RALEIGH – Americans certainly weren’t a Grinch or Scrooge when it came to holiday spending this season.

They didn’t let economic bad news – from inflation to a threat of recession – keep them from spending on gifts. In fact, they took on a record amount of debt to put presents under the trees.

So says Charlotte-based LendingTree.

Average debt soared 24% – to $1,549 – this holiday season, respondents in a nationwide survey reported.

The debt is the highest in the eight years of LendingTree’s holiday debt survey.

But in some ways it’s not a shock that debt increased, the financial firm based in Charlotte reported.

“With skyrocketing inflation, the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, and overall economic uncertainty, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing the largest spending dollar increase in the history of this report,” LendingTree noted.

Average Holiday Debt 2015-2022. (LendingTree graphic)

Key findings as reported by LendingTree:

  • 35% of Americans took on holiday debt this season, down slightly from 36% last year. However, the average debt taken on reached $1,549, up 24% from last year’s $1,249.
  • 37% of those taking on debt expect to take five months or more to pay it off, up from 28% a year ago. This percentage jumps to 47% among Gen Xers and 42% among women.
  • 63% of those who took on holiday debt didn’t plan to do so, up from 54% a year ago. This year, the most likely to say they didn’t plan to go into debt are women (68%) and those making $35,000 or less a year (67%).

The debt spending also means higher credit card bills and more time needed to pay off the charges.

“For millions of Americans, it’s not possible to pay off their credit cards in full regularly,” says LendingTree chief credit analyst, Matt Schulz. “Life is expensive in 2022, and it isn’t going to get any less so in 2023. That means that people’s financial wiggle room is almost zero, so any unexpected expense can put them in debt whether they like it or not.”

To view the full report, visit: https://www.lendingtree.com/credit-cards/study/holiday-debt/