SOURCE: BMO Harris Bank

BMO Harris Bank

December 13, 2013 08:50 ET

BMO Harris Bank Study: Nearly Half of Young Families in Arizona Will Exceed Their Holiday Budget

PHOENIX, AZ--(Marketwired - Dec 13, 2013) -

  • While most families (85 percent) say they have a budget in place, overspending and 'impulse buys' often occur
  • BMO Harris Bank offers tips for keeping spending and debt in check

A new survey released today by BMO Harris Bank shows that while a majority of Arizona parents with young children set a holiday spending budget, 46 percent still go over their limits and 18 percent plan to take on debt to help fund their purchases.

The inaugural holiday spending report from BMO Harris Bank, which surveyed parents with children under 10 years old, found that in Arizona:

  • 40 percent of parents with young families have a fixed budget for the holidays, and 45 percent say they have a somewhat flexible budget
  • 57 percent expect to make impulse purchases during this time of year
  • The 'holiday hangover' affects 31 percent of parents, who say they regret how much they spend come January, compared to 37 percent nationally

"The holiday season can be stressful, particularly in terms of the expense of gift-giving. It's encouraging to see that most parents have a budget in place, but sticking to it can be the hardest part," said Steve Johnson, Arizona President, BMO Harris Bank. "If you do take on debt to pay for gifts, it is important to create a plan to be able to pay it down quickly."

Arizona parents said the primary reason they are willing to go into debt this holiday season is because it is the only time of the year they spend outside of their budget (75 percent). Furthermore, one-third of Arizona parents cited a lack of disposable income as a reason for taking on debt. One-quarter of Arizona parents (25 percent) said social pressure to spend and celebrate contributed to their reasons for borrowing or charging during the holidays.

Nationally, the survey reported that:

  • 38 percent of parents have a fixed budget, and 47 percent have a budget that is flexible
  • More than half (56 percent) expect to spend over their budget
  • 58 percent of parents expect to make impulse purchases during the holidays
  • The 'holiday hangover' affects 37 percent of parents, who say they regret how much they spend come January

Michael Gregory, Head of U.S. Economics, BMO Capital Markets, noted that after several years of curbing their credit appetites, households finances are now in much better shape. Combined home mortgages and consumer credit peaked near 124 percent of after-tax incomes at the end 2007 and the ratio finally slipped below 100 percent at the end of 2012, where it seems to be stabilizing.

"Having gone through this multi-year restructuring, it's important that consumers maintain healthy balance sheets by using credit cautiously, making sure their payments fit well within their family budgets not only at current interest rates but should borrowing costs rise in the future," Mr. Gregory added.

Visit the BMO Harris Bank Learning Center to learn more about holiday budgeting and tackling debt and other tips for managing your expenses, including:

  • Cut the Extra Trimmings: Keep an eye out for the inevitable sales that come out around Black Friday, Super Saturday and Cyber Monday. Suggest doing a gift exchange rather than getting presents for each person
  • Use Tools to Stay on Track: BMO Harris Total Look is an online tool that lets you set spending and savings goal and keeps track of where your money is going
  • Plan Your Travel: If you're flying to see family, book early or be flexible with your dates and times to get the best deal. Or, consider a "staycation" and spend the holidays in your hometown
  • Pay off Debt Early: Make more than the minimum payment on your credit card debt, which will knock down the amount of interest you'll pay over time. This will also help to free up credit, which can improve your credit score. 

The BMO Harris Bank spending survey was fielded online by Pollara between November 22nd and 29th. In total, 993 parents with children under 10 were interviewed, including an oversample of 89 from Arizona. Results for a probability sample of this size would be accurate to ± 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

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