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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Poll: Consumers' Debt Will Last Well into the New Year

How long will it take you to pay off your holiday credit card debt? According to the Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, 23% of Americans will not pay off their debt until March or later, equaling $14.6 billion in interest-accruing debt.

Over one-quarter of Americans (26%) use credit cards most often when holiday shopping, contributing to the $63.6 billion charged on credit cards throughout the shopping season.

"Credit cards can be hazardous to your holiday spending," says Tod Marks, senior editor, Consumer Reports. "With the average household saddled with $9,000 in credit debt already, anything that significantly adds to that impost could be potentially devastating. Cash forces you to be much more disciplined, purchasing only what you can afford."

The Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll also finds:

$1,000 in Debt

* Among those using credit cards to pay for holiday gifts, 17% or more plan on accumulating $1,000 or more in holiday charges.

More Men Re-gift and Return

* With little more than two weeks to go until Christmas, re-gifting becomes an attractive option. A noteworthy proportion of consumers (13%) are planning on re-gifting. Men are more likely to re-gift (17%) than women (10%).
* After the holidays, 16% of consumers plan on returning some of the gifts they received. Men (21%) are more likely than women (12%) to return some of their gifts.

"You Bought How Many Gifts?"

* Shoppers, on average, will buy about 15 gifts for the holidays--married women will buy the most (19); about 40% more than their husbands (13).

Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour

* As of December 10th, with only weeks left in the holiday shopping season, one-third of Americans had not even begun their holiday shopping.
* 30% or 62 million shoppers say that they won't finish their holiday shopping until December 23 or later. More than 1 in 10 shoppers (11%) don't anticipate finishing their holiday shopping until the evening of December 24th.
* On the brighter side, as of December 10th, 66% had at least started their holiday shopping, up 50% from the last measure on November 12 (43%).

It's Late in the Game for Online Shopping

* Online shopping brings its own challenges at this juncture. About one-third of shoppers planned on making a gift purchase online between now and the holidays. While most (89%) will wrap up their online shopping by December 20, 11% plan to make purchases after this date, taking a big risk, as even expedited shipping fees may not ensure that gifts arrive on time. But 31% of consumers buying online in these last two weeks plan on paying extra for expedited delivery.

"What Did Fido Get this Year?"

* This is the time of year when shoppers remember their furry friends as well. Among those with pets, more than half (52%) plan on buying them a gift for the holidays.

The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. Some 1,014 interviews were completed among adults aged 18 or older. Interviewing took place over December 7-10, 2006. The margin of error is+/- 3% points at a 95% confidence level.

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