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From CNBC: Think Finance, a provider of payday loans and other financial services for consumers with limited or no access to banking services, recently surveyed 1,000 Americans across all income levels who use various forms of alternative financial services — including payday loans, prepaid debit cards and direct deposit advances. Although many of these consumers are on better financial footing and optimistic about their economic future this year, the holidays are still a source of stress and strain on their precarious finances, Think Finance said in the poll. Some 45 percent of those polled said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high. That’s probably because nearly the same amount — some 45 percent — say they do not expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses. Although those percentages are high, they are an improvement over a survey Think Finance conducted last year. However, it should be noted that surveyfocused only on consumers who earned less than $50,000 and used alternative financial services, while this year’s survey also polled consumers in higher income brackets. That suggests the financial anxiety may be more widespread than it had been in prior years. Eight-five percent of those in this year’s survey plan to spend the same amount of money or less on gifts this year, with 54 percent planning to spend $500 or less, and 27 percent planning to spend between $500 and $1,000 on holiday gifts. To make those purchases, about two-thirds of these consumers are looking into various options to help ease the financial pinch of holiday gift buying. Still, they wish they had more options, according to Think Finance’s poll. Some 41 percent planned to use layaway programs, an option that has grown easier and cheaper this year as retailers waive fees and extend the timeframe for making payments.
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