Population and Social Characteristics

The Top 12 Things Americans Overspend On

Sad man looking at his wallet with money dollar banknotes flying out away
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Americans are struggling with inflation. A salary that would have easily afforded a comfortable lifestyle less than a decade ago, is now one that has employees barely scraping by. To compensate for low pay, many consumers are being forced to cut back on non-essential items, work another job, or be pickier about where they spend money to maintain their current living conditions and lifestyles.

Internet searches forhow to save money,has increased by over 20% over the past year. In a recent survey, 29% of Americans felt that they spent too much money on non-essential comforts. 65% of Americans felt they spent exactly what they should have on indulgences, and 6% felt they didn’t spend enough on indulgences. Here are 12 categories and top-selling brands of non-essential items that Americans are currently overspending on.

Why Are We Talking About This?

Inflation, dollar hyperinflation with black background. One dollar bill is sprayed in the hand of a man on a black background. The concept of decreasing purchasing power, inflation.
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A representation of inflation.

As inflation (driven primarily by corporate greed) continues to rise, wages remain stagnant, and some elected officials propose raising taxes on everyday goods, people are being forced to think more critically about where and how they spend what little money they have left. We found some of the largest areas that consumers say they overspend the most, so hopefully, this will help you make better financial decisions in the future.

#1 Accessories

Open suitcase with folded clothes, accessories and shoes on floor, flat lay
Source: New Africa / Shutterstock.com
We tend to buy much more stuff than we need.

Over 40% of American consumers say they overspend on accessories. Surprisingly, this was especially true for men. Sunglasses and watches were among the favorite products to spend on by men who didn’t feel buyer’s remorse over their purchases.

Ray-Ban is the best-selling sunglasses brand in not just the United States, but the entire world. It holds 50% of the market share. With over 80 years in business, it’s no surprise that it has had decades to fine-tune and popularize its products. Its most iconic style is the Aviator sunglasses, which were originally created by the brand in the 1930s for military usage before hitting public markets.

#2 Clothing and Shoes

Groom in black grey checkered wedding suit, white shirt, sitting on the chair and tied shoelaces on brown leather shoes. Business clothing, men's style.
Source: Jana Hermann / Shutterstock.com
Some fancy shoes and pants.

The U.S. apparel market is the largest of any other country and generated approximately 350 billion dollars in 2023. 21% of Gen Z consumers said they often bought clothes and shoes to indulge themselves, while 39% of all other generations said it was their favorite way to treat themselves. With the recent shift away from fast fashion to slow fashion and circular economy clothing becoming popular with Gen Z especially, this comes as no surprise.

The Brand that had the highest net sales in 2023 was Levi Strauss & Co. (NYSE:LEVI) raking in 6.18 billion dollars. 2023 was its highest-ever earning year with a marginal increase from 2022. Most sales predominately came from the United States.

#3 Alcohol

Whiskey drinks. You need to drink whiskey with ice then the whiskey tastes better of an oak barrel. Alcoholic drink with ice whiskey or cognac close-up on an oak coaster for glasses for spirits.
Source: Prilutskiy / Shutterstock.com
A photo of some whiskey.

Alcohol is another non-essential indulgence that Americans overspend on. Of those surveyed, 40% said that spending on alcohol was most likely to cause buyer remorse. In fact, Gen Z and millennials said that happy hour was the no.1 regret in their spending habits.

The top-selling brand of spirits in the first quarter of 2023 was High-Noon. Hard seltzers are a recent trend in the drinking world. High-Noon successfully overtook the previous top brand, Tito’s Handmade Vodka in 2022. Since High-Noon was only established in 2019, that is a really impressive feat. Britt West, senior vice-president and general manager of E&J Gallo’s spirits arm attributes its success to the product’s ability totap into so many usage occasions, where traditional spirits haven’t been able to go to in the past.High-Noon sold approximately 16.4 million cases last year, raking in 21.4 million dollars.

High-Noon also attributes its success to its mixed variety of 12-pack cans, and being ready to drink without an accompanying ice or mixer. With American consumers cutting back on travel and high-end events, the convenience and variety of High-Noon seltzer make it ideal for less expensive on-the-go events like beach days, boating, barbecues, and outdoor parties.

#4 Jewelry

Source: Kwangmoozaa / iStock via Getty Images
A photo of jewelry.

According to the study, 31% of Americans said that they spend the most on jewelry, with 22% feeling regret about their jewelry purchases. Another 19% said that it was their favorite to spend on, and they didn’t regret this indulgence. Jewelry and watch sales increased significantly in 2021 and 2022, but have been decreasing again in 2023 and 2024.

Signet Jewelers Ltd. (NYSE:SIG) saw the highest revenue in 2023 at $6.70 billion in sales with Walmart (NYSE:WMT) at number two with $3.58 billion. Signet Jewelers has 2,411 locations across North America. The fine jewelry and watches company carries key brands such as 1933 by Esquire, Calvin Klein, Fossil, Chosen, Disney, Le Vian, Neil Lane, and Bold Reflections Lab-Created Diamond.

#5 Books

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A photo of books.

