Posted by Dotcom Doctor

The typical message of the holiday season is one of goodwill to all mankind - a heartwarming time where the spirit of giving bursts through the selfish year-long greed.  But a recent American survey has suggested that Grinchiness might still prevail, even at this time of year.

The National Foundation of Credit Counselling posed a theoretical quandary: if you were to stumble upon a spare $500 (in an entirely above-board manner), what would you do with it?  Despite getting increasingly close to the annual season of giving, 79% of the 8,500+ poll users said they would spend the money on themselves.  Only 7% of the people involved would use the bonus cash to spread a little joy with some additional holiday gifts.

But does this mean we are a nation of Scrooges?  Not according to research by Airmiles, and the leading corporate credit cards provider, who have far more encouraging statistics for the holiday season: according to their analysis, the average British shopper will spend around £300 on Christmas presents this December.  And with a total of £10.5bn, is it fair to condemn the Brits as a country of spendthrifts?

Based on the statistics, it seems that traditional English cynicism is more to blame than any kind of selfishness.  77% of the 79% who kept the hypothetical $500 claimed they would keep the money for themselves in order to pay off debts - when the world is in the grip of a recession, it is hard to criticise people for wanting to keep their heads above water.

But in a time when our faith is meant to be stronger than ever, why are we so unwilling to look for outside help?  There may not be a Santa Claus (but maybe there is...) but there are many places that consumers can turn to for financial help.  They may not be as altruistic as the jolly fat man in the big red suit, but companies who have  business credit card deals can help.

Thankfully, despite much consumer pessimism, there is still a significant towards increased credit card use in the yuletide weeks.  The Finance Leasing Association (FLA) found that the average card-user spent approximately 11% more in December than in any other month and store-cards received roughly a 25% boost in use.  Despite this, figures from Clydesdale bank suggest that more than £11 billion will be withdrawn from cash machines this month - approximately 10% more than in November, suggesting that people are still relying on their liquid assets.

Whatever your situation, make sure you can work out how much you can afford to pay back before you choose to borrow a large sum - but don't deny yourself a few luxuries just because the money isn't in your account at this very second.  After all, it's the end of the year and you certainly deserve a treat.


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