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How Much Should You Spend on Christmas? 13 Spending Statistics

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Christmas time is a joyful season for many, but unless you’re intentional with your finances, it can quickly become a source of stress.

When determining how much you should spend this year, it makes sense to consider how much others typically spend. For an average baseline of how much you should shell out this year, many financial experts suggest calculating one percent of your annual income to arrive at a figure that won’t break the bank.

With each passing year, the holiday season’s focus on consumption seems to loom larger than the last. Grandiose store displays and nonstop commercials pressure us to spend far more than we can afford—leaving many Americans with the unfortunate burden of credit card debt come the new year.

According to NerdWallet’s 2019 Holiday Shopping Report, 71 percent of shoppers planned to use a credit card to fund their holiday spending. While the use of credit cards during the holidays might not come as a shock, the debt many are left with long after the holiday season ends is more concerning: Roughly 48 million Americans were still paying off credit card debt from their 2018 holiday expenditures in 2019, according to the same report.

If you’d rather avoid paying off this year’s holiday well into next year, all you need is a bit of preparation and a plan of action to keep your spending in check.

Alt text: Average Holiday Debt Per Year (2015–2019): 2015: $986. 2016: $1,003. 2017: $1,054. 2018: $1,230. 2019: $1,325. Source: Magnify Money

How to Determine How Much to Spend on Christmas This Year

When figuring out how much you should shell out for your Christmas spending, it can be helpful to look at some national averages as a baseline. According to a Gallup study, Americans planned on spending an average of $942 on gifts in 2019.

Compare this to the average household income of around $69,000 as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau, and you get an idea of what a reasonable amount might be for you. If you make $34,500—half of the national average—a general guideline could be a gift budget of around $471, or half of the average spent on gifts. Financial experts recommend spending around one percent of your take-home pay on gifts.

To be sure you can afford your holiday spending, creating a budget ahead of time is your best bet. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but having a clear picture of your finances up front can save you stress down the line.

Start by listing out all your monthly fixed expenses—the expenses you know you must pay each month. This includes food, home utilities, gas and other monthly expenses like cable and phone bills. Subtract your monthly expenses from your monthly income and see how much you have left. This is your disposable income.

From there, decide how much of your disposable income you can put towards your Christmas spending. If you can put all of it in, that’s great! If you’re worried it’s not enough, consider where in your current budget you can reign in your spending in order to bulk up your holiday budget.

Holiday Spending Statistics

  • 71 percent of shoppers planned to use a credit card to fund their holiday spending. (Source: NerdWallet)
  • Holiday retail sales throughout the last two months of 2019 grew to $730.2 billion. (Source: National Retail Federation)
  • Non-store holiday sales grew by 14.6 percent in 2019. (Source: National Retail Federation)
  • U.S. holiday spending sales reached over $1 trillion in 2019. (Source: eMarketer)
  • Roughly 48 million Americans were still paying off credit card debt from their 2018 holiday expenditures in 2019. (Source: NerdWallet)
  • The average household income for Americans is around $69,000. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Individual Americans planned to spend an average of $942 on gifts in 2019. (Source: Gallup)
  • Holiday retail sales came in at about a whopping $1.007 trillion dollars in 2019, a 4.5 percent increase from 2018. (Source: eMarketer)
  • Holiday travelers spent an average of 14 percent more per trip for 2019 than in years past. (Source: Squaremouth)
  • Holiday Trip cost averaged out to $4,056 per trip in 2019 for those traveling within the U.S. (Source: Squaremouth)
  • Spending on experiences, such as dining in restaurants, accounted for over a quarter of holiday spending in 2019. (Source: Deloitte)
  • 59 percent of all food and beverage spending took place in restaurants. (Source: Deloitte)

Tips to Stay on Budget and Out of Debt This Holiday Season

In order to stay on budget for the holidays, a plan is essential. The following tips will ensure you stay on track and out of credit card debt.

Before You Shop, Make a List

Before you spend a dime, make a list of everyone you intend to buy a gift for. That might not only be your immediate and extended family, but also friends, neighbors, kids’ teachers or coworkers. Then write the dollar limit for how much you can spend on each person.

Use this printable to keep track of every person on your gift list and how much you’ve spent. The two money-related columns—one for your planned budget for each person and one for how much you actually spend—can help you keep track of any leftover funds you might have. If you end up under-budget for one person, note it in your tracker and allocate the money elsewhere.

