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Survey: Many With Money Troubles 'Wish They Could Skip' the Holidays

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- As the holidays arrive, the problems of the "underbanked" -- loosely defined as consumers with no bank accounts who often turn to higher-risk financial services such as payday loans, prepaid debit cards and direct deposit advances -- grow worse.

While the National Retail Foundation expects holiday spending to rise 4.1% from last year, a bigger rise than over the past 10 years, not everyone is taking part.

According to Think Finance, a Fort Worth, Texas, personal financial services provider, 45% of the underbanked are so sick and tired of worrying about financial issues they "wish they could skip" the holidays altogether.

A glimpse at the data provided by Think Finance reveals why so many financially distressed Americans are so distressed over the holidays:

  • 45% of underbanked Americans surveyed say they don't have enough money to cover holiday expenses.
  • 85% say they will spend the same or less money on holiday gifts this year than they did in 2011.
  • 44% define their anxiety level going into the holiday season as either "high or extremely high."
  • 41% say they will take advantage of store layaway programs (even 50% of Americans in the $75,000 to $99,000 annual income bracket are counting on using layaway programs this year), but most underbanked Americans say they need another financing option beyond layaway to keep holiday spending under budget.
  • 59% say they will carry extensive debt into 2013.

"The economy has shown gradual improvement in recent years, but everyday Americans are still working hard to cover expenses, making holiday spending particularly stressful," says Ken Rees, chief executive at Think Finance. "The fact that people across income levels are turning to layaway makes it clear that we need more financial options."

If there is any good news from the survey, it's that about 50% of underbanked consumers expect their financial situation to brighten by this time next year, and about the same number say the same of the U.S. economy.

It's a unique time in America -- and not in a good way -- when so many Americans want to skip out on the holidays altogether, primarily because they can't stand the financial anxiety anymore.

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