States where people are struggling most to pay their bills

 As a general budgeting rule, it’s not wise to go into debt to meet day-to-day spending needs. But with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting every aspect of American life, the rules are changing. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau survey data shows that large segments of the American population are relying on credit cards, loans, and help from friends or family to survive.

In this study, LendingTree researchers explored this trend to find where debt-financed spending is most prevalent. Here’s what we found.

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Nervousness, anxiousness when relying on debt

Note: Totals don’t add up to 100% due to rounding.

Living through a pandemic is stressful, and adding debt to the mix is going to heighten that sense. Among those who used credit cards or loans to finance their everyday spending, nearly four in five (73.5%) respondents reported feeling anxious, nervous or on edge at least several days during the survey period. Comparatively, about 65% who used their regular income reported the same feelings.

Meanwhile, 36% of people who borrowed money from friends or family reported feeling nervous, anxious or on edge nearly every day.

The idea of borrowing is wrapped up in quite a bit of taboo for some and — if things go wrong — it can have a real impact on relationships. Comparatively, for those who used credit cards or loans, many (36.7%) reported this kind of anxiety several days a week, while only a quarter (25.4%) said it was something that impacted them nearly every day.

Age also showed an interesting trend. Younger individuals tended to report experiencing these feelings most days of the week or more frequently than other groups.

Image Credit: LendingTree / U.S. Census Bureau.

How debt-financed spending weighs on borrowers

Note: Totals don’t add up to 100% due to rounding.

About a third reported not being able to stop or control their worrying several days of the week, regardless of the type of non-income source they used to pay for their expenses.

Image Credit: LendingTree / U.S. Census Bureau.

What to do when you’re relying on debt to make ends meet

Debt not only impacts your finances, but it can affect your mental health, too. And the first step to getting out of debt (and improving your mental state) is acknowledging that it exists.

“Far too many people just bury their heads in the sand and wind up overwhelmed by debt, and it doesn’t have to be that way,” LendingTree’s chief credit analyst, Matt Schulz, said. 

Part of that could be checking your credit report to view all your loans in one place. Credit reports can be accessed for free weekly through April 2021 at

For those who can afford to step away from debt, here’s what else to consider:

  • Make a budget: “A budget is a crucial first step,” Schulz said. “It’s virtually impossible to make a meaningful plan to attack credit card debt if you don’t know exactly how much money comes in and goes out of your household each month.” A budget can help you better understand your debts in relation to your income, and how to go about becoming debt-free.
  • Call your lender: For those whose money struggles are pandemic-related, letting the lender — whether it be personal loans or credit cards — know about those issues is vital. The lender may be able to work with you to find a solution, like pausing payments for a few months, while you get your income and finances back on track.
  • Watch your credit card usage: Consumers should still use a credit card over a debit card to pay for online shopping — this has become almost a necessity due to the pandemic — because it’s safer for their finances. However, “there’s no question that credit cards can make it easier to spend money you don’t have,” Schulz said. “That makes it crucial that you use that card wisely, including paying the card balance in full each month. That’s not always realistic for folks, but it should always be the goal.”
  • Find a side hustle or part-time job: Increasing your income is always going to be the fastest way to get out of debt. In a pandemic, when so many have lost their jobs, this can be a tall order. But side hustles or part-time jobs are still worth pursuing, particularly if they play off your existing skills.

For those who can’t afford to start paying down their debt and need to continue using options like credit cards or personal loans to make ends meet, it can feel that much more difficult. But it won’t always be that way.

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Schulz said. “A lot of the normal rules of personal finance go out the window during times like these. Yes, good credit is important, as is avoiding debt. However, keeping food on the table and keeping the lights on for your family is more important.”

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LendingTree analyzed the U.S. Census Bureau Housing Pulse Survey data compiled July 1621, 2020, the last week of the first phase of the survey, to estimate the places where residents were using debt the most to meet everyday spending needs. We compared the total population of people aged 18 and older to the number who responded they used credit cards or loans to meet spending needs and the number who reported borrowing money from friends or family.

Here are the top 25 states where people used credit cards or loans, and or borrowed from friends or family in order to meet their spending needs in a seven-day time period.

Image Credit: Damir Khabirov / iStock.

25. Wisconsin

Credit cards or loans: 28%

Borrowing from friends or family: 8.2%

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24. South Carolina

Credit cards or loans: 20.7%

Borrowing from friends or family: 15.7%

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23. Georgia

Credit cards or loans: 22.4%

Borrowing from friends or family: 14%

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22. Oregon

Credit cards or loans: 26.5%

Borrowing from friends or family: 9.9%

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21. Florida

Credit cards or loans: 26.1%

Borrowing from friends or family: 10.6%

Image Credit: littleny/iStock.

20. New York

Credit cards or loans: 24.8%

Borrowing from friends or family: 12.3%

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19. Washington

Credit cards or loans: 24.8%

Borrowing from friends or family: 12.5%

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18. Nebraska

Credit cards or loans: 25.9%

Borrowing from friends or family: 11.9%

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17. Mississippi

Credit cards or loans: 20.3%

Borrowing from friends or family: 17.5%

Image Credit: Greg Hurst / iStock.

16. Maryland

Credit cards or loans: 25%

Borrowing from friends or family: 13.2%

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15. New Mexico

Credit cards or loans: 24.4%

Borrowing from friends or family: 14.1%

Image Credit: Courtesy of Sante Fe Indian Market Website.

14. Arizona

Credit cards or loans: 24.3%

Borrowing from friends or family: 14.4%

Image Credit: Ixnayonthetimmay.

13. Indiana

Credit cards or loans: 24.7%

Borrowing from friends or family: 14.2%

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12. Texas

Credit cards or loans: 24.8%

Borrowing from friends or family: 14.3%

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11. Arkansas

Credit cards or loans: 22.8%

Borrowing from friends or family: 16.5%

Image Credit: Getty.

10. Virginia

Credit cards or loans: 28.7%

Borrowing from friends or family: 10.7%

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9. Wyoming

Credit cards or loans: 25.9%

Borrowing from friends or family: 13.6%

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8. California

Credit cards or loans: 26.2%

Borrowing from friends or family: 13.7%

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7. Delaware

Credit cards or loans: 28.8%

Borrowing from friends or family: 11.7%

Image Credit: Getty.

6. Hawaii

Credit cards or loans: 30.5%

Borrowing from friends or family: 10%

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5. Illinois

Credit cards or loans: 27.1%

Borrowing from friends or family: 13.6%

Image Credit: IanDikhtiar.

4. New Jersey

Credit cards or loans: 29.6%

Borrowing from friends or family: 11.9%

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3. Nevada

Credit cards or loans: 25.3%

Borrowing from friends or family: 16.7%

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2. Colorado

Credit cards or loans: 26.7%

Borrowing from friends or family: 15.4%

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1. District of Columbia

Credit cards or loans: 30.7%

Borrowing from friends or family: 14.2%

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