The Woodlands is the U.S. city with the No. 10 biggest holiday spending budget in 2023, and a few other Texas neighborhoods rank highly as well. The Woodlands Mall/Facebook

Santa and his elves get busier with every passing year, but sometimes even Kris Kringle has to use his black card to get the job done. And according to a new study by Wallethub, Santa's gonna be working overtime to fulfill the orders for residents of The Woodlands this holiday season.

The personal finance experts have determined The Woodlands is the U.S. city with the No. 10 biggest holiday spending budget in 2023. Shoppers in the affluent Houston suburb are expected to spend $3,316 this festive season.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, The Woodlands' estimated population of 114,436 had a median household income of $130,011.

This is The Woodlands' first time in the holiday shopping spotlight. The Houston suburb ranked a much lower – No. 71 – in last year's report with an average spending budget of $1,733. Way to step it up.

The nearby city of Sugar Land is a returnee, and moved up one place from No. 15 last year into No. 14 this year. The average holiday budget for a Sugar Land household is $3,210.

Houston fell into No. 209 this year with an average household holiday budget of $1,296. Houston skyrocketed away from its previous rank as No. 366 in 2022 with an average spending budget of $890.

Six other East Texas cities landed in this year's report on the heftiest holiday budgets:

  • No. 31 – Pearland ($2,566)
  • No. 34 – Missouri City ($2,517)
  • No. 234 – Beaumont ($1,244)
  • No. 238 – Pasadena ($1,237)
  • No. 407 – Conroe ($935)
  • No. 438 – Baytown ($872)

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio, and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Shoppers will have to keep a closer eye on their bank accounts this year while they search for the best gifts for their loved ones. Many consumers are running out of savings accumulated during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Yao Jin, an associate professor of supply chain management at Miami University.

To combat overspending, Jin suggests setting hard budgets based on personal financial circumstances and develop a list of "must haves" rather than "nice to haves."

"Holiday times are festive, and retailers know that festivities can boost mood and lead to a propensity to overspend," he said in the Wallethub report. "In fact, that is also why retailers tend to have more generous return policies to both alleviate concerns of unwanted gifts and buyer’s remorse. The key to avoiding holiday overspending is for consumers to take the emotions out of the decision, to the extent possible."

Other Texas cities that made it in the top 100 include:
  • No. 3 – Frisco ($3,546)
  • No. 5 – Flower Mound ($3,485)
  • No. 22 – Allen ($2,964)
  • No. 30 – Plano ($2,566)
  • No. 44 – Cedar Park ($2,354)
  • No. 56 – McKinney ($2,165)
  • No. 67 – Carrollton ($1,928)
  • No. 71 – Austin ($1,877)
  • No. 77 – Richardson ($1,809)
  • No. 95 – League City ($1,733)
  • No. 99 – North Richland Hills ($1,706)

The report and its methodology can be found on wallethub.com.

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Folks in The Woodlands spend big bucks on the holidays. Visit Houston Texas

3 Houston suburbs lead sleigh full of cities with biggest holiday budgets

shopping spree

If you live in The Woodlands, Sugar Land, or League City, you may be making a holiday shopping list as long as a stocking and checking it more than twice.

These three Houston suburbs rank among the 10 U.S. cities with the fattest holiday budgets, according to a new study from personal finance website WalletHub.

The Woodlands ranks third nationally, at $3,073, while Sugar Land comes in fourth ($3,023) and League City lands at No. 10 ($2,778). Pearland ranks 13th ($2,669) and Missouri City appears at No. 80 ($1,499), while Houston ranks 372nd ($783).

“To help consumers avoid post-holiday regret, WalletHub calculated the maximum holiday budget for each of 570 U.S. cities using five key characteristics of the population, such as income, age, and savings-to-monthly expenses ratio,” the website says.

A suburb of Dallas-Fort Worth wraps up the No. 1 spot on the national list. Flower Mound, according to WalletHub, boasts the most Santa-friendly budget among all the cities: $3,427. Flower Mound ranked second last year ($2,973) and third in 2019 ($2,937).

Seven other DFW cities unwrap rankings in the top 100:

  • Allen, No. 12, $2,688.
  • Frisco, No. 30, $2,133.
  • Plano, No. 33, $2,044.
  • Richardson, No. 43, $1,857.
  • Carrollton, No. 56, $1,698.
  • North Richland Hills, No. 76, $1,544.
  • Irving, No. 89, $1,439.

