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Nearly Half of Americans Feel Obligated to Buy Holiday Gifts They Can’t AffordFinancial LiteracyPersonal Finance


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"Man choosing credit cards" via Huntstock on Thinkstock

“Man choosing credit cards” via Huntstock on Thinkstock

The majority of Americans who responded to a holiday shopping survey said the season is a strain on their finances, with 41% of shoppers saying they feel obligated to spend more than they can afford. The data comes from an Experian Consumer Services online survey of 1,035 adults living in the U.S., though it’s important to note that the survey is not nationally representative.

Respondents said they plan to spend an average of $806 on gifts, which is close to estimates other researchers have made this year. About half of shoppers (49%) said they plan to use a credit card to cover the cost, though the survey didn’t ask if they plan to pay off the balances right away or carry the debt into the new year. Twelve percent said they plan to open a new credit card for holiday spending, but those consumers should know that applying for new cards can hurt their credit. If you’re looking for a new card, compare credit cards to make sure you’re applying for a product that suits your needs.

Whatever people’s plans are, a lot of them are feeling the pressure of executing them: 29% said they’re stressed about holiday shopping and 21% say they’re overwhelmed by the task. That strain is most commonly driven by difficulty staying on budget (38%), not having extra money to buy gifts (35%) and not wanting any more credit card debt(26%).

Though there’s pressure to spend a lot this time of year, using a credit card to finance those purchases can have a negative effect on your credit. (Ten percent of shoppers surveyed said holiday shopping has damaged their credit.) Running up your credit card balances closer to their limits can bring down your credit score, but one of the worst things you can do is miss a payment. Payment history has the greatest impact on your credit score, but 9% of shoppers said they plan to pay their holiday credit card bills late.

Setting a budget can help you avoid overspending (and dealing with debt for months to come), but only 43% of respondents said they have a budget this year. In addition to tracking your spending, it can be helpful to keep an eye on your credit scores, to make sure your spending habits aren’t hurting them. You can do this by getting your free credit scores every 30 days on Credit.com.

This article originally appeared on Credit.com and was written by Christine DiGangi.