By Stephanie Miller


5 Min. To Read

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‘Tis the season, which means that gift-giving is probably on your radar. But if you also have student loan debt, beware: it seems that you’re at risk for digging yourself even further into debt with holiday shopping.

A recent survey found that this year, those with student loan debt are more likely to spend a higher amount on holiday expenses than they did last year. Not only that, though, a strong majority of those in student loan debt plan to use a credit card to pay for those expenses. Not only are the survey’s responses startling, but they will make for a very rude awakening come 2018.

The Results

The survey in question, conducted by Student Loan Hero, asked 1,050 adults from across the United States about their holiday expenses. Respondents were questioned as to how much they anticipated spending, how they planned to pay for it, and whether they went into their holidays with a plan or budget in place. The results were quite interesting.

When asked whether they would spend more on holiday expenses in 2017 than they did in 2016, there was a notable discrepancy between those with student loan debt and those without. From the borrowers’ side, 55% said that they would spend more this year than they did last year, compared with only 37% from the student loan debt-free side of the aisle.

While this answer is relative and can be taken with a grain of salt – after all, we don’t know how much each group is spending in total – it’s still alarming. If you’re carrying around student loan debt, your goal should be to rein in the budget so that you can pay down your loans as soon as possible.

The next question was also a bit surprising. Of student loan borrowers, a shocking 69% said that they planned to put holiday expenses on a credit card. Only 45% of non-borrowers said the same thing.

Considering the usual, high interest rates involved with credit card spending, this is also very unwise. Unless you plan to pay off your credit card balances in full immediately after the holidays, this is a sure-fire way to not only build your debt even higher, but ensure that you pay more for your holiday expenses in the end.

What if you don’t plan to pay off those balances right away, though? Some of our survey-takers don’t.

Of all respondents – student loan borrowers or not – a strong 37% said that they would not pay off their holiday credit card debt right away. In fact, 39% of all respondents said that they fully expected holiday spending to take them more than six months to pay it all off. (That’s a lot of potential interest charges!)

It’s Not All Bad

These numbers are concerning, especially for those with student loan debt, who should be finding ways to pay down their debt, rather than spend even more on holiday expenses. However, the survey found some good news, too.

Student loan borrowers are resourceful. In fact, a whopping 58% of them said that they plan to re-gift or sell gifts that they’ve received in the past, in order to save money this year. This number was much smaller (only 29%) for the non-borrowers.

Student loan borrowers are also more likely to request gifts that will save them money throughout the year. Of respondents with educational debt, 77% planned to ask for things like gift cards for grocery stores or gas stations.

Lastly, of all those surveyed, 21% said that they would be willing to give up other financial comforts in order to lessen the impact of holiday expenses on their budget. This included things like eating out less, avoiding travel, and giving up drinking.

How to Lessen the Impact

If you’re concerned about how the holidays – and all of the expenses involved – will affect your finances, you’re not alone. If you are already in debt, whether it be credit cards or student loans, it’s even more important for you to make wise money decisions. Otherwise, you run the risk of never digging your way out of debt.

If you want to make it through the Christmas season unscathed, there are a few things you can do.

• Make homemade gifts for loved ones. These are often appreciated even more than store-bought gifts, and can be done for a fraction of the cost. Check out this holiday gift guide for more ideas.

• Shop Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Free Shipping Day sales. These consumer-based shopping days are great for saving money on retail gifts, if you know where to look. Not every “deal” is really a bargain, though, so be careful when you buy. Amazon is known for its Cyber Monday deals, which you can browse in your pajamas – leaving the Black Friday in-store mayhem to everyone else.

• Make a budget. The easiest way to avoid overspending this holiday season is to set limits for yourself. Make a list of everyone you need to buy for, your travel expenses, etc. and how much you can afford for each. Then, stick to it. Only spend what you can actually afford, without going into debt or damaging your budget.

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