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Fun With Numbers: Holiday Debt Edition

Santa with an empty wallet.With less than three weeks until Christmas, it’s time to get out there and get spending — unless you’re one of the 13% of Americans still paying off holiday debt from 2011.

You shouldn’t spend a dime on gifts.

The savvy folks over at Consumer Reports — or Grinches, depending on your worldview — recently published the magazine’s latest holiday poll.

I found the results of the national telephone survey revealing, and not just because so many of us are still drowning in yuletide bills from last year.

Here are some of the more interesting results:

  • We’re on a budget. More than half of us (52%) have set a spending limit this holiday season.
  • We don’t follow budgets. Many of us (41%) sailed past our limit in 2011 and 4% “went way over budget.”
  • Yet, we plan to spend less. More than a third (37%) of those surveyed said they planned to spend less on gifts this year than in 2011. Just 12% said they’d spend more.
  • And buy fewer gifts. Almost half of us (47%) have resorted to buying cheaper gifts since the recession. And 36% are buying fewer presents overall.
  • When we do buy presents, we like giving gift cards. This is the second-most-cited gift of choice behind clothing. Some 52% of us will give shirts, pants and other wearable presents, while 46% have gift cards on their shopping lists.
  • We don’t all use our gift cards. Some 15% of people say they have at least one unused gift card from last year.
  • We don’t use gift cards because we’re lazy. Yet 29% of people who still have 2011 gift cards say they haven’t used them because they haven’t found the time. And 23% simply forgot they had the card. This is free money. I’m sure most of us here would be happy to take it off the hands of those who can’t find a way to use it.

What do you think? Take our poll below?


For holiday gifts, I plan to...
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