With the holiday season right around the corner, consumers are often unprepared for the additional expenses for those special presents and occasions and exit the holiday season with debt—a gift that unfortunately keeps on giving.
According to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers expect to spend an average of $1,047.83 this holiday season, which is a 4 percent increase from the $1,007.24 they said they would spend in 2018.
Research shows that many Americans who rack up holiday debt do so on high-interest credit cards, averaging $1,230 in 2018, according to an annual survey conducted by Magnify Money. This notes an increase from $1,054 in 2017, and $1,003 in 2016, in holiday spending.
A lack of preparation could be the problem. According to a 2017 survey conducted by mobile startup Varo, 74 percent of Americans say they often fail to budget properly for the holidays, forgetting to take into account the full range of holiday-related expenses such as last-minute gifts, food, decorations, and holiday outfits.
And then there’s always peer pressure. According to a 2018 survey by Bankrate, two in five Americans feel pressured to overspend during the holiday season, with parents and middle-income earners feeling the greatest burden.
Even after the decorations are stored away, debt on credit cards tends to linger beyond the holiday season. According to a Magnify Money holiday debt survey, 49 percent of holiday shopper respondents said it would take five months or longer to pay the season’s debt off of their credit cards. That means in 2018, those shoppers were still paying off their holiday debt into May of 2019.
The statistics are even more alarming for holiday shoppers who are planning to make minimum payments on their debt. For example, it would take more than five years to repay a debt of $1,230 on a card with an annual percentage rate of 16.5 percent if the cardholder was making minimum payments of $30 each month. That shopper would not be rid of the 2018 holiday debt until 2023.
Despite holiday spending pressure, consumers can still enjoy the season’s festivities and manage to avoid a lump of debt through these following spending tips:
- Look for travel deals. Book your travel early and use online tools such as Expedia or Kayak to comparison shop. Try carrying on your luggage to avoid excessive fees and avoid peak travel dates where possible.
- Make a gift list. Make an extensive list of all family members, friends, teachers, and more that you need to purchase gifts for so you can accurately define your budget, then set a specific amount you want to spend for each category of recipients.
- Track your spending. Return to your gift list and budget after each purchase to track your spending and make sure you’re staying within your financial limits.
- Pick a payment. Plan the way you’ll pay; cash or credit. If cash, start setting aside savings for your spending now. If credit, make a repayment plan to avoid carrying unnecessary debt into next year. If you need a new source of funds for the holidays, consider a seasonal job or suspending certain luxuries for a couple of months.
- Do it yourself. Get creative and make your gifts. From pictures of the kids to holiday treats, candles and crafts, there are a lot of easy DIY options.
- Shop the deals. Pay close attention to sales ads and take advantage of big sale days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Sign up for email lists of your favorite retailers, so you receive notifications of exclusive discounts.
- Share hosting responsibilities. If you’re hosting a holiday get together with family or friends, consider asking guests to each bring a dish and if sharing gifts, consider drawing names instead of buying for all.
- Start saving earlier next year. In January, open a specialized savings account at your credit union. This will let you easily set aside money each pay period throughout the year, so you’ll be ready to shop more efficiently next season.