The two biggest cities in North Texas are on the Scrooge-y side: Fort Worth appears at No. 257 ($920), and Dallas ranks 365th ($787).

In the Austin area, the holiday budgets are more on the lean side, like Santa on a diet:

  • Cedar Park, No. 48, $1,770.
  • Round Rock, No. 134, $1,200.
  • Austin, No. 188, $1,049.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio area’s two entrants on the list feel like they’ve earned lumps of coal:

  • New Braunfels, No. 196, $1,034.
  • San Antonio, No. 371, $783.

“In general, consumers are ready to spend and to have social experiences both within and outside the home. This spurs consumption in multiple categories, including food, décor, apparel, and gifts. This trend toward increased spending is mitigated by lingering COVID health concerns, including reticence to shop in physical stores, gather in groups, and travel,” Barbara Stewart, interim chair of the University of Houston’s Department of Human Development and Consumer Sciences, tells WalletHub.

The National Retail Federation predicts a record-shattering holiday season for retail sales, growing between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent over 2020 to between $843.4 billion and $859 billion. Meanwhile, professional services firm Deloitte envisions a 7 percent to 9 percent spike in holiday spending this year versus last year. Commercial estate services provider pegs the projected increase at 8.4 percent.

“The outlook for the holiday season looks very bright,” says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation. “The unusual and beneficial position we find ourselves in is that households have increased spending vigorously throughout most of 2021 and remain with plenty of holiday purchasing power.”

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

A new Amazon delivery station is headed to League City. Photo courtesy of Amazon

Amazon yet again expands its presence in Houston

it's 'zon

Jeff Bezos' global powerhouse is showing no signs of slowing; indeed, its Houston-area footprint is growing. Amazon Logistics has announced plans to open a new 180,000-square-foot delivery station located in League City.

This new outpost promises to power Amazon's last-mile delivery capabilities to speed up deliveries for customers specifically in the Galveston County area, per a release.

Just what is an Amazon delivery station? Simply put, packages are shipped to delivery stations from neighboring Amazon fulfillment and sortation centers and loaded onto vehicles for final delivery to customers.

Amazon brass projects the site located at 2455 Tuscan Lakes Blvd. to open in early 2022. Along with obvious delivery improvement for area residents, the new center will offer plenty of local job opportunities. Candidates can earn an industry-leading minimum starting wage of $15 per hour; full-time employees receive comprehensive benefits, including full medical, vision, and dental insurance as well as a 401(k) with an impressive 50-percent company match.

(Those interested should visit https://www.amazondelivers.jobs/ for information on job postings and to apply online.)

Delivery stations also offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to build their own business delivering Amazon packages, as well as independent contractors the flexibility to be their own boss and create their own schedule delivering for Amazon Flex, the company notes.

As CultureMap previously reported, Amazon opened four Houston-area delivery stations in March.

"We are extremely excited about Amazon coming to League City," said League City mayor Pat Hallisey in a statement. "Not only will it bring jobs, but it will benefit a large majority of our residents, as well as those in neighboring cities, who regularly shop on Amazon."

------

This article originally ran on CultureMap.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas nonprofit grants $68.5M to Houston organizations for recruitment, research

Three prominent institutions in Houston will be able to snag a trio of high-profile cancer researchers thanks to $12 million in new funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

The biggest recruitment award — $6 million — went to the University of Texas MD Anderson Center to lure researcher Xiling Shen away from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation in Los Angeles.

Shen is chief scientific officer at the nonprofit Terasaki Institute. His lab there studies precision medicine, including treatments for cancer, from a “systems biology perspective.”

He also is co-founder and former CEO of Xilis, a Durham, North Carolina-based oncology therapy startup that raised $70 million in series A funding in 2021. Before joining the institute in 2021, the Stanford University graduate was an associate professor at Duke University in Durham.

Shen and Xilis aren’t strangers to MD Anderson.

In 2023, MD Anderson said it planned to use Xilis’ propriety MicroOrganoSphere (MOS) technology for development of novel cancer therapies.

“Our research suggests the MOS platform has the potential to offer new capabilities and to improve the efficiency of developing innovative drugs and cell therapies over current … models, which we hope will bring medicines to patients more quickly,” Shen said in an MD Anderson news release.

