Season of rising debt amid COVID-19 pandemic: Here's how consumers are managing it

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ByDavid Louie KGO logo
Thursday, December 23, 2021
Season of rising debt: Here's how consumers are managing it
Consumer debt is on the rise as a result of gift buying and inflation, which only adds stress. Here's what consumers are doing to manage their debt.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- For many, this is the toughest time of year to manage spending. Credit card debt using spikes during the holidays. However, COVID stress and inflation are also challenging consumers.

The financial site MoneyGeek says the typical Californian has $5100 in credit card debt.

In its recent survey of 1200 people, 89 percent, or nine out of every 10 consumers, acknowledge that debt is a source of stress.

Yet some consumers act like ostriches, especially with holiday shopping for others or themselves.

"It's a way for you to feel good in the moment. Like, I've got this great new thing. I bought this great new thing. I'm very excited, only to have to pay that pain later," said Doug Milnes from

RELATED: Expert shares tips for managing holiday stress during pandemic

To reduce the pain and stress, MoneyGeek says wise consumers take action.

  • 40 percent said they paid down their credit card debt
  • 38 percent reduced household expenses
  • 30 percent tapped into savings or emergency funds
  • RELATED: How to protect your credit when you have a surprise medical debt

    San Jose State professor Leslye Tinson, LMFT, suggests the stress created by COVID, inflation and debt can be eased by putting oneself first.

    "Putting myself first is not an act of selfishness. It is an act of preservation so that I can be replenished and able to be present to support others," she said.

    That means tempering the expectation that the season of sharing has to lead to increasing debt, which can lead to even more stress.

    "We are expected to spend. We're expected to buy. We're expected to share with others, and I think in the midst of the pandemic, we are not necessarily thinking about or we've come to learn that just quality time is enough," Tinson says.