Debt and holiday spending: Is it making you sick?

Consumer Report

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Americans have massed trillions of dollars in credit card debt and, after a low-key holiday season last year, many are already getting back out to the stores to shop for Christmas gifts.

However, if you are charging all those gifts and already have chronic credit card debt, could it be affecting your health?

“It’s a debt hangover, and I’ve seen this so many times,” said Noah St. John, who is a mental health coach. “A debt hangover is when you’ve spent too much on holiday shopping and then come January when the bill comes due, you’re, ‘Oh my gosh! I don’t know what I just did.'”

“In fact, recent studies from the University of Missouri and Northwestern University show that carrying large amounts of unsecured debt are linked to really severe health problems like depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic aches and pains,” said St. John.

He recommends that people make a list and stick to it. And if you’re charging much of your holiday spending, St. John says you need to have a plan to pay back all that Christmas debt within a short period of time.

“I call it the 90-day rule, and that’s meaning don’t put more on your credit card than you can afford to pay back in three months, you know, three payment cycles,” St. John explained.

He also suggests that if you are planning to partake in the in-person store experience that you go during more quiet hours. He says less hustle and bustle at stores will help you stay calmer and think, and that will help you stick to your list without impulse buying.

St. John also says that shopping online can be very helpful because you can quickly compare prices from various sites.

He also says a lot of people go into debt during the holiday season because they feel pressure to buy expensive gifts for family

“I talk about one reason why people go into debt over the holidays and it really comes down to one word and that is obligation,” said St. John. “So have honest conversations with your family members about that.”

“Ask yourself if you remember the gift you received last year from your brother or sister,” he continued. “A lot of people can’t.”

St. John suggests that as we get older that people value experiences over gifts.

He also says he is committed to making mental health issues, in particular, easier for people to talk about. And he says if you have debt and stress, it’s important to deal with both.

“And hopefully, try to unlink them, so that we can not just pour everything on and say, ‘I’m totally stressed out, I’m overwhelmed,'” said St. John.

In other words, he says it may be better to buy less and enjoy the holiday more.

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