48% of Americans Make This Costly Mistake When Holiday Shopping — Do You?

Avoid incurring holiday debt by planning ahead.

According to the results of a recent GOBankingRates survey, 48 percent of Americans said they “don’t do any financial preparation for the holiday season.” That’s a costly mistake to make, and could explain why more than a quarter of Americans surveyed said they’ve fallen into debt in the past due to holiday expenses.

The heavy cost of the holidays could be one of the reasons behind the most common answer to another question: When asked, “What would you do or sacrifice in order to celebrate the holidays this year?” over one-third of respondents said they “would skip the holidays.”

Related: Here’s How Much Debt Americans Have in Every State

Holiday Finances by Age: Older Americans Less Likely to Prepare

On the first question, “How do you financially prepare for the holiday season?” the youngest and oldest Americans — respondents ages 18 to 24 and 65 and over — seem to be the least prepared. Half of survey respondents 18 to 24 years old, and 53 percent of respondents age 65 and over said they “don’t do any financial preparation for the holiday seasons.” Although other age groups had lower response rates, they’re not by much.

Question 4, “Have you ever fallen into debt to pay for your holiday expenses in the past?” returned interesting responses by age. Younger Americans — respondents ages 18 to 34 — largely avoided falling into debt. Americans ages 35 to 54 actually fared worse on this question, with 40 percent of 45- to 54-year-olds saying they had fallen into debt before from holiday expenses.

How Americans Financially Prepare for the Holidays, by Age and Gender
Set Aside MoneyPay Down as Much Debt as PossibleCompare Prices for Items at Different Retailers and OnlineCreate a Holiday BudgetResearch  Coupons,  Discounts, Sales, Etc.Nothing
Ages 18-2422%4%16%20%15%50%
Ages 25-3424%8%26%26%21%42%
Ages 35-4425%7%20%21%23%44%
Ages 45-5426%10%23%21%18%42%
Ages 55-6424%10%22%15%19%43%
Ages 65 and Over21%8%17%14%14%53%
Females23%8%21%20%21%43%
Males23%7%16%16%13%53%
Overall23%7%18%18%17%48%
*Respondents could select more than one answer choice.

Look: How Much Americans Have in Savings at Every Age — How Do You Compare?

Holiday Finances by Gender: Men Less Likely to Prepare

According to the survey results, males do less financial preparation. When asked, “How do you financially prepare for the holiday season?” 53 percent of male respondents said they “don’t do any financial preparation for the holiday seasons.” By comparison, only 43 percent of female respondents fail to prepare.

Although fewer women said they didn’t do any financial preparation, more women (31 percent ) than men (24 percent) said that in the past, they had fallen into debt due to holiday expenses. Either way, however, the proportion of both genders that have fallen into debt is substantial: Female respondents incurred an average debt of $1,478; male respondents an average of $1,651 — more than the U.S. median rent amount of $1,533.

Use These: 40 Ways to Save Money Over the Holidays

Taking on the holidays without some kind of plan is rarely a good idea. While 48 percent make no financial preparations, 23 percent of Americans said they do “Set aside money specifically for holiday expenses.” Just under 20 percent of respondents said they “Create a holiday budget,” which restores some hope for Americans and their financial habits.

Keep reading about ways to avoid overspending on Black Friday.

More on Holidays and Saving Money

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Methodology: The GOBankingRates survey posed the following questions to 2,000 Americans: 1) “How do you financially prepare for the holiday season?”; 2) “What are you most dreading when the holiday season hits?”; 3) “How much do you plan to spend/what is your budget for holiday shopping this year?”; 4) “Have you ever fallen into debt to pay for your holiday expenses in the past?”; 5) “In the past, how much debt have you racked up in order to pay for your holiday expenses?”; 6) “What would you do or sacrifice in order to celebrate the holidays this year?”