NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Just when it seemed consumers were feeling festive, last season's debt is showing up on some Americans' holiday shopping lists this year.
According to eCommerce payments company eBillme, 5% of U.S. consumers are still paying for 2009's seasonal spending. Consumer Reports' Holiday Shopping Poll, meanwhile, found that 13.6 million Americans are still juggling debt from last season after being a bit too jolly about their holiday spending. With the National Retail Federation expecting holiday spending to rise 2.3% this year to $447 billion and personal holiday spending to climb from $682 last year to $689, some consumers are buckling down to stop that debt cycle from spinning into 2011.
A combination of big spending, annual percentage rates raised before provisions of last year's CARD Act went into effect and revolving balances on Visa, MasterCard and Discover Cards, among others, may have helped that debt along, but studies suggest a little holiday moderation may help keep balances current. Consumer Reports found that a third of consumers will be cutting back on spending this year, with more saying they'll pay with cash this year instead of credit or debit cards.
Last year, those who preferred paper over plastic saved nearly 10% right off the bat, as Consumer Reports says credit card users spent an average of $892 to the cash crowd's $811. The problem is that cash users are big, fat liars with no sense of restraint. That $811 holiday total was $112 more than they told Consumer Reports they'd originally planned to spend. Of the 36% of shoppers who set a budget last year, 39% exceeded it -- with 5% saying they went way
over their limit. If you're going to tighten your belt, consider wearing one first.