WASHINGTON, D.C. — This time of the year, it can be easy to get swept away in the magic of the season.
"Everyone is out, you know, and shopping and just exploring,” said Dana Gagnon, owner of Hart and Honey, a home décor small business in southern California.
However, experts say that for those who are not careful with their holiday spending, the cold reality of 2022 could be right around the corner.
“It's easy to swipe that card, especially during the holidays,” said Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy for the credit reporting company Experian.
Experian recently conducted a nationwide survey, gauging where people stood with their finances nearly two years into the COVID pandemic.
“People said that COVID is still, in some cases, having some effect on their finances, but less than last year,” Griffin said.
Last year, half of those surveyed said they were stressed about their finances during the holidays. This year, that number dropped to 30%. This time around, that stress revolves more around supply issues.
“Getting the gifts for the kids and having them physically there is perhaps more stressful this year than being able to pay for them, which is an unusual circumstance,” Griffin said.
Still, the survey found that, overall, 58% of people are concerned about how much they spend during the holidays. The group most concerned: 45% of 18- to 24-year-olds, also known as Gen Z.
“That makes sense. In a way, they're typically the least established, lower incomes generally,” Griffin said.
He said that there are steps members of every generation can take now to make sure they head into the new year with their best personal financial picture.
“They're looking at ‘How do I operate in this sort of era of uncertainty in our finances and seeing things like inflation?’ seeing things like higher costs and lower supply create uncertainty in how you manage your finances,” Griffin said.
First step: work to increase savings and see where you can cut unnecessary costs.
Second suggestion: create a budget, which is a critical tool that can help keep you on the right financial track.
Finally, Griffin said, it is important to check your credit report and pay down credit card debt.
“Credit card debt tends to be the most expensive debt you have. Not the largest – that's usually people's homes – but the most expensive debt you have, because that interest adds up and you can find yourself with increasing credit card balances without actually buying anything else if you're not careful,” he said. “So, paying down the debt – credit card debt – creates more freedom in the finances.”
Some shoppers said they are taking that advice a step further by not creating credit card debt in the first place.
"I'm keeping my money in my pockets and just spending time with my family," said Cheryl Mosely, who was out shopping near Detroit.
It’s just one move taken now that can bring people closer together, while also keeping hard-earned money closer to home.