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Survey: Nearly 30% of Last-Minute Shoppers Waiting on Next Paycheck to Buy Gifts | Credit Cards

A mid-December survey from U.S. News & World Report shows that panic shopping may be just around the corner for some Americans. There are many reasons people wait until the last minute to buy gifts, but for some it’s a necessity. About three in 10 shoppers have to wait for their next paycheck to finish their holiday shopping.

Here are other reasons respondents haven’t finished shopping:

  • I’m still looking for the perfect gift: 33.5%.
  • I always wait until the last minute: 16%.
  • I’m not looking forward to shopping, so I procrastinated: 10.5%.
  • Other reasons: 10%.
  • I just activated a new credit card: 0.5%.

  • More than 10% say they’ll finish shopping on Dec. 24, but 11.3% say they have no idea when they’ll be done. 
  • Almost a third aren’t following a holiday budget for last-minute purchases.
  • Exactly 29% say they’ll use shopping apps to help them find the best deals.
  • Amazon and Walmart are the clear favorite destinations for buying last-minute gifts at 37.7% and 37.2%, respectively. Target came in a distant third at 14%.

How Panicked Shoppers Plan to Pay for Purchases

Respondents were asked how they plan to pay for last-minute purchases. Here’s how they respond:

  • With cash or a credit card and not carrying a balance: 64.5%.
  • Using a credit card and carrying a balance: 21.3%.
  • Using a buy now, pay later plan: 18%.
  • Redeeming credit card rewards: 15.4%.
  • Borrowing money another way: 8.1%.
  • Opening a 0% APR credit card: 3.4%.

Are Last-Minute Shoppers Sticking to a Budget?

Respondents were asked if they had a holiday budget, and here are the findings:

  • Don’t have a budget: 32.4%.
  • Yes, I have a set total amount to spend: 28.3%.
  • Yes, I have a set amount per person to spend: 22.1%.
  • I have a budget for only some people: 17.1%.

The best way to stay out of debt all year long is to have a budget in place. This is even more important if you make purchases with credit cards. If you overspend with a card, it’s easy to carry that balance to the next month. You may think you’ll pay it off right away, but if you add new purchases to your card, it’s a slippery slope to debt.

And when you’re doing last-minute shopping, there’s a tendency to overspend. One reason is because there are fewer options available. Another reason is because you’re having anxiety and you want to get the shopping over with.

But there are ways you can survive the panic shopping phase of your holiday season without going into debt.

Your Panic Shopping Survival Guide

The antidote to panic? A budget, a gift list and shopping apps.

Aside from anxiety, panic shopping also has an unpleasant side effect. Last-minute shopping has the potential to lead to long-term debt. I don’t want that to happen to you.

Set a Budget for Your Final Purchases

There’s nothing like writing it down on paper (or using a gift-list app) to organize both your thoughts and your budget. Even if you’ve been shopping all season without a list, I want you to create one right now.

Figure out how much you can spend on gifts in the next few days without going into debt. It’s OK to use a rewards credit card for purchases as long as you plan to pay the balance in full in January.

Make a Final Gift List

Decide how much you’ll spend per person. This next task is very important: Track your spending. If you budgeted $30 for the babysitter, but you spent $40, then that $10 needs to come out of someone else’s gift.

When you make a commitment to a dollar amount, you’ll feel compelled to stick to that number. If you can’t afford to buy for everyone on your list, then give a gift they can redeem during the first few months of the new year. For example, set a date to take them out to lunch. Get creative and you can find ways to give gifts covered by your future cash flow.

Use Apps to Avoid Panic-Induced Debt

Respondents were asked what strategies they plan to employ to save on purchases, and 50.3% say they’ll be looking for last-minute discounts, but almost 27% have no strategy in mind.

And only 29% plan to use shopping apps to find the best deals, compare prices and get coupons.

When time is short, you want to find the best price quickly. Here are some easy-to-use apps that can help you track down the best prices. All the apps listed are available for Android and iOS.

  • Amazon App: You can scan an item in-store and see if it is cheaper online. You can also set up price-drop alerts for selected items. This app has saved me time and money over the years.
  • Flipp: With this app, you can select your favorite stores and see what deals are available. If you enjoy looking at sales flyers, you’ll enjoy Flipp.
  • ShopSavvy: This app lets you compare prices and set price-drop alerts. You can also see a graph of price fluctuations for an item and use this tool to time your purchases. If you’re waiting on a back order, you’ll get notified when it’s available. It’s OK to wait on the perfect gift if you get a good price.
  • Rakuten: This is an app or browser extension that offers cash back and finds coupons when you shop at a retailer. Full disclosure: I use this to get what the company calls a Big Fat Check every quarter. You won’t get cash back in time to help reduce your credit card bill in January, but it can help you pay down card balances throughout the year.

Sarah Goldberg
Sarah Goldberg

Sarah is a seasoned financial market expert with a decade of experience. She's known for her analytical skills, attention to detail, and ability to communicate complex financial concepts. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Finance, is a licensed financial advisor, and enjoys reading and traveling in her free time.

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