Credit Karma/Qualtrics | 50% of parents go into unnecessary debt

Many parents take on short- or long-term debt for their children. Some debt is for essential purchases. But according to a new Credit Karma survey, most parents — 53% — also borrowed money to pay for nonessential items or experiences for their kids. The reason? Over half of parents said they want their children to have a better life than they did.

A recent Credit Karma/Qualtrics survey of 1,000 parents in the U.S. found that 53% of respondents had also spent money they didn’t have — borrowing money, using credit cards or taking out loans — to pay for nonessential items or experiences for their kids. (Learn about our methodology.)Common Question

What is a nonessential item or experience?

Survey respondents were asked to interpret “nonessential” as anything that isn’t necessary for the survival or well-being of their children. The exact interpretation of nonessential can vary by parent, but most survey respondents agreed that nonessential purchases included such things as designer clothes, concerts, organic food and study abroad. Read on for the list.

Parents from the survey also reported feeling pressure from outside forces — such as fear of being judged and fear of their children being judged — to overspend on their children. Some even said they typically keep their child-related debt a secret from their kids and partners.

Key survey findings

More than half (53%) of parents have gone into debt to buy nonessential items or experiences for their children.
The majority of parents (67%) have spent money they didn’t have to buy their children essential items or experiences, which parents said included items such as food, shoes, clothes and school supplies.
Over half of parents (52%) said they overspend because they want their children to have a better life than they did, and 40% of parents saw their excessive spending as an investment in their child’s future.
About 3 out of 5 (61%) parents have felt pressure to spend money they didn’t have to buy nonessentials for their children. And 27% of parents said they’ve overspent because they were either afraid of being judged by friends or other parents (11%), or because they didn’t want their kids judged by their peers (16%).
One-quarter of parents (25%) said seeing other parents doing something on social mediamakes them more likely to spend money on the same activity.
Most parents don’t tell their children or other parents about overspending on their children, and almost a third (32%) don’t tell their partner when they go into debt to buy something for their children.

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Credit Karma/Qualtrics | 50% of parents go into unnecessary debt
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