As the holidays near amid economic uncertainty, 46% of millennials, 46% of parents with children under age 18 and 48% of those with existing credit card debt believe the holidays are an acceptable excuse to accrue credit card debt, according to a CreditCards.com report. 

CreditCards.com analyst Ted Rossman said credit card interest rates remain high unlike interest for mortgages and car loans. The average credit card interest rate is 16%. Some people are even paying 25% or higher.

If someone puts $1,000 worth of holiday expenses on a credit card with a 16% interest rate and that person only pays the minimum balance each month, Rossman said it will take five years to pay off, tacking on another $440 to the original cost.

He suggests people take a good look at their finances and budget to make a gift-buying list that is realistic.

Rossman said it's tempting to overspend during the holidays, especially when it hasn't been a great year. But that doesn't always have to be a monetary gift.

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"I don't think your family wants you to be in debt just to buy them holiday presents. I mean, honestly, most people don't even remember what they got last year," Rossman said.

If money is tight, it's  a good idea to pull back and have a lower-cost holiday. Consider making a meal for someone. Offer to babysit so a couple can have a date night.

Credit card debt is down 10% since the pandemic began because people are spending less and are being diligent about paying their bills. But others are still struggling with lost income.

About 33% of Americans are going to spend less on the holidays this year, Rossman added. Only 9% plan to spend more this year. The biggest pullbacks in spending are in travel and entertaining. Only 11% plan to spend more on gifts this year, while 24% plan to spend less on presents.

Based on the National Retail Federation's annual consumer spending survey as of Nov. 4, Americans plan to spend an average of $998 this year on the holidays. That's down 5% from last year.

Gifts for family, friends and co-workers are at $650. Food, greeting cards and decorations are at $230. People also plan to spend about $117 on other non-gift purchases for themselves.

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