Holiday shoppers racked up tons of debt — but no one seems to be in a hurry to pay it back

Holiday shoppers racked up tons of debt — but no one seems to be in a hurry to pay it back
Debtors took on an average of $1,549 of debt this holiday season.Mario Tama/Getty Images
  • Americans took on an average of $1,549 in debt for the 2022 holiday shopping season, according to a LendingTree survey.
  • One in three holiday debtors admit it will take them five months or more to pay back what they owe.

Shoppers take on debt every year during the holiday season, leaving them with financial deficits that can impact the start of the new year — and experts say 2022 was no different.

While fewer Americans took on debt during this year's holiday shopping season — an estimated 35%, down slightly from 2021's 36% — the average amount is the highest it's been since 2015 at $1,549 of debt, according to a report from LendingTree.

Over a third of respondents told LendingTree it would take them at least five months to pay off holiday shopping debt. With soaring inflation and threat of a recession in the US, extending the payment period for debt means higher interest rates and less money in the pockets of consumers.

"Basically people's margin for error financially has been whittled down to almost zero because of inflation and rising interest rates," Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, told the New York Post. "The amount of money they have left over after paying their bills is significantly smaller."

Parents of children under 18 years old were the most likely to have spent more money than they had this year, according to Schulz. And while two-thirds of shoppers told LendingTree they hadn't planned to go into debt this holiday season, about a fifth of holiday debtors spent $500 or more on the most expensive gift they purchased.


"There's never a good time to carry debt, but this is a particularly bad time with interest rates at record highs," Schulz wrote in the LendingTree report.

Core inflation rates hit a 40-year high of 6.6% through September, Insider's Ben Winck and Madison Hoff reported in October.

However, Schulz wrote, debt easily paid off in a month or two isn't much to be concerned about. But those expecting to finish their payments in five months or more are facing a steeper financial mountain in 2023.