The amount of consumers who say they feel little or no stress about their credit card debt and other outstanding balances rose to 59 percent this year, according to a poll from The Associated Press and GfK. That's up considerablyfrom the 49 percent who responded similarly this time last year. The report largely attributes this increased confidence in Americans' individual financial futures to spending behaviors altered by the national economic downturn.
More people say they pay off their credit card debt every month and make fewer purchases if they don't have the cash on hand at the time, the report said. In addition, 52 percent said they seldom or never worry about their financial liabilities, up very slightly from last year, and for the first time more than half have said so since the question was originally asked in 2004.
"People are essentially adapting to their circumstances," Joseph Sirgy, a marketing professor at Virginia Tech who studies consumer behavior, told the AP.
However, even as some people have had a better time with their various financial obligations, others still face considerable trouble, the report said. About one in eight believe they might never emerge from debt, and 20 percent still worry about their credit card debt and other balances most of or all the time. Another 10 percent think their debt will remain a major problem in their lives for at least the next five years.
Unsurprisingly, the least worried consumers were those that made more than $75,000 a year, the report said. Other demographics expressing less concern about their financial futures were those without children and retired people under the age of 60. The most worried were those with children, the lowest income, or the most education.
These economic hardships and changes in attitude have led many to scale back their holiday shopping, as just 9 percent told the pollsters they will spend more this year on gifts, and 37 percent will spend less.
Many consumers have also said they will avoid taking on more credit card debt this holiday season, opting instead to make the bulk of their purchases with other payment methods, including cash and debit cards.