Wasting money? Americans say only 55% of their purchases are ‘worth every penny’

NEW YORK — Are you really getting everything out of the money you spend each day? Americans admit that just over half of the purchases they make are “worth every penny.” The survey of 2,000 U.S. adults reveals that, on average, only about 55 percent of purchases hit the mark, while 15 percent admit they’re satisfied by fewer than one in five purchases.

Even so, almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) have high expectations for every purchase they make. When asked what purchases gives them the most bang for their buck, many outlined transportation items like a “car,” “vehicle,” or “motorcycle.” Other things make respondents’ lives easier, like “a washer and dryer” or “an air fryer.”

However, some of those purchases were personal, with one respondent saying “major surgery on the family dog” is worth every penny or even “my marriage license.”

The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the financial app Chime for National Finance Awareness Day, also asked Americans how they spend money — whether on a whim or budgeted, to treat themselves or out of necessity.

Feel-good purchases include food and drink (51%), clothing and accessories (39%), gifts for others (23%), beauty and self-care (20%), as well as experiences such as vacations or concert tickets (20%). Respondents are indulging themselves in these things an average of four times per month, and two-thirds (66%) agree that retail therapy can change their mood entirely.

Holiday shopping with credit card
(© Prostock-studio – stock.adobe.com)

Americans reported feeling happiness (63%), satisfaction (48%), and even pleasure (48%) or amusement (15%) after engaging in retail therapy, but that high may be short-lived as it only lasts an average of four hours. Unfortunately, respondents are also forced to pay for “bummer items” like taxes (28%), bills (26%), overdraft and late fees (22%), rent and mortgage (21%), and even car repairs and maintenance (19%). 

This results in the average respondent spending money on their least favorite things another four times monthly. The survey also revealed that Americans end up spending money most often out of necessity (44%), followed by reasons like to treat themselves (21%) and for convenience (13%). 

Finally getting something after wanting it for a while (50%), finding it on sale (41%), buying a surprise for someone else (32%), or the ability to help create memories with family or friends (30%) can spice things up and turn a purchase from dull to exciting.

“Finding a little joy or satisfaction in their spending means a lot to people right now,” explains Chime’s Chief Experience Officer, Janelle Sallenave, in a statement. “With 50 percent saying a purchase feels exciting when they’ve been wanting it for a while or when it’s a gift or surprise for someone else (41%), that tells us consumers are being extra thoughtful to ensure they’re investing in places and on things that matter most to them.”

Whether they’re shopping in-store or online, Americans experience indecision. Those who find it difficult to make a decision in-store tend to verify that the item is exactly what they’re looking for four times. On the flip side, when shopping online, respondents check the size, price, and materials four times. 

Respondents typically plan their budget about three months in advance, but they will inevitably make about three unplanned purchases each month. And purchases like fast fashion and cheap clothing (26%), expensive decor and furniture (25%), subscriptions like meal kits or streaming services (25%), and toys and collectibles (25%) have been left in the past because they just aren’t worth spending money on anymore.

“When you work hard for your money, you want to feel good about spending it. ‘I love paying for overdraft fees,’ said no one ever,” adds Sallenave. 

Survey methodology:

This random double-opt-in survey of 2,000 general population Americans was commissioned by Chime between July 25 and July 31, 2023. It was conducted by market research company OnePoll, whose team members are members of the Market Research Society and have corporate membership to the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR).

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About the Author

Sophia Naughton

Meet StudyFinds’ Associate Editor, Sophia Naughton. Sophia is a recent graduate from Towson University with a Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication directly focused in journalism and advertising. She is also a freelance writer for Baltimore Magazine. Outside of writing, her best buddy is her spotted Pit Bull, Terrance.

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