and see which of these money-related developments were just temporary – and which are here to stay. Next Thursday, our support engineer Aya will create a Weekly Chart. We’ll see you then.