Over half of Americans are experiencing a financial hangover due to their holiday spending, according to new research.
The study asked 2,000 census-balanced Americans about how their finances have been impacted by the perfect storm of COVID-19 and the holidays and found it will take them nearly seven weeks to get their finances back on track in the new year after the holiday season.
It’s no surprise then that 64% of respondents regret not handling their money better over the course of 2020.
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Credit Sesame, the survey found that the average respondent picked up five bad financial habits during the pandemic.
Millennials picked up seven bad habits, Gen Z and Gen X picked up five – and baby boomers only picked up one bad financial habit.
The top financial failure respondents were guilty of last year was making impulse purchases.
Other financial failures included paying for subscription services they no longer use (44%) and only paying the minimum balance on their credit card bill (35%).
Another three in 10 respondents also said their financial downfall in 2020 was not sticking to a fixed budget and 15% said they’re guilty of not saving regularly.
A third of respondents also shared they didn’t keep an eye on their credit score throughout 2020 and 58% regret not being more responsible with their credit during the pandemic.
The last time respondents checked their credit scores was four months prior to taking the survey (which was fielded in December 2020).
A quarter of respondents also incorrectly believe that checking their credit score can lower it.
“Checking your credit score on your own does not impact your score at all,” said Tony Wahl, Director of Operations at Credit Sesame. “It’s important to check our credit score frequently—at least once a month—so that you can stay on top of your situation and correct any errors. Being aware of your credit score is the first step towards improving it.”
As respondents are planning for the new year, 56% are actively trying to improve their credit score throughout 2021.
Nearly half of these respondents are hoping to do so by paying down their credit card balances and 42% are avoiding starting new lines of credit.
A third of respondents actively trying to improve their credit score are also focusing on raising their available credit and utilizing credit monitoring services.
“Credit wellness is a crucial stepping stone towards financial freedom,” said Wahl. “It can be expensive to have poor credit, which often comes with higher interest rates and paying more for goods in the long run. Improving your credit can unlock countless opportunities not just related to loans, but also the kind of home you can live in or car you can buy.”
Respondents’ top financial goal for themselves is to build up their savings, closely followed by paying down their credit card debt.
Fifteen percent of respondents are also focusing on buying a car and 10% are hoping to buy a home in 2021.
AMERICANS’ TOP FINANCIAL GOALS
- Building up their savings – 28%
- Paying down credit card debt – 15%
- Buying a car – 15%
- Qualifying for a credit card – 14%
- Buying a home – 10%
- Paying down student loan debt – 4%
TOP WAYS AMERICANS ARE TRYING TO IMPROVE THEIR CREDIT SCORE
- Paying down credit card balances – 49%
- Avoiding applying for new lines of credit – 42%
- Fattening their credit file so it incorporates their banking and utility payment history – 34%
- Correcting credit report errors – 32%
- Raising their available credit – 29%
- Becoming an authorized user on a trusted family member’s credit card – 28%
- Using credit monitoring services – 28%
- Making minimum payments on time – 25%
- Reducing their debt-to-income ratio – 25%
- Diversifying their debt – 8%
TOP BAD FINANCIAL HABITS PICKED UP DURING QUARANTINE
- Impulse buying things they don’t need – 51%
- Paying for subscription services they no longer use – 44%
- Not price comparing for a better deal – 35%
- Only paying the minimum balance on their credit card bill – 35%
- Not keeping an eye on their credit score – 32%
- Not sticking to a fixed budget – 31%
- Missing credit card or bill payments – 18%
- Not saving regularly – 15%