Holiday gift tracker printable

Don’t Forget Non-Gift Items: Gift Wrap, Ingredients, Decorations, etc.

Gifts aren’t the only thing you should budget for—many other festive costs will likely come up. Buying a Christmas tree, lights and a tree stand can get pricey fast, and that’s just one example. Home decorations, outdoor Christmas lights, gift wrap and holiday meal ingredients should all be accounted for in your holiday budget.

Most people don’t think about their homemade holiday meals when it comes to their budget—considering it’s usually just an extended grocery list, it’s easy to forget how quickly all those extra ingredients add up throughout the season. Instead of letting it sneak up on you, use our menu planning printable to keep up with holiday meal planning and stay on budget. Feel free to print one off per meal or event you need to plan for.

Holiday meal planner printable

Don’t Spend According to Sales: Stick to Your List

There are countless temptations vying for your attention and your wallet during this time of year. Stumbling upon what feels like a once-in-a-lifetime deal inevitably happens more often throughout the holidays, and unless you’re intentional about what you need and can afford, those impulse-spending moments can take a toll on your finances. If you make a commitment to only buy the things on your list, you’ll know exactly where your money is going and won’t be tempted to stray from your plan.

For a bigpicture look at all your holiday spending, use this printable to record your budget for each of your spending categories and keep up with how much you’ve actually spent.

Holiday budget tracker printable

While managing your finances responsibly during the holidays is tough, the process is fairly simple. It all comes down to planning ahead and being intentional about what you can afford.

When you’re proactive about making a budget, you avoid having excessive use of your credit card over the holidays. This can prevent you from accumulating a high credit utilization ratio, which is the result of borrowing too much money from your credit lines.

If you’re unsure of how your credit utilization score is impacting your overall credit, the credit repair counselors at Lexington Law can help you get clear on where you stand before the holiday season is underway.

Give yourself the gift of a stress-free season by protecting yourself from bad credit and staying debt free. Making a plan for your holiday finances ahead of time might be the most rewarding gift you receive all year.


Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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Does Getting Joint Credit Cards Have an Impact on Both Spouses’ Credit?

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couples credit history

While marriage can help you improve your financial situation, it does not automatically mean that you and your spouse will share a credit report. Your credit records will remain separate, and any joint accounts or joint loans that you open will appear on both of your reports. While this can be advantageous, it’s critical to remember that joint account activity can effect both of your credit scores positively or negatively, just as separate accounts do.

Users Who Are Authorized

An authorized user is a user who has been added to an existing credit account and has been granted the authority to make purchases. Authorized users are typically issued a card bearing their name, and any purchases made by them will appear on your statement. The primary distinction between an authorized user and a shared account owner is that the account’s original owner is solely responsible for debt repayment. Authorized users, on the other hand, can always opt-out of their authorized status, although the principal joint account owner cannot.

If your credit score is better than your spouse’s as an authorized user, he or she may benefit from a credit score raise upon account addition. This is contingent upon your creditor notifying the credit bureaus of permitted user activity. If your lender does report authorized users, the activity on your account may have an effect on both you and your spouse. However, some lenders report only positive authorized user information, which means that late payment or poor usage may not have a negative effect on someone else’s credit. Consult your lender to determine how authorized users on your account are treated.

Joint Credit Cards Have an Impact on Your Credit Score

Opening a joint credit account or obtaining joint financing binds both of you legally to the debt’s repayment. This is critical to remember if you divorce or separate and your spouse refuses to make payments, even if previously agreed upon. It makes no difference who is “responsible,” the shared duty will result in both partners’ credit histories being badly impacted by late payments. Regardless of changes in relationship status or divorce order, the creditor considers both parties to be liable for the debt until the account is paid in full.

Accounts Individuals

Whether you’re happily married or divorced, you and your spouse may decide to open separate credit accounts. Most creditors will enable you to transfer an account that was previously joint to one of your names if both of you agree. However, if there is a debt on the account, your lender may refuse to remove your spouse’s name unless you can qualify for the same credit on your own. Depending on your financial status, qualifying for financing and credit on a single income may be tough.

