Americans spend a whopping $143,280 over their lifetime to treat themselves, but are more likely to feel guilty about buying material goods than experiences, a new study finds.
Americans really care about self-care.
The average American spends $199 a month — 22% of their disposable income, or about $2,388 a year — on non-essential items to “treat themselves,” according to a recent survey by ticketing platform Eventbrite and research company OnePoll. Those younger than 25 reported spending even more of their disposable income (33%) on material items or luxury experiences. And 62% of people reported wanting to treat themselves even more than they currently do, according to the survey of 2,000 adults.
Although the idea of self-care has been around for decades, first in a medical context and then as a political act by women of color during the civil rights movement, it has recently become a growing trend of giving particular attention to one’s well-being, whether that be through an expensive yoga class or watching a movie after a long night. And the self-improvement industry, which includes products related to self-esteem, emotional and physical health and self-help, is currently a $9.9 billion market in the U.S. expected to grow in the coming years.
“Many Americans feel spent because they work hard and seem to feel like they never get ahead,” Kathleen Gurney, president of Financial Psychology Corp., told Moneyish. “So spending money on ‘treating themselves’ gives them that momentary lift and good feeling.”
And while 75% of survey respondents reported feeling guilty after spending on themselves, they were twice as likely to feel guilty about buying material goods compared to when they spent money on experiences. Three in five said they would rather spend money on real-life experiences than on material goods, and would even spend as much as $368 on a one-time experience like a concert than indulge in a luxury item like a designer handbag.
A similar 2016 survey by Harris Group found that 78% of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than on material things, and that 72% were planning on spending more money on experiences in the following year.
“While ‘treating yourself’ is typically associated with indulging or pampering, the trend isn’t all about extravagance,” Margaret Jones, Eventbrite’s managing editor, told Moneyish. “We spend more time in front of screens than ever, but our increasing preference to spend on experiences signals a strong desire to connect with others in the real world.”
But women seemed more prone than men to buyer’s remorse: Sixty percent of women surveyed admitted that they felt guilty after buying material items, while under half (47%) of men did.
“Women, in general, are more aware of their feelings and tuned into their emotions,” said Gurney. And because of this difference, she added, many women report making impulse buys that feel good in the moment but then end up having feelings of guilt in the aftermath.
For New-York based writer Michelle Ecker, 25, self-care doesn’t necessarily mean paying for expensive hot yoga class or the most luxurious dinner. “I think that there are plenty of self-care routines that are inexpensive,” she told Moneyish. “One night might mean getting a massage and another, getting a new book or painting my nails. Self-care doesn’t have to be out of budget.”
The top-reported reason most Americans spend money on luxury event experiences is the basic need to take care of themselves, according to the survey; wanting to do something with family and friends comes in second. Respondents also cited wanting to share their experience on social media, wanting to brag about it to their friends and trying to avoid inconvenience such as long lines and crowds as other top reasons they’d be willing to shell out money for these experiences.
“Being self-aware and mindful of the cost, both financially and emotionally, is essential to feeling a sense of well-being and contentment with how we’re managing our money for both the short-term and long-term,” Gurney said. “Self-education, planning and being aware in the moment allows us to treat ourselves with our money without sacrificing our sense of taking good care of ourselves.”
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