Americans Go on a Spending Spree a Year After COVID Peak

Group of joyful young Asian woman having fun and toasting with red wine during party.
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A year after COVID-19 kept Americans cooped up and many businesses shut down, consumers have opened up their wallets in a big way.

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Spurred on by a recovering economy and improving jobs outlook, Americans are spending an average of $765 more a month this year than they did in 2020, according to the MassMutual Consumer Spending & Saving Index.

Younger folks are leading the charge. On average, millennials and Gen Z are spending $1,016 more per month compared to last summer. A good chunk of the money is going toward dining out (36%) or travel/vacation (35%).

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With a rise in social gatherings due to relaxed COVID rules, more than half (51%) of Americans are feeling the effects of FOMO (fear of missing out), MassMutual found. Other findings include the following:

  • About 90% of Gen Z’ers are influenced by social media to go out and spend more, and 85% say they have experienced FOMO this summer.
  • Conversely, many respondents are basing financial decisions on JOMO (joy of missing out), with 45% planning to cook at home more in their post-pandemic lives and 40% planning to stay at home more.
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At least part of this year’s heavy consumer spending can also be attributed to more robust savings accounts during the pandemic. As previously reported on GOBankingRates, U.S. households saved about $1.6 trillion more than predicted in 2020, according to a Deloitte economic forecast. That same forecast projected a decline in the savings rate this year and very strong growth in consumer spending.

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But not all of the money is going toward fun and games. MassMutual found that one-third of U.S. office workers and 43% of millennial workers expect to spend more when they return to in-person or hybrid work settings. Meanwhile, nearly half (46%) of K-12 parents expect to spend more this back-to-school season compared to 2020. The top spending categories are new clothing (69%) and school supplies (67%).

How long the spending spree goes on depends in part on the impact of the coronavirus Delta variant. As CNBC reported Tuesday, the recent surge in COVID cases fueled by the variant has put in-person learning in jeopardy at some schools, and many offices have delayed their return-to-work plans.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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