Americans Say $60K Gift is the Best Debt Stress Buster

Nearly half (49%) of Americans said if money were no object, they would like to have one of their debts paid off this holiday season.

A new survey from COUNTRY Financial® reveals the holiday season may be one of the most stressful.

According to the survey, a whopping 70 percent of Americans are stressed about the upcoming holiday season, with most respondents in this group—32 percent—feeling the greatest stress around holiday finances. Other top sources of stress include finding the right gifts (21 percent), not having enough time to get everything done (16 percent), family-related issues (15 percent) and travel (4 percent).

It turns out that Americans have reason to be stressed about finances; the survey found that on average Santa would need to leave $58,673 in an individual’s stocking for them to be totally debt-free this holiday season.

“The financial pressures and additional expenses around the holidays can make it a stressful time for many Americans—especially those who are already carrying a variety of debts,” said Tim Harris, Executive Vice President at COUNTRY Financial. “Don’t let the holidays ruin your goals of paying down debt. Take simple steps to budget and plan ahead in advance of the season. Ask yourself what your family can realistically afford this year, create a goal and stick to it.”

Americans Aren’t Budgeting for The Holidays

Despite feeling stressed about finances this holiday season, many Americans are not taking steps to budget in advance. According to the survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans report not setting holiday budgets. In addition, 72 percent of Americans are not setting aside money for holiday expenses throughout the year.

However, one in two Americans (50 percent) say they feel significantly happier when they plan and budget for their holiday spending in advance.

Most Americans Wish to Be Debt Free this Holiday

When asked what would be at the top of their holiday wish list if money were no object, 49 percent of Americans selected having one of their debts, such as their mortgage (20 percent), credit card debt (13 percent), personal loan debt (9 percent), or student loan debt (7 percent) completely paid off—compared to 19 percent of respondents who selected receiving a vacation or luxury item. Charitable gifts and funds for an emergency account were at the bottom of America’s wish list at 6 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

Those who put paying off a mortgage at the top of their wish list said they would need $82,895 in order to be able pay off all of their various debts; those who chose credit card debt said they would need $41,159; those who said student loans, $50,914; and those who replied all other personal loans, $16,992. 

Avoiding Credit Cards This Season

When asked how they were planning on paying for holiday expenses this year, nearly two thirds (63 percent) of Americans said with cash, debit, or money from a checking account. Only 29 percent plan to use a credit card.

“Our survey found that the greatest holiday wish for 13 percent of Americans is to pay off their credit card debt, so it’s not surprising that many are wary of using their credit cards when shopping this year,” continued Harris. “However, if you are able to pay off your full balance at the end of each month, using a credit card can have its advantages like earning points or improving your credit score.”

Women Feel More Stressed Than Men

It turns out that in most households, women are taking on a more proactive role than men this holiday season. The survey reveals that 46 percent of men don’t intend on setting a holiday budget versus only 33 percent of women. In addition, nearly a quarter of men (24 percent) don’t plan to pay for any holiday expenses this year.

More women than men surveyed (26 percent vs. 18 percent) are feeling financial stress around the upcoming season. Men are also more likely to feel no stress at all compared to women (36 percent vs. 25 percent).

About COUNTRY Financial® 

The COUNTRY Financial® group (www.countryfinancial.com) serves about one million households and businesses throughout the United States. It offers a wide range of financial products and services from auto, home, business and life insurance to retirement planning services, investment management and annuities.