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Poll: Americans grumpy after parking their plastic over the holidays

Summary

The holiday shopping season was a grumpy affair for many Americans who were struggling to downsize their credit card debt

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The holiday shopping season was a grumpy affair for many Americans who were struggling to downsize their credit card debts and spend less on gifts than in previous years, according to a scientific poll conducted for CreditCards.com.

Some Americans grumpy after parking their plastic over the holidays
’09 HOLIDAYS: SPENDING LESS,
LIKING IT LESS
A CreditCards.com poll finds that one in three Americans found the 2009 holiday season less pleasant than previous years. Liking their holidays least included people who:

  • Cut back on holiday shopping (46 percent).
  • Shed credit card debt (41 percent).
  • Used credit less to make purchases (41 percent).

Overall, about one in three — 34 percent — said they found the 2009 holiday season less pleasant than prior years. But unhappiness was not evenly spread in the survey of 1,004 adults conducted Jan. 15-17, 2010, by GfK Roper (see poll methodology).

Some of the grumpiest included people who say they cut back on holiday shopping (46 percent), people who had shed credit card debt (41 percent) and shoppers who say they used credit less to make purchases (42 percent). Others more likely to report a greater displeasure with the 2009 holidays included people over 50, low-wage earners and the unemployed.

Grumpy holidays
The poll reflects the grumpiness many people may have felt while enduring what may have been the worst holiday season they’ve seen in years. Good cheer and glad tidings were punctuated by layoffs, home foreclosures and news that credit card issuers were raising interest rates, slashing credit limits and adding a host of new fees ahead of the new credit card reform law.

If cash-strapped consumers were down on the holiday season, retailers weren’t much happier. According to figures released by the National Retail Federation, 2009 holiday shopping volume showed only lackluster gains of 1.1 percent over the previous year.

Overall, nearly two out of three Americans (65 percent) said the holiday shopping season was either less pleasant (34 percent) or about the same (31 percent) this year. Only about a third (32 percent) reported happier holiday shopping experiences.

About four in 10 (39 percent) of people who reported having less pleasant holiday shopping were unemployed, compared to about one-quarter of those employed full time (26 percent).

Young shoppers (people 18 to 24 years old) appeared happiest. More than two out of five (42 percent) said they had more pleasant holiday shopping seasons, while only 32 percent of adults overall felt better about their shopping experience this year compared to last.

People on the low end of the economic scale were also less likely to say they had happy holidays. About half (51 percent) of people earning $20,000 to $29,900 a year said they had less pleasant shopping in 2009. More than a third (36 percent) of people making less than $20,000 a year reported having a less pleasant shopping season.

Poll findings
The poll also found:

  • Nearly half of Americans (47 percent) said they used credit less this holiday season. Another 16 percent said they didn’t use credit at all. Many may not have had a choice given how much lenders tightened credit standards amid a credit crunch that began in late 2008 and continued through 2009.
  • Only 6 percent of people said they purchased more on credit during the holidays and nearly a third (30 percent) said their credit card purchases were unchanged from previous years.
  • Nearly a third (31 percent) of poll respondents said they have shed credit card debt in the past year, but two out of five (41 percent) say their credit card debt is about the same. Federal banking regulators have tracked the dramatic drop in revolving consumer credit, which has fallen by $101 billion since September 2008. Only 8 percent of the poll respondents indicated they had more credit card debt.
  • Nearly half of Americans, 46 percent, reported scaling back on holiday shopping this year compared to previous years. They weren’t happy about their shopping experiences, according to the poll. Among those who said they had less pleasant shopping seasons, more than four in 10 (46 percent) said they had purchased less in 2009, compared to only 29 percent of people who reported more pleasant experiences but who had also purchased less. Only 14 percent of poll respondents said they had purchased more than previous years during the holidays. Two out of five (40 percent) said their holiday spending was about the same.

Few regrets

Despite the displeasure expressed by some, the vast majority of people had no regrets about what they bought over the holidays. More than nine out of 10 people (94 percent) did not regret their holiday purchases. That was down only slightly from 2009, when a holiday poll of the 2008 shopping season posed the same question. It found 96 percent of poll respondents had no regrets.

During the most recent holiday season, only 6 percent of adults reported debt regret, up only slightly from 5 percent the previous year. Young people ages 18 to 24 were the most remorseful about their shopping. Nearly one in five of them (19 percent) said they regret their holiday buying. Lower income groups also were more remorseful. Those earning less than $30,000 annually were more likely to regret their purchases than higher-earning groups (12 percent compared to 2.4 percent for people earning more than $75,000 a year).

Poll methodology
The CreditCards.com survey was conducted from Jan. 15-17, 2010, by pollsters GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media, via random digit dialing phone interviews with 1,004 interview subjects. Interviewees were approximately split between males and females ages 18 and over. The raw data were then weighted by a custom-designed computer program that automatically developed a weighting factor for each respondent, employing five variables: age, sex, education, race and geographic region.

The total margin of error on weighted data for the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

The 2009 survey was conducted Jan. 9-11, 2009, with 1,005 adults. That margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

See other CreditCards.com polls:Two out of five parents give adult children bailouts, Americans losing sleep over their financial woes, Card issuers punish many customers, reward a few

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Published: February 2, 2010

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