Considerations

While creating the majority of your accounts jointly with your spouse may make it easier to obtain financing (two salaries are preferable to one), reestablishing credit independently following a divorce or separation is not always straightforward. To make matters worse, your spouse may wind up causing significant damage to your credit rating following the separation, either intentionally or through irresponsibility – making the financial situation much more difficult.

Before you rush in and open accounts with your spouse, take some time to discuss the shared responsibility of these accounts and what you and your husband would do in the event of a worst-case situation. These types of financial discussions can be difficult, especially when you rely on items lasting a long time, but a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s credit can go a long way toward keeping your score when sharing an account.

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Should you pay down debt or save for retirement?

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rebuilding credit

While establishing a comprehensive, workable budget is undeniably one of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy financial life, it can also be one of the most difficult. For those who are struggling with personal debt, building a budget can be particularly challenging. When the money coming in has to stretch like a contortionist to cover expenses, it can be hard to determine where to focus — and where to trim.

Sometimes, the battle of the budget can come down to a choice between dealing with the present — and thinking about the future. When your income is running out of stretch, do you pay off your existing debt, or do you start saving for retirement? At the end of the day, the solution to that particular dilemma depends on the type of debt you have and how far you are from retiring.

If you have high-interest debt, pay it down

When considering how to allocate your budget, it’s important to understand the different kinds of debt you may have. Consumer debt can be categorized into two basic types: low-interest debt and high-interest debt, each with its own impact on your credit (and your budget).

In general, low-interest debt consists of long-term or secured loans that carry a single-digit interest rate, such as a mortgage or auto loan. Though no debt is the only real form of good debt, low-interest debt can be useful to carry. For instance, purchasing a home with a low-interest mortgage can actually save you money on housing costs if you do your homework and buy a house well within your price range.

High-interest debt, on the other hand, typically has a hefty double-digit interest rate and shorter loan terms, such as that of a credit card or payday loan. High-interest debt is the most expensive kind of debt to carry from month to month and should always be priority number one when building a budget.

To illustrate why you should focus on high-interest debt above everything else, consider a credit card carrying the average 19% APR and a $10,000 balance. If the balance goes unpaid, that high-interest credit card debt will cost $1,900 a year in interest payments alone. Now, compare that to the stock market’s average annual return of 7%, and it becomes clear that you’ll see significantly more bang for your buck by putting any extra funds into your high-interest debt instead of an investment account.

If you are having trouble paying off your high-interest debt, there may be some steps you can take to make it more manageable. For example, transferring your credit card balances from high-interest cards to ones offering an introductory 0% APR can eliminate interest payments for 12 months or more. While many of the best balance transfer cards won’t charge you an annual fee, they may charge a balance transfer fee, so do your research. You’ll also want to make sure you have a plan to pay off the new card before your introductory period ends.

Most balance transfer offers will require you to have at least fair credit, so if your credit score needs some work, you may not qualify. In this case, refinancing your high-interest debt with a personal loan that has a lower interest rate may be your best bet. Make sure to compare all of the top bad credit loans to find the best interest rate and loan terms.

If you’re nearing retirement, start to save

The closer you get to retirement age, the more important it becomes to ensure you have adequate retirement savings — and the more pressure you may feel to invest every spare penny into your retirement fund. No matter your age, however, paying off your high-interest debt should always remain the priority, as it will always provide the best rate of return (as well as likely provide a credit score boost).

Indeed, no matter how tempting it becomes, you should avoid reallocating money you’ve dedicated to paying off high-interest debt to save for retirement. Instead, the focus should be on re-evaluating your budget to find any additional savings you can. To be successful, you will need to make a strong distinction between want and need — and, perhaps, make some tough lifestyle choices.

Though simply eliminating your daily coffee drink won’t magically provide a solid retirement fund, saving a few bucks by homebrewing while also eliminating a pricey cable bill in favor of an inexpensive streaming service — or, better yet, free library rentals — can add up to big savings over the course of the year. The ideal strategy will involve overhauling every aspect of your lifestyle, combining both large and small cuts to develop a lean budget structured around your long-term goals.

Of course, while you should never allocate debt money to your retirement savings, the reverse is also true. It is almost always a horrible idea to remove money from your retirement account before you hit retirement age — for any reason. Withdrawing early means you will be stuck paying hefty fees for withdrawing money early and, depending on the type of account, you may also have to pay significant taxes.

