Alternative Investment Report

1/3 of Americans say they overindulge on everyday luxuries: Here’s where they say they’re overspending

Key Takeaways

Nearly 30% of Americans feel that they overspend on luxuries and comforts for themselves.*
Travel, clothing, and accessories are the splurges most likely to spark joy
Overspending at happy hour and splurging on snacks are the indulgences most likely to leave buyers with budget regret.
Travel ($155), fine dining ($138) and body art ($122) are the most expensive non-essentials respondents spend on each month.
On average, cutting out just one guilty pleasure could save Americans $97 per month

Cutting Back Without Cutting Back Fun

Whether you’re a free spender or a strict budgeter, we all have at least one guilty pleasure we spend money on – but some splurges bring us more joy than others. As inflation causes prices to rise and a potential recession looms on the horizon, where can you make cuts to your budget without cutting out all of life’s comforts? Personal Capital recently surveyed 1,000 consumers* about their personal luxury purchases to learn what they’re splurging on, where they’re cutting back and what guilty pleasures have the highest ROH – Return on Happiness.

Guilty While Spending

With inflation, many Americans are cutting back on non-essentials or at least being pickier about where they indulge. Yet it appears consumers are still making room for some splurges. While searches for “how to save money” have increased 20% over the past year, search traffic for certain comfort purchases has grown at the same time:

Video games +41%
Books +30%
Artwork +28%
Outdoor gear +17%
Travel +12%
Concert tickets +10%

But some consumers may feel remorse after spending money on non-essentials. Twenty-nine percent of Americans surveyed felt they spent too much on personal comforts, while another 6% thought they didn’t spend enough on guilty pleasures, and 65% said they spend exactly what they feel they should.

It’s worth noting that everyone has a different relationship with money, and what counts as a guilty pleasure is in the eye of the beholder. Some may more quickly make room in the budget for the latest video game drop, while others see their daily caffeine fix as worth the $5 or so expense. Ultimately deciding where to spend extra income and what might easily be cut comes down to being thoughtful about which purchases bring a boost of happiness, and which ones tend to leave you with a tinge of remorse.

Buyer’s Remorse or Customer Satisfaction?

So which splurges make shoppers the happiest, and which lead to the most regret?

Accessories (40%) were a favorite non-essential purchase, especially for men. Men who frequently bought accessories such as sunglasses and watches (35%) were likelier than women (22%) to say it was their favorite thing to spend their money on. Clothes and shoes (37%) were the second most common items purchased, with 29% of people saying it was their favorite thing to spend money on. Still, only 21% of Gen Z said they often bought clothes and shoes to treat themselves – about half the rate of all older generations surveyed (39%).

A lower monthly expense doesn’t always equate to a lower level of buyers remorse. With an average cost of $155 per month, travel was the most expensive non-essential purchase among those surveyed yet potentially the one with the highest post-purchase happiness. Of those who spent money to travel, one-third said it was their favorite thing to spend it on. On the other hand, respondents tended to spend less overall during happy hour (alcohol had an average monthly expense of $101) yet 40% of respondents said it was the most likely to cause budget regret Both Gen Z and millennials named happy hour as the No. 1 regret for their wallets.

Other favorite purchases include books, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs, but their popularity varied widely across generations and genders. Baby boomers buy books at about twice the rate of the younger generations. Meanwhile, purchasing cryptocurrency was preferred far more by men than by women; cryptocurrencies and NFTs were a favorite splurge for nearly one-quarter of men, compared to just 7% of women.

Spend on What You Love, Save on What You Don’t

When it comes to spending extra money on non-essential items, some luxuries cost more than others (and of course, even what counts as a “luxury” is different from person to person). If you’re trying to find ways to save money, don’t instantly feel that you have to cut everything fun from your budget. But it could be worth developing the money habit of looking at where your money is going and what is really bringing you happiness.

Instead of cutting your favorite purchases from your budget, what if you cut back on just a few things you love a little less? Consider making your own list of “guilty pleasures” and evaluating what brings you the most happiness. It’s a simple exercise that could improve your finances in 10 minutes or less.

Cutting spending on just a couple of your least favorite guilty pleasures could yield hundreds of dollars per month in savings and free up your budget to spend more on the things you really care about. If you rarely regret splurging on travel, what if instead of skipping a trip you halved spending on food delivery and happy hours — which according to our survey could save you about $110 per month. These extra funds can bolster savings, help pay off rising bills, or go towards your favorite-guilty-pleasure fund.

Guilty Pleasures Without the Guilt

With inflation and a looming recession top of mind for many, people of all income levels have felt the need to choose between their needs and wants. But with careful consideration, you don’t have to say goodbye to your favorite guilty pleasures. Trimming some, but not all, luxuries from your spending could help you save money without denying yourself your favorite things.

*Methodology

We surveyed 1,000 adults in the U.S. about their spending on personal luxuries and comforts. Men comprised 57% of our sample, 43% were women, and less than 1% were nonbinary. Fifteen percent of respondents were members of Generation Z, 53% were millennials, 21% were Generation X, 11% were baby boomers, and less than 1% were members of other generations. Annual personal income bracket sample sizes were as follows:

Less than $35,000 – 26%
$35,000 to $49,999 – 20%
$50,000 to $74,999 – 26%
$75,000 to $99,999 – 17%
Over $100,000 – 10%

These percentages do not add up to 100 due to rounding. For open-ended quantitative questions related to personal spending, outliers were removed. Search trend data from keywordtool.io was retrieved in July 2022.

About Personal Capital

Personal Capital is a digital wealth management company that helps people transform their lives through technology and personalized advice.

Fair Use Statement

If you know anyone looking for simple ways to trim their budget without losing their favorite things, feel free to share our findings with them. We ask you to do so for non-commercial purposes only and please provide a link to the original page so the contributors can earn credit for their work.