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As inflation boils, younger Americans face extra holiday spending pressures

Sarah Foster, on

Published in Home and Consumer News

The hottest inflation in 40 years, decades-high financing costs and rising recession risks are dashing Americans’ hopes for the first normal holiday season in two years — and a recent Bankrate poll suggests younger Americans could experience the most stress.

Nearly 1 in 4 Generation Z and millennial holiday shoppers (or 24%; ages 18-41) expect they’ll feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with this season, two times as high as their older Gen X and baby boomer counterparts (or 12%; ages 42-76), Bankrate’s holiday shopping survey found.

Meanwhile, nearly a third of those younger holiday shoppers (at 30% combined) say the upcoming season will strain their budget versus 25% for both Gen X and baby boomers. That’s despite being more likely than those older generations (at 38% versus 32%) to set money aside in advance.

The financial strain could weigh on younger Americans’ mental health. Money is more likely to cause them feelings of anxiety, depression or worrisome thoughts than any other facet of their life, including their physical health, relationships and careers, according to a separate Bankrate poll from May. At the same time, both 1 in 5 Gen Zers and millennials (at a combined 20%) say simply making a purchase triggers negative emotions about money, compared to 11% combined for Gen X and boomers.

The holiday season “is a pressure cooker of things bound to make your budget go off track,” says Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, a Michigan-based certified financial therapist who works with MetLife’s financial application Upwise. “It’s impromptu events, it’s wanting to be seen a certain way, it’s guilt, it’s revenge spending. On top of it, it’s the pressure to have a memorable holiday season. … We’ve had two holiday seasons that have been incredibly disruptive, and at this point in time, we’re ready to spend even if it means overspending.”

For some Americans, job loss is disrupting the holidays even more than the pandemic


The coronavirus pandemic didn’t keep Eric Crossley, a 38-year-old San Francisco Bay-area resident, from celebrating the holidays with his family — but his recent bout of unemployment could.

About nine months ago, Crossley started working as a customer service specialist at a cryptocurrency trading platform — a “dream job,” he says, after working in banking for five and a half years. But that position ultimately got cut in sweeping company layoffs just five months later, no doubt a symptom of a cryptocurrency “winter” in 2022 as the Federal Reserve tightens financial conditions at the fastest pace in four decades. Bitcoin, for example, has dropped to less than $17,000 as of Nov. 11, shedding almost 65% of its value so far this year.

Since then, Crossley has applied to some 600 to 700 positions, he estimates, only six of which have led to interviews. He says it’s the toughest job market he’s ever encountered — even after being laid off once before in May of 2010, when the U.S. economy was still in the depths of the Great Recession and clawing its way back to life.

The rejection is starting to wear on him, he says, though he’s trying to stay positive.


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