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Holiday ads are out, but shoppers aren't (yet)

Come December, credit card spending typically spikes to 40 percent above the monthly average. That's not necessarily bad, if you're financially ready.

By Nov 1, 2013 1:36PM

This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site on MSN MoneyMost retailers have already begun pushing holiday shopping, but for the most part, consumers don’t seem to buy in.

Credit: © Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Caption: A woman walks by a store's discount sign
Americans spend nearly 40 percent more on their credit cards in December than they do in an average month, according to the latest TransUnion Spend Vectors study. That’s a significant hike from November, in which spending levels are about 5 percent above average, even though huge deal days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday usually fall in November.

The study evaluated the credit files of about 2 million randomly sampled, anonymous consumers with active credit cards as of March 31, 2013. The data showed December brings the most credit card spending, but August -- with its popular back-to-school sales -- came in second, with consumers spending about 7 percent more than the annual monthly average.

Conversely, consumers largely pull back on credit card spending in late winter and early spring: Spending is 1.2 percent below average in January and a whopping 21.9 percent below average in February. Consumers spend significantly less in March, as well, spending 17 percent less than average.

The February and March cutbacks may result from a holiday credit hangover -- buying more than you can afford for the holidays and spending the first several months of the new year shoring up debts. It’s not surprising consumers have to balance out holiday spending, considering 20 percent of shoppers spend at least twice as much in December as they normally do. The median amount spent in December 2012 was just more than $600, up from about $575 in 2011.

But spending more in December isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as you can pay the bill, ideally in full, the amount isn’t the issue. It’s only when high spending leads to debt and delinquency that frequent credit card use becomes a problem. Shoppers should also mind their credit limits -- using a high percentage of available credit will hurt credit scores.

The holiday shopping season may already be under way, but it’s not too late to save up enough to cover that December credit card bill. Cutting back on flexible areas of the budget or finding extra sources of income will help make the holidays affordable, and making and keeping to a spending plan is an effective way to avoid overspending.

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Nov 4, 2013 3:12PM

It is way too early for Christmas shopping, did we forget Thanksgiving. That's right retailers did forget, they are opening on Thanksgiving, corporate greed. They don't care about people and families ,they just want  their money. The corporate leaders will have their time off, with bonuses, to enjoy with their families. People need to stand up and not participate in the destruction of our holidays and family for the profit of retailers. People need to take the holiday and family back by not shopping to support this greedy trend. Everyone should stay at home with their families.

Nov 4, 2013 3:04PM
Many of us won't be doing any holiday shopping due to the sharp increase in our monthly health insurance premiums.
Nov 4, 2013 2:43PM

November JUST effing started. Give me a break.

Shoppers likely aren't out because of those ads.

We know what's coming.

We don't need chit forced upon us to remind us.

Consumers go at their own pace,regardless of what the stores want.

We really don't want to hear about it either. Seriously.



Nov 4, 2013 2:47PM
Christmas is for worship, not shopping.
Welcome to the worst $Mas for retailers since 2009. No one has money. Halloween left my neighborhood void of any decorations or alot of kids. Feelings about Holidays have changed sine everyone has no money these days. $Mas will be bad for the stores.
Nov 4, 2013 3:13PM
I am totally disgusted with the level of commercialism this year...retailers were rolling out Christmas crap before Halloween....I am cutting way back on what I buy this year and will focus much more on the food and time together with family and friends. Many of the people I know are having the same reactions....I hope the stores go bust this year.
Nov 4, 2013 3:08PM

It's been made very clear by society that I will never make a lot of money because educating your children just isn't worth much to you.  (Unlike the value reality TV stars and "celebrities" bring to our civilization.)  My reason for existence is not to make sure rich CEO's and bloated businesses make a lot of money.  My family, my friends, our health, our enjoyment of life, living within our means are what I care about - not businesses screeching at me that I'm a bad American for not buying XYZ.

Nov 4, 2013 8:51AM
I will stay away from any store that started ads before Halloween (BestBuy, Petsmart) and will not be favorable to any store running ads now.
Nov 4, 2013 3:13PM
I'm packing to move out of state.  I can't believe how  much stuff I have.  Next home will have a futon, min-fridge, nuker and TV.  Easier to clean that way.  Nobody has money to spend these days.  We get charged up the wazoo for everything these days  and even air for your tires costs money now.  Property taxes here in NJ are forcing me out.  Utilities are no prize either and I get to pay twice for sewer - the county bills and also the township so I get two bills for the same thing.  I think the stores will be SOL this year because people simply don't have disposable income after they pay bank fees and for stuff that used to be free.  It is so disgusting anymore.  Even cheap fast food restaurants have become expensive.  I give gift cards and checks so people can get whatever they want or need.
Nov 4, 2013 2:47PM

Hopefully, people will no spend as much on junk this year.


Nov 4, 2013 2:55PM
Since I'm expected to fly a thousand miles for Christmas, no one will be getting any presents from me.  They will have to be satisfied with just my company.  Traveling includes my having to pay to board my cat, pay for parking at an airport, pay to bring any luggage along, pay to have a drink of water while I wait.  Christmas shopping is a thing of the past.
Nov 4, 2013 2:28PM
We live in America, a land saturated with material goods.  The last ten years have seen incredible gains in how much stuff people own, and I cannot imagine many people are wanting much more than quality time with their families this season.  Another thing I don;t have time for under the tree, plus all the time to buy, wrap and return things is becoming absurd.  I suppose a new flat screen for the bathroom may be in order!??
Nov 4, 2013 3:08PM
These Corporate Pigs make my A - $$ tired. They snap their fingers and they expect us to jump.

They really think that every one will just throw money at them just because they say so.

Corporate Pigs are just that. PIGS!


The stores are lost this year, nobody has extra money. Started the last few years. Real christmas were left by the bunches in their lots.

Now with Obamacare facing everyone, everyone will have one eye on their wallets. No economy growth and none in the future kills this season before it starts.

Nov 4, 2013 3:05PM
I enjoy all the aspects of Christmas from church services to the shopping. I don't go overboard but I enloy it none the less! Great time of year!
Nov 4, 2013 3:08PM
Too early, not ready or in the mood to shop yet.

Nov 4, 2013 3:20PM
too much medical debt this year to do much shopping. many a stocking will go unfilled this year
Nov 4, 2013 3:09PM
Nov 4, 2013 3:06PM
I don't know about anyone else, but I will not shop in any store that had Christmas ads out before Halloween and If I walk into a store that has Christmas decorations up this early I'll do an about face and walk out!!
Nov 4, 2013 3:13PM
Pardon me but when the Xmas ads started in late August, just how serious can you be?  For all intents and purposes, "shoppers" are becoming more and more desensitized until it gets to crunch time.  Plus, having the discretionary dollars this early in the game may be hard to come by.  Relax - the droves of consumers are waiting for Black Friday.
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