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Debt worries dog holiday shoppers

Althea Chang

Shoppers may be using their credit cards less this holiday season than in previous years, according to one economist.

Even as debt-to-income ratios are falling as household incomes rise and debt levels drop, more consumers say they're concerned about debt, noted Bill Hampel, chief economist of the Credit Union National Association.

His organization, along with the Consumer Federation of America, surveyed 1,012 adults by phone about their holiday spending plans and credit and debt concerns.

"Since the recession, we got the highest response this year of consumers saying they're worried about paying down their debt," Hampel said.

According to the survey, those who said they're somewhat or very concerned about debt rose to 48 percent from 43 percent last year.

Yet many shoppers surveyed are still expecting to spend more this holiday season.

Hampel said he expects to see about a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in holiday spending this year versus last year across all income brackets.

But many more households making $100,000 per year or more may not be spending more, according to the survey.

This upper-income group is usually the most likely to increase holiday spending, according to Hampel. But while they may be relatively conservative this holiday season, they're less likely than other income groups to plan to cut back on holiday shopping, he said.

--By Althea Chang

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