Guilty pleasures: When it comes to personal expenses, spending on non-essential items leaves many Americans feeling guilty and lighter in their pockets.
According to a recent study by digital wealth management company Personal Capital, 29% of Americans feel they spend more than they should on comfort or luxury items for themselves. Travel, clothing and accessories topped the list of purchases that bring the most joy.
With inflation hovering at a 40-year high for the better part of 2022, more people are now looking to save money — or at least have good intentions. Using data from keywordtool.io, Personal Capital found that searches for “How to save money” increased by 20% over the past year. But so did search traffic for comfort products like video games (+41%), books (+30%), artwork (+28%), outdoor gear (+17%), travel (+12%) and concert tickets (+10%).
However, as the study noted, keeping tighter tabs on expenses and cutting out one area of spending can save the average American $97 a month.
Most Popular Non-Essential Purchases
Accessories like sunglasses, purses and watches were found to be the most popular guilty pleasure purchases. A full 40% of survey respondents claimed accessories were at the top of their non-essential purchase list, followed by clothes and shoes (37%), alcohol (32%), jewelry (31%), books (30%) and electronics (28%).
Less popular non-essential purchases were spa services like manicures, massages and facials (11%), physical media like DVDs and vinyl records (11%), outdoor gear (12%) and fine dining (12%).
Travel, the most expensive non-essential monthly purchase at $155, was also found to be one of the expenditures that brought the most happiness, according to survey respondents. Being the most costly monthly purchase, it might be the expense that is the hardest to save for. Regardless, a third of those who spent money on travel had no buyer’s remorse, claiming it was their favorite item to spend money on.
Age Groups and Most Regretful Non-Essential Purchases
As Personal Capital noted, what is considered a luxury guilty pleasure purchase differs depending on age groups. Certain monthly purchases — books, cryptocurrencies and NFTs for men — varied in popularity across age demographics.
When analyzing data from respondents of different age groups, Personal Capital found that members of Gen Z prefer spending the most on alcohol, millennials on accessories, Generation X-ers on clothing and footwear and baby boomers on books.
Across all generations, alcohol (42%), junk food and snacks (33%), accessories (26%), and food delivery, jewelry and amusement parks (all 22%) are the products that those surveyed felt the most guilt in buying.
Spending money on artwork (18%), cryptocurrency and NFTs (18%) and body art like tattoos and piercings (20%) were deemed less guilt-inducing monthly purchases by those surveyed.
How to Curb Non-Essential Spending
A few bucks to satisfy your daily coffee fix might not seem like a big expense, but a quick number crunch will reveal that many spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year on coffee. If this is a part of your daily happiness routine that you don’t want to give up, then don’t. Keeping an occasional eye on your bank statement will likely provide you with other options to trim spending.
Making a list of guilty pleasure purchases and deciding which you can cut without reducing the joy in your life is an easy exercise that can improve your finances in about 10 minutes, according to Personal Capital. You don’t even have to touch your favorite luxury expense. Cutting down on a one less-enjoyed non-essential purchase can bolster your balance by approximately $97 per month, per the survey. Cutting down on a couple can boost savings by $110 a month.
According to Lifehacker, budgets aren’t tools to rob you of the things you want in life — they are strategies put in place so you don’t spend money on things you possibly don’t want and definitely don’t need.
Unused auto-renewed gym memberships, forgotten subscriptions and indulgent, bored spending are the things that you should be looking at eliminating when you are trying to be thrifty but still want to pamper yourself occasionally.
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