’Tis the season for overspending on travel, gifts, and more.

By Maggie Seaver
November 05, 2019

It’s the most expensive time of the year! As cynical as that sounds (we love the holiday season, promise), few can deny their wallets get a little thinner every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Between the food and decor shopping for top-notch hosting, travel expenses to visit loved ones near and far, and gifts needed for everyone from cousins to coworkers, it often seems impossible to stay on a holiday budget and not max out your credit card.

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Unfortunately, the idea of going into debt from holiday expenses isn’t purely hyperbole. Creditcards.com polled more than 2,500 U.S. adults and found that a whopping 61 percent of people already in debt are willing to add to their debt this holiday season. Millennial credit card holders were the most likely candidates to accept this spending fate, with 52 percent admitting willingness to increase their deficit, compared to 49 percent of Gen Xers and only 34 percent of Baby Boomers.

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But here’s the thing—just over half of indebted respondents believe the holiday costs are a valid reason to incur more debt. (Interestingly, however, only 26 percent of participants without debt felt the same. It begs the question: Does carrying a balance cause you to adopt a mindset of what’s a little more debt, anyway?) Nearly half (46 percent) of those in debt felt it worth it—or at least OK—to dig themselves a little deeper in order to please a family member or friend, 42 percent would do so to make themselves happy, and 38 percent said it was worth it for the kids, and another 38 percent said it’s to treat their partner right.

This seems especially true for parents. Almost two-thirds of parents with kids under 18 said they’d be OK with increasing their current deficit. It’s just as sweet, generous, and admirable as it is financially worrisome—but parents feel the need to make the holidays special for their kids.

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Believe it or not, it is possible to make it through this magical season without compromising your credit score. If you haven’t been setting aside a little dough since last January for the upcoming blur of holiday decor, hostess gifts, grocery lists, and airfare—don’t panic. It's not too late to strategize a holiday budget. Start cutting expensive lunches a few times a week, vow to buy gifts (early!) that you can actually afford, take advantage of steep deals (hello, Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and pay down any outstanding credit card balances looming over your head ASAP.

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