A quarter of Americans have gone into debt because of the holiday season

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(Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash)

Between purchasing the perfect gift, buying food to feed the whole family and traveling to see loved ones, over a quarter of Americans have gone into debt due to holiday spending, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 Americans who celebrate a winter holiday found that 28 percent have gone into debt during the holiday season.

And those racking up debt will be stuck paying it off through March — or about three months after the holidays.

Conducted by Yelp and commissioned by OnePoll, the survey revealed that respondents plan to spend $972 on holiday-related costs this year, but many will overspend.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed say they have a budget for the holiday season — with millennials most likely to have one (63 percent) — but just one-fifth of those “always” stick to it.

Of those who don’t stick to their budget, the average respondent will overspend by $489 — and a quarter of those will overspend by more than $500.

Gifts for family and friends was the area in which respondents were the most likely to overspend (46 percent), followed by food and drinks — both for home (19 percent) and when eating out (14 percent).

And results found that 36 percent of respondents are more likely to eat out during the holidays than during the rest of the year.

Of those, 57 percent say they stress about cost more often when eating out during the holidays.

But the survey looked at more than just the “secret cost of the holidays”: It also delved into the different ways respondents are choosing to celebrate, pinpointing the elements that cause the most stress.

With everything there is to do in advance, half of those surveyed (49 percent) say the holidays are the most stressful part of the year — with millennials the most likely to think that (58 percent).

Results found that hosting a party or dinner is the most stress-inducing way to celebrate (51 percent), followed by loved ones staying over or traveling to see family and friends (tied at 45 percent).

For those with guests staying over, the most stressful parts were found to be cleaning their home before hosting a dinner (41 percent), having enough time to get everything ready (38 percent) and preparing holiday meals (36 percent).

“Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or playing the host, the holiday season can be exhausting for many of us,” said Tara Lewis, Yelp’s Trend Expert. “Planning ahead and having access to professionals that fit your budget can be a great way to reduce holiday stress and allow yourself to enjoy the season. Do your future self a favor so that you can spend time with loved ones and enjoy the season.”

Cost was found to be a major factor in why respondents are so stressed for the holidays. Four in 10 said they’re trying to have a smaller celebration because they’re worried about money — and 22 percent are considering forgoing a celebration altogether.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents say their life feels “chaotic and unorganized” during the holidays, but a quarter of those surveyed (24 percent) still say they prioritize small home improvement projects in advance of hosting, wanting their home to be perfect before guests arrive.

Other respondents outsource to save themselves time and potential stress — 26 percent have rented tables, chairs, etc. for the holidays, while 29 percent have used a cleaner, 24 percent have hired a caterer or private chef and 22 percent have hired someone to help with decorations around their home.

“The stress of being the consummate host or hostess during the holidays can make it hard to get into the holiday spirit,” said Lewis. “Whether catering or home cleaning, consider what projects you can outsource to a professional this season, giving the gift of a stress-free holiday season to you and your loved ones.”


  1. Hosting a party or dinner 51 percent
  2. Friends or family staying with me 45 percent
  3. Traveling to see family or friends 45 percent
  4. Going out to dinner with family or friends 29 percent
  5. Taking a vacation 24 percent
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  1. Cleaning their home before a hosted dinner 41 percent
  2. Having enough time to get everything ready 38 percent
  3. Preparing holiday meals 36 percent
  4. Cleaning my home after a hosted dinner 34 percent
  5. Preparing their home for houseguests 34 percent


  1. Keeping costs down while traveling 41 percent
  2. Bringing gifts and packing everything 29 percent
  3. Purchasing gifts for family and friends 28 percent
  4. Cost of eating out 25 percent
  5. Finding hotels/lodging 22 percent
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  1. Home cleaner 28 percent
  2. Caterer or private chef 16 percent
  3. Home organization 14 percent
  4. Holiday decorator 12 percent
  5. Home services professional, other than house cleaner 10 percent

>> Download the video and infographic for this research story <<

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