Around 30% of American Consumers chose books as their non-essential indulgences. And generally, not very many of them regretted their purchases. Since the written word has been around since approximately 618 CE, books might be considered one of the original forms of escape-ism. It’s no wonder that many readers turn to books in hard financial times.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there has been a rise in book trends such as romance subgenres,cozy books,escapism, and AI books. The top-selling book in 2023 was Fourth Wing by Rebecca Varros. Fourth Wing is a fantasy romance/action novel. Baby Boomers buy books at twice the rate of younger generations. So, as this generation ages, we could possibly see a decline in book sales in the future.

#6 Electronics

Apple | Apple Inc. Paris
Source: psc49 / Flickr
The Apple logo.

Electronics can be a very controversial topic these days considering the unethical supply chain of some main components such as cobalt and copper. Despite this, 28% of American consumers say that their favorite thing to indulge in is electronics.

The highest-selling electronic brand in 2023 was, not surprisingly, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Some of the highest-selling products last year included the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, AirPods, Apple TV, and HomePod. Apple generated $383 billion, with half of that coming from iPhone sales.

#7 Food Delivery

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A photo of DoorDash Kitchens.

Food Delivery: something that most restaurants once offered in-house is now a third-party app monster that our economy seems to just keep feeding. Despite evidence that suggests major price gouging for restaurants, delivery drivers, and customers, many people feel that the high prices are worth the convenience and time-saving. American consumers spend an average of $118/month on food delivery.

So far in 2024, DoorDash (NYSE:DASH) is the most successful food delivery company in the nation holding 63% of the market share. The problem that DoorDash workers are facing is the company’s history of abusing tips, which delivery drivers depend on to make a living wage. Because drivers are consideredindependent contractors,they aren’t offered any benefits- even a legal minimum wage. Drivers are making use of apps such as Para, to be able to see what the tip the customer inputted upon placing their order. Without secondary apps, DoorDash can hide that information from drivers making accepting jobs a gamble on whether or not an order pays more than the gas money costs to deliver the order. Until recently, drivers were using Para to be informed about the money they were making when agreeing to take on a delivery job. That is, until DoorDash changed its data model, citingprivacy and data security,reasons, so drivers can no longer use Para. DoorDash is so good at keeping its drivers in poverty that the United Nations cited the low pay as a human rights violation in 2023.  

DoorDash also routinely generates listings for restaurants that have never agreed to partner with them or have any user contracts in place, having delivery drivers order and pay for the food on company credit cards. This can bring about higher price gouging for customers, less-than-ideal food packaging, and liability issues.

#8 Junk Food and Snacks

Candy Bar
Source: P Maxwell Photography / Shutterstock.com
A photo of some chocolate bars.

According to a recent peer-reviewed study conducted in 2015, 97% of Americans reported eating candy at least once per year, and Americans eat an average of 8 pounds of candy per year. Americans tend to lean towards candy and sweet snacks when the munchies strike. The most popular junk food and snack of 2023 was M&M’s with a positive opinion score of 83%.

M&M’s is owned by Mars Incorporated. Mars Inc. is the world’s largest confectionery company and generated $50 billion in sales in 2023, $18 billion of which came from its snacking division with products including M&Ms, Snickers, Extra chewing gum, and Kind nutrition bars. Mars says it plans to double its snacking revenue over the next decade by pushinghealthier snacks,as the sale of popular diet and weight-loss drugs like Ozempic may change Americans’ snacking habits over the next few years.

#9 Travel

Phone call, travel and woman with luggage at airport, chatting or speaking to contact in lobby. Suitcase, mobile and happy female with smartphone for networking while waiting for flight departure.
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A woman doing some traveling.

Travel is something that 24% of American consumers like to indulge in. Unsurprisingly, 31% of those surveyed said that travel is their favorite category to spend on, and buyer regret is very low. Travel is also the most expensive non-essential category with American consumers spending $155/month on average. After all, what better way to engage in escapism than to physically escape, even if it’s only for a weekend?

#10 Amusement Parks

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A photo of Disneyland in Shanghai.

Amusement Parks are a popular travel destination for Americans with 24% of American consumers saying it’s their favorite thing to spend money on spending $97/month on average.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that Walt Disney World-Magic Kingdom was the most visited amusement park in 2023 (and all time). According to its website, approximately 35,000 people visit the park each day, with 9.6 million visitors per month depending on the time of year. In 2023, Disney Parks brought in a record $32.5 billion in revenue.

#11 Makeup

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Some very impressive makeup.

Makeup can be an artistic outlet for many people. It is also a multi-billion-dollar industry that some might say feeds off of the insecurities of consumers. Either way, this FDA-unregulated industry includes celebrity brands (which brought in $1 billion of revenue last year), multi-level marketing brands, drug-store brands, and luxury brands. The make-up brand that had the highest revenue in the United States in 2023 was L’Oréal. L’Oréal is a global make-up juggernaut based in France that registered its third year in a row of double-digit growth. It reached record-breaking global sales in 2023 at $245.17 billion and accounted for 18.2% of total sales.

#12 Skin Care Products

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A photo of some skin cream.

Skin Care is something that is gripping the younger generations in a chokehold. Based on internet searches, the most popular skincare brand is CeraVe with 1.5 million average monthly searches in the US.  CeraVe is owned by the parent company L’Oréal, along with Ambi and AcneFree. L’Oréal acquired CeraVe in 2017. CeraVe specializes in products such as cleansers, moisturizers, and sunscreens. The American consumer spends $85/month on average on skin care products with 21% of surveyed consumers saying it’s their favorite indulgence.

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