Aim for both goals by improving income

As you take the necessary steps to pay off debt and save for retirement, you may have already stretched the budget so thin it’s practically transparent. In this case, it is time to consider ways to improve your overall income. Increasing the amount you have coming in not only provides extra savings to put toward your retirement, but may also speed up your journey to becoming debt-free.

The easiest solution may be to look for ways to increase your income through your current job; think about taking on additional shifts or overtime hours to earn some extra cash. Depending on your position — and the time you’ve been with the company — consider asking for a pay raise or promotion, as well.

If you do not have options to make more money at your day job, it may be time to find a second job. Look for opportunities that provide flexible schedules that will accommodate your regular job; many work-from-home positions, for example, can easily fit into most work schedules. Doing neighborhood odd jobs, such as babysitting and dog walking, may also provide a solid income boost without interfering with your existing job.

For some, the need to pay off debt and improve retirement savings can be more than just a source of stress — but a hidden opportunity to begin a new career adventure. Instead of being weighed down by yet more work, use the desire to better your budget as a reason to explore the profit potential of a passion or hobby. Starting a small online store, part-time consulting service, or other small business can be a great way to improve your income and your overall happiness.

While it may sound intimidating, starting a side business can be as simple as putting together a professional looking website and doing a little marketing legwork to spread the word. And no, building a website isn’t as scary — or expensive — as it seems, either. A number of the top website builders now offer simple drag-and-drop interfaces perfect for putting together a professional-looking web page in minutes (without breaking the bank).

Learn how you can start repairing your credit here, and carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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How does a loan default affect my credit?

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loan default

Nobody takes out a loan expecting to default on it. Despite their best intentions, people sometimes find themselves struggling to pay off their loans. These types of struggles happen for many reasons, including job loss, significant debt, or a medical or personal crisis.

Making late payments or having a loan fall into default can add pressure to other personal struggles. Before finding yourself in a desperate situation, understanding how a loan default can impact your credit is necessary to avoid negative consequences.

30 days late

Missing one payment can further lower your credit score. If you can pay the past due amount plus applicable late fees, you may be able to mitigate the damage to your credit, if you make all other payments as expected.

The trouble starts when you (1) miss a payment, (2) do not pay it at all, and (3) continue to miss subsequent payments. If those actions happen, the loan falls into default.

More than 30 days late

Payments that are more than 30 days past due can trigger increasingly serious consequences:

  • The loan default may appear on your credit reports. It will likely lower your credit score, which most creditors and lenders use to review credit applications.
  • You may receive phone calls and letters from creditors demanding payment.
  • If you still do not pay, the account could be sent to collections. The debt collector seeks payment from you, sometimes using aggressive measures.

Then, the collection account can remain on your credit report for up to seven years. This action can damage your creditworthiness for future loan or credit card applications. Also, it may be a deciding factor when obtaining basic necessities, such as utilities or a mobile phone.

Other ways a default can hurt you

Hurting your credit score is reason enough to avoid a loan default. Some of the other actions creditors can take to collect payment or claim collateral are also quite serious:

  • If you default on a car loan, the creditor can repossess your car.
  • If you default on a mortgage, you could be forced to foreclose on your home.
  • In some cases, you could be sued for payment and have a court judgment entered against you.
  • You could face bankruptcy.

Any of these additional consequences can plague your credit score for years and hinder your efforts to secure your financial future.

How to avoid a loan default

Your options to avoid a loan default depend upon the type of loan you have and the nature of your personal circumstances. For example:

  • For student loans, research deferment or forbearance options. Both options permit you to temporarily stop making payments or pay a lesser amount per month.
  • For a mortgage, ask the lender if a loan modification is available. Changing the loan from an adjustable rate to a fixed rate, or extend the life of the loan so your monthly payments are smaller.

Generally, you can avoid a loan default by exercising common sense: buy only what you need and can afford, keep a steady job that earns enough income to cover your expenses, and keep the rest of your debts low.

Clean up your credit

The hard reality is that defaulting on a loan is unpleasant. It can negatively affect your credit profile for years. Through patience and perseverance, you can repair the damage to your credit and improve your standing over time.

Consulting with a credit repair law firm can help you address these issues and get your credit back on track. At Lexington Law, we offer a free credit report summary and consultation. Call us today at 1-855-255-0139.

You can also carry on the conversation on our social media platforms. Like and follow us on Facebook and leave us a tweet on Twitter.



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