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Cost Has 43% of Us Wanting to Skip the Holidays

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- What does it say when 43% of Americans want to "skip" the holidays over money woes, as well as 54% of the "underbanked" citing "financial strain"?

The figures come from a survey of 2,082 Americans 18 and older by Harris Interactive for Think Finance, an online financial services firm.

Millions of Americans just don't have enough cash on hand to cover the cost of presents, decorations, food, beverages, parties and holiday travel.

Those costs do add up. According to the American Research Group, the average U.S. household will spend $801 this holiday season, almost double the amount spent in 2009 ($417) in the depths of the Great Recession. Unfortunately, it's money many families just don't have in the bank, or even in the kitchen cookie jar.

Some details from the Think Finance study:

  • 32% of respondents say they "don't have enough money in the bank" to pay for those holiday costs.
  • 36% of Americans (and 50% of the underbanked) say they will cut their holiday presents budget to make the Christmas season "more affordable."
  • 72% of Americans say they will carry debt over into January due to holiday spending.
  • 51% of Americans say their financial institutions don't care about them.

"The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of year, but between travel and buying gifts, it's easy to get derailed by expenses," says Ken Rees, chief executive at Think Finance. "It's very difficult to cut back during a season that's all about giving, and many Americans feel obligated to spend into debt."

The study certainly is depressing, but there may be a silver lining among the financial heartache that goes part and parcel with the holidays:

Maybe a smaller, more intimate Christmas season is just want the doctor ordered for Americans in an era of weaker economic growth and lower annual incomes.

Retailers wouldn't like it, and restaurants, airlines and hotels wouldn't be doing handstands either. But Main Street families may appreciate taking a financial breather during the holidays, as strain gives way to sanity for millions of otherwise anxious Americans.

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