Christmas on Credit: A Festive Financial Frenzy

In the whirlwind of holiday festivities, credit cards often bear the brunt of our festive spending sprees. But how deep do Americans dig into their digital wallets when December rolls around?

To illuminate the seasonal spending saga, we surveyed 1,029 Americans about their holiday shopping habits, particularly focusing on using credit cards for gift purchases. Our goal is to provide insights that resonate beyond the data, sharing narratives of savvy budgeting, the appeal of rewards, and the careful balancing of finances during the holiday season – a period of joy that often comes with high costs.

Whether you’re a savvy shopper, a budgeting novice, or just curious about where your own habits fit in the grand holiday scheme, our exploration will shed light on the financial side of the season.

Key Takeaways

  • Almost 60% of Americans feel pressured to spend more than they’re okay with on holiday shopping.
  • 25% of Americans said last year’s holiday shopping led to credit card debt – of which 35% have yet to pay it off in full.
  • 26% of Americans planning to use credit cards for holiday gifts this season expect it to take 7 months or more to pay off the debt.

The Holiday Spending Hustle

As the holiday season approaches, an overwhelming 92% of Americans are poised to buy gifts. How will they manage their merry expenditures?

According to our survey findings, over 10% of shoppers find holiday shopping extremely stressful, and nearly 60% feel pressured to spend beyond their comfort zone. Still, 56% donate to charity, averaging 13% of their holiday budget, and some (31%) tip more generously during the festive season.

Budgeting strategies vary widely across generations, with Gen Z favoring Black Friday deals, millennials and Gen X leaning on price comparison sites and apps, and baby boomers using coupons and discount codes. Notably, 77% of Gen Z shoppers embark on their gift-shopping sprees without setting a budget, the most among all generations surveyed.

The Credit Card Conundrum

Credit cards are a cornerstone of holiday shopping. Next, we’ll reveal the reasons behind America’s reliance on plastic during the most wonderful time of the year and their post-holiday plans for paying down the cheer.

The ripple effects of holiday generosity extend far past December, as 25% of Americans still grapple with credit card debt from the previous year’s festivities, and 35% have yet to settle those balances in full. This season, a quarter of shoppers wielding credit cards brace themselves for a seven-month (or longer) financial hangover as they strategize to pay down the gifts that keep on giving: their monthly statements.

Embracing the Heart of Holiday Gifting

As holiday spending begins, Americans weave in traditions like Secret Santa and supporting local or small businesses.

This year, 22% of Americans will rekindle the Secret Santa tradition, and nearly 70% of participants won’t set a spending cap. Community spirit is also high on America’s wishlist, with 1 in 10 consumers choosing to support local and small businesses for most of their holiday gifting and 28% looking to participate in Small Business Saturday. Some (20%) are contemplating browsing TikTok Shop, home to many small businesses.

Sustainability is another priority, especially for Gen Zers: 73% of them are considering more sustainable gift options, followed closely by millennials (61%), Gen X (55%), and baby boomers (45%). This could indicate a shift to more eco-conscious consumption.

A Season of Smart Spending

As the holiday season’s dust settles, America’s relationship with credit card debt remains a tale of caution, with some still paying off last year’s spending. But there’s a silver lining: the rise of budget-conscious and strategic shopping, with many seeking to extend the joy of giving without breaking the bank. This is punctuated by a commitment to sustainability (particularly among younger shoppers) and supporting local economies.

This holiday story is still being written. As we partake in the season’s joy, let’s also embrace the wisdom of balance – a harmony between festive generosity and financial well-being.


We surveyed 1,029 Americans about their holiday gift-buying plans. Of these, 8% weren’t buying any gifts and weren’t included in the further study. Of the remaining respondents, 47% identified as men, 51% as women, and 2% as non-binary. The generational breakdown was 12% baby boomers, 24% Gen X, 52% millennials, and 12% Gen Z.

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CouponFollow tracks coupon codes from online merchants to help consumers save money at checkout. Our easy-to-use platform gathers the latest discounts, ensuring shoppers can access deals in real time for smarter, more affordable online shopping experiences.

Fair Use Statement

We invite you to share these insights with your audience for any non-commercial purposes. Please ensure that when you do, you include a link back to this page to offer your readers the full scope of our study and its methodology.

about the author

Marc Mezzacca
Founder and CEO, CouponFollow
As the Founder and CEO of CouponFollow, Marc has a passion for helping consumers save time and money while shopping online. He’s been a bargain and deal hunter since the early 2000s.