Americans Say Their Finances Are the Least Organized Part of Their Lives

Cropped shot of a couple using their laptop and going through paperwork at home.
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A new survey by OnePoll in collaboration with financial services firm Lili found that the average American spends 104 hours a year — that’s more than four days — sorting out their finances. Activities include organizing expenses, paying bills and checking account balances.

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The survey, which polled 2,000 Americans, including 1,000 freelancers, found that gig workers devote even more time than average to money concerns. Nearly one-third of freelancers said they spend at least 11 days a year, or 260 hours, thinking about money, while one-in-five full-time employees did the same. And while many people spent time during the pandemic getting their homes in order, nearly 33% of survey respondents said their finances are the least organized areas of their life. More than half of those polled say they worry about not having access to money in an emergency, but only 17% have emergency savings set aside. And while Americans may understand the importance of a budget, 35% who make an effort to create a strict budget each month say they fail to stick to it.

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In addition to failing to track day-to-day spending, Americans also struggle when it comes to income taxes. Fifty-three percent of those polled aren’t sure what deductions they can claim while two-in-five claim they have “extreme anxiety” surrounding tax time.

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Where Americans Mis-Manage Money

Some of the bad spending habits revealed during the survey may seem familiar to you. Amongst the list of “worst money habits” were “spending too much on gifts,” “buying things they don’t really need,” not following a list when they go to the store, and not being able to say “no” to children when they ask for something. Impulse buys, such as cute clothes or toys for the children or grandchildren, fast food and soda, and those dreaded in-app purchases on your favorite mobile games are also top on the list of ways people say they waste money. And while it’s hard to fault people for the generosity of excessive gift-giving, those polled say they’d prefer to spend more of their money on vacations (43%), clothing (34%), food (33%), and home/apartment repairs (30%). Saving for retirement is also on people’s minds, with 27% of freelancers and 41% of full-time employees not having retirement savings set aside, according to the poll.

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How to Get a Better Handle On Your Finances

You can take steps to bridge the gap between how you want to spend — or save — your money and how you’re actually spending it right now. If you’ve already created a budget, you have the first step complete. Set up your monthly bills on automatic payments so you don’t miss a payment. Then, take discretionary income and place it in a high-yield online savings account where it is harder to access for impulse purchases.

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If you have in-app purchases and e-commerce accounts set for one-click purchasing, change the settings so you have to enter your password each time you want to buy something. Make the password as long as possible, so you have to pause and consider whether the purchase is really worth it. Is it in line with your long-term financial goals? If you are confused or concerned about tax time, speak to a professional now for some tax planning so you won’t face any surprises come April 15.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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