Credit Karma Study

November 17, 2022

Do you find yourself in tears when you think about the holiday costs?

According to Qualtrics for Credit Karma, there are many people who feel stress. The results of the survey show that your stress levels may vary depending on where you live.

We asked people living in the U.S. to tell us if they feel like holiday costs make them “want” to cry. This was 24% more than those who live in cities.

Continue reading to find out more about holiday financial stress, and the differences between urban and rural respondents.

Gift-buying Challenges: Rural vs. Urban

No matter where you live, buying gifts for the holidays will prove difficult for many people. Our survey revealed that more than 36% of respondents (36%) stated they couldn’t afford gifts for the holiday season.

When comparing rural and urban respondents, 44% said they would not be able afford gifts this year. This is compared to 39% who live in cities.

Although the results are comparable, there were differences in how respondents from rural and urban areas answered questions about gift-buying difficulties.

Respondents who stated they would not be able buy presents cited the rising cost of living as the reason. Only 58% of those in cities mentioned cost of living.

Below is a table that shows how urban and rural groups responded to the question of whether they could afford gifts for this holiday season.

Gift affordability considerations

Factors that make it difficult to afford gifts

Rural survey respondents who cannot afford gifts

Urban surveyors who cannot afford gifts
Living costs are rising 70% 58%
Living paycheck to paycheck 65% 44%
Holiday shopping is expensive. 63% 36%
Inflation has not kept up with the salary increases. 38% 26%

Like cost of living, more rural respondents than urban ones cited lack of savings, salary, and living from paycheck to paycheck as reasons for not being able afford gifts.

Inflation is one area in which urban and rural survey takers seem to be more aligned. Some 58% of rural respondents cited inflation as a major factor in their gift-buying problems, while 48% of urban respondents cited it as an important factor.

Gift-buying Issues reflect Pay, Cost-of-living Issues

Our survey respondents identified two main causes of financial stress: salary and cost of living. This is a key factor in their gift-buying problems. Rural residents were 32% more likely to say that they cannot afford basic necessities. However, a smaller percentage (19%) of respondents from cities said the same.

Rent, credit cards debt and medical expenses

Urban survey respondents reported more stress about rent than rural ones: 26% of urban respondents said they had problems with rent costs, while 14% of rural respondents said the same.

Rural respondents reported more stress about debt, medical bills, and rent than those in cities.

  • 27% of rural respondents see credit card debt as a major cause of financial stress, compared to 21% in urban respondents.
  • 32% rural respondents report stress more than 20% urban.
  • 22% of rural respondents compared to 20% urban respondents indicated high stress levels and high medical costs.

Urban respondents were also more likely than rural respondents to expect a year-end reward — 20% versus 7.7%.

Managing holiday expenses

The 2019 American Community Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau found that poverty rates are generally higher in rural areas than they are in urban areas. This could explain some of the findings from our survey.

The results clearly show that many people are in financial trouble, both in urban and rural areas. Holidays can be even more difficult. These articles provide some insight into how to manage holiday expenses.


Qualtrics conducted an online survey among 1,037 adults in the United States, aged 18 or older, to help them understand financial stress around holidays. Qualtrics’ survey, which was conducted online, was only available to those who had internet access.