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Retail therapy: Americans spend a lot on nonessentials

In this photo illustration a Visa credit card and Mastercard debit cards are seen displayed. (Photo Illustration by Karol Serewis/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — 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% of purchases are worth it, while 15% admit they’re satisfied by fewer than one in five purchases.

The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the financial app Chime for National Finance Awareness Day, 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 respondents said things like a “car,” “vehicle,” or “motorcycle.” Other things make respondents’ lives easier, like “a washer and dryer” or “an air fryer.”

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.

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%). 

“Finding a little joy or satisfaction in their spending means a lot to people right now,” Chime’s Chief Experience Officer, Janelle Sallenave, in a statement. “With 50% 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.”

Respondents typically plan their budget about three months in advance, but they will inevitably make about three unplanned purchases each month. Purchases like fast fashion and cheap clothing (26%), expensive décor 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.