Here are the two other Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awards that will bring noted cancer researchers to Houston:

  • $4 million to attract David Sarlah to Rice University from the University of Illinois, where he is an associate professor of chemistry. Sarlah’s work includes applying the principles of chemistry to creation of new cancer therapies.
  • $2 million to lure Vishnu Dileep to the Baylor College of Medicine from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is a postdoctoral fellow. His work includes the study of cancer genomes.

CPRIT also handed out more than $56.5 million in grants and awards to seven institutions in the Houston area. Here’s the rundown:

  • MD Anderson Cancer Center — Nearly $25.6 million
  • Baylor College of Medicine — Nearly $11.5 million
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston — More than $6 million
  • Rice University — $4 million
  • University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston — More than $3.5 million
  • Methodist Hospital Research Institute — More than $3.3 million
  • University of Houston — $1.4 million

Dr. Pavan Reddy, a CPRIT scholar who is a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and director of its Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, says the CPRIT funding “will help our investigators take chances and explore bold ideas to make innovative discoveries.”

The Houston-area funding was part of nearly $99 million in grants and awards that CPRIT recently approved.

Houston space company's lunar lander touches down on the moon in historic mission

touchdown

A private lander on Thursday made the first U.S. touchdown on the moon in more than 50 years, but managed just a weak signal back until flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact.

Despite the spotty communication, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed upright. But it did not provide additional details, including whether the lander had reached its intended destination near the moon’s south pole. The company ended its live webcast soon after identifying a lone, weak signal from the lander.

“What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the moon,” mission director Tim Crain reported as tension built in the company’s Houston control center.

Added Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus: “I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting. Welcome to the moon.”

Data was finally starting to stream in, according to a company announcement two hours after touchdown.

The landing put the U.S. back on the surface for the first time since NASA’s famed Apollo moonwalkers.

Intuitive Machines also became the first private business to pull off a lunar landing, a feat achieved by only five countries. Another U.S. company, Astrobotic Technology, gave it a shot last month, but never made it to the moon, and the lander crashed back to Earth. Both companies are part of a NASA-supported program to kick-start the lunar economy.

Astrobotic was among the first to relay congratulations. “An incredible achievement. We can’t wait to join you on the lunar surface in the near future,” the company said via X, formerly Twitter.

Intuitive Machines “aced the landing of a lifetime,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted.

The final few hours before touchdown were loaded with extra stress when the lander's laser navigation system failed. The company's flight control team had to press an experimental NASA laser system into action, with the lander taking an extra lap around the moon to allow time for the last-minute switch.

With this change finally in place, Odysseus descended from a moon-skimming orbit and guided itself toward the surface, aiming for a relatively flat spot among all the cliffs and craters near the south pole.

As the designated touchdown time came and went, controllers at the company's command center anxiously awaited a signal from the spacecraft some 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers) away. After close to 15 minutes, the company announced it had received a weak signal from the lander.

Launched last week, the six-footed carbon fiber and titanium lander — towering 14 feet (4.3 meters) — carried six experiments for NASA. The space agency gave the company $118 million to build and fly the lander, part of its effort to commercialize lunar deliveries ahead of the planned return of astronauts in a few years.

Intuitive Machines' entry is the latest in a series of landing attempts by countries and private outfits looking to explore the moon and, if possible, capitalize on it. Japan scored a lunar landing last month, joining earlier triumphs by Russia, U.S., China and India.

The U.S. bowed out of the lunar landscape in 1972 after NASA's Apollo program put 12 astronauts on the surface. Astrobotic of Pittsburgh gave it a shot last month, but was derailed by a fuel leak that resulted in the lander plunging back through Earth's atmosphere and burning up.

Intuitive Machines’ target was 186 miles (300 kilometers) shy of the south pole, around 80 degrees latitude and closer to the pole than any other spacecraft has come. The site is relatively flat, but surrounded by boulders, hills, cliffs and craters that could hold frozen water, a big part of the allure. The lander was programmed to pick, in real time, the safest spot near the so-called Malapert A crater.

The solar-powered lander was intended to operate for a week, until the long lunar night.

Besides NASA’s tech and navigation experiments, Intuitive Machines sold space on the lander to Columbia Sportswear to fly its newest insulating jacket fabric; sculptor Jeff Koons for 125 mini moon figurines; and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for a set of cameras to capture pictures of the descending lander.