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Financial Planning

“Help! It’s the holidays. I’m drowning in debt!”

If you're drowning in debt this season, it's never too late to take smart steps to avoid the frenzy.

If you’ve already taken on too much debt this season, you’re not alone. But the frenzy is avoidable, and it’s never too late to take smart, practical steps.

Date:
December 3, 2021

You’re not alone. Overspending at the holidays is all too common. But it’s not too late to take back the season. 

Old habits die hard

This year, Black Friday online sales dipped for the first time ever. But not by much. Together, we still spent $8.9 billion (down from $9 billion in 2020).  

As we head into the holidays, retailer trade groups report “tremendous momentum,” and consulting group Deloitte predicts the average household will spend 5% more than last year on the holidays ($1,463 per household). 

Spending habits die hard, despite major obstacles this year: inflation is rampant common purchases, prices are rising faster than they have in 30 years, and due to stressed supply chains, 3 out of 4 shoppers will probably spend more money earlier to beat expected stock outs

With the added uncertainty of the pandemic’s next phase, it’s remarkable traditional behaviors persist:

  • And 75% of Americans will pay for the holidays with credit cards, adding $620 on average to their card debt.

Are the holidays a spending juggernaut we’re all helpless to stop? If you’re already under heavy holiday debt, it’s hard to believe anything else.

The numbers are skewed

But a close look at the statistics shows a serious skew: upper income families are spending more -- up to 5 times more than low income families -- creating a spending gap that tilts the average. More spending by the wealthy masks the reality that many Americans are, in fact, not spending as much.

That gap is a reflection of our wealth inequities. But it’s also evidence that many of us either can’t or don’t want to take on holiday debt.

More Americans are skipping gifts 

In fact, more Americans are opting out. In a recent poll, 11.5% of Americans say they won’t buy gifts this holiday, a record number for the season. 

Buy Nothing Day, the Saturday after Black Friday, added two million supporters in 2021, likely in response to inflation and supply chain frustrations as well as heightened environmental concerns.

The frenzy is escapable

With those trends in mind, the holidays aren’t destined to be open-wallet free-for-all. Overspending isn’t inevitable, despite the pressures many of us feel. 

  • Alternatives are everywhere

Look for alternatives to spending. Arrange simple pleasures instead, like ice skating or a museum visit or inexpensive game tickets. If you can share the experience, it’s a gift for both yourself and the recipient. 

  • Remember last year

Due to pandemic restrictions, many of us were forced to celebrate the holidays far from friends and families last year. It was a holiday when many of us learned to prioritize the time we spend with loved ones. If you’re reuniting this year, emphasize your connected time together. 

  • Talk to others in the same boat

Join a group. Find counsel. Pick up some tips for dealing with holiday stress. Hucksters abound, but support groups on social media can provide real relief. Listen to others, and share how you’re feeling. 

In a CNN.com post, author James MacKinnon adds an environmental angle to the season’s pressures: "The consumer dilemma is the idea that the planet clearly needs us to reduce our consumption, but our economy needs us to consume more and more every year.” We’re pressured to both spend more and consume less, an extra, complicated bind this year.

But regardless of the pressure, big or small, when we’re mindful of the stress that triggers bad habits, like overspending, we can start to think clearly, avoid going overboard and return to what the holidays are really about. 

bright-money-use-bright-to-avoid-drowning-in-debt-this-season
Personal finance tips to keep you on track with Bright.

Getting out of debt is real

If you’re struggling with debt, it can be tough to see past it. When the numbers pile up, it’s hard to think straight. 

But there are practical steps you can start taking now, during the holidays or as soon as you’re ready.

  • Adopt a debt pay-off plan

A proven, regular system for paying off debts can make all the difference. Millions of Americans swear by them. They’ve helped scores of people get debt-free. The most popular methods are “snowball” and “avalanche.” The snowball method prioritizes credit cards with the lowest balances, while the avalanche method focuses on lowering your interest charges. Both require a little discipline and math. 

  • Use a budget tool

See where your spending is really going. Some banks and credit card issuers categorize your spending, and several apps plug in to your accounts and track your behavior. You might be surprised how you’re spending your money. A little self-awareness can go a long way. 

Rely on Bright to get debt-free

Bright can help you get you debt-free faster. Our MoneyScience™ AI studies your finances and analyzes your debt, looking at your APRs, balances and interest charges. Then Bright makes smart card payments for you, always on time and optimized to pay off your cards faster. Bright even adjusts as your finances shift. 

Bright also offers two other solutions, Bright Credit Builder and Bright Balance Transfers. They’re smart alternatives, with competitive rates and built-in automation. 

Bright Credit Builder is an easy and safe way to boost your credit score - with instant approval, no extra fees and no credit check required. Once you’re signed up, we’ll set up an interest-free, secured line of credit and use it to make automatic payments on your cards, building a positive payment history and lowering your credit utilization. Bright Credit Builder focuses on utilization and payment history because as they improve, your credit score goes up! 

Bright Balance Transfer offers a low-interest line of credit designed to pay off card debt fast while saving you from high interest charges. Once approved, Bright uses the funds from your Bright Balance Transfer to pay off your high-interest cards, moving those debts to our balance transfer program with its lower APR. Over the months ahead, Bright automates your new repayments, too, so you pay less in interest and it’s hassle-free. Bright Balance Transfers offers credit lines of up to $10,000 at APRs starting from 9.95%, depending on your eligibility.


If you don’t have it yet, download the Bright app from the App Store or Google Play. Connect your checking account and your cards, set a few goals and let Bright get to work. Once you sign up, you can apply for Bright Credit Builder or Bright Balance Transfer or use MoneyScience™ to pay off your cards fast.

Recommended Readings:

How to get credit card debt relief

Quick ways to become debt free

MoneyScience™ Team
Bright Money

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