Americans spend $143,280 to “treat themselves” in a lifetime, according to new data — but it’s not all chocolate and spa treatments.
In fact, three in five would prefer to indulge in an “IRL” luxury experience (like a backstage pass to see their favorite artist) over a luxurious item (like a designer handbag). And the average American will fork over as much as $368 on a special, one-time experience.
This is based on findings from a new study conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Eventbrite, a ticketing and event technology platform, to explore the average “treat yourself” behaviors of 2,000 American adults.
According to the study, the average American spends $199 a month, or about 22 percent of their disposable income, on non-essentials for themselves — including both traditional “self-care” treats and restorative or luxury experiences.
Perhaps less financially-shackled, respondents aged under 25 spend an average of 33 percent of their disposable income on treating themselves, with this figure declining with age — the over-55 group estimates their ‘treat spend’ to be 13 percent of their disposable income on experiences and luxury items each month.
And while Americans tend to experience buyers' remorse about luxury spending — 75 percent of those surveyed said they feel guilty after spending on themselves — they were nearly twice as likely to feel guilty about buying material goods, compared to guilt over spending on experiences.
The guilt factor for physical purchases is notably more prominent in women. Sixty percent of women admit to feeling guilty after buying material items, versus less than half (47 percent) of the men polled.
This might be why women are three times more likely to indulge in self-care experiences like massages and spa days, while also prioritizing invigorating travel experiences or self-development classes more than men. Conversely, men showed a greater inclination towards spending on physical assets like vehicles and new technology.
But why do Americans feel more guilty spending on material items, compared to spending on experiences? The data indicates that this may be because experiences are more closely tied to personal identity and fulfilment: Two-thirds said they’d rather be known for experiences they’ve enjoyed (over the things they own). In the same manner, nearly half (48 percent) agree that the events and experiences they attend say more about who they are than the clothes that they wear.
“The 'self care' movement tends to focus on solo activities — like a facial or an indulgent dessert,” said Margaret Jones, Eventbrite’s managing editor. “But we’ve seen this trend impacting the events industry — and bringing people together as a result.”
“Live experiences that focus on wellness and connection are extremely popular right now,” Jones continued. “Goat yoga classes are trending, substance-free morning raves are on the rise globally, and we’ve seen music festivals start to offer saunas and hot tubs alongside their usual vendors and activities.”
“There’s no better way to treat yourself than by indulging in an enriching experience that will not only make you feel good, but create a memory that will last a lifetime.”
The study reinforces a fundamental shift taking place, where people are prioritizing spending on experiences or rejuvenating acts over material goods, and the booming experience economy shows no sign of slowing; 62 percent of Americans polled want to treat themselves more often than they do now.
Interestingly, the highest earners included in the study were also the most likely to embrace the value of free or low-cost acts of self care like exercise, a simple stroll with the dog or the practice of eating healthily.
That theme of prioritizing invigorating real-world experiences also transfers to how we spend our digital lives — the study found that 61 percent of Americans consider time spent offline to be more fulfilling than time spent online via social media.
And the movement away from social media could, somewhat ironically, be leading to more socially rewarding lives. Two in five Americans have developed meaningful new relationships — whether it be a friend, spouse or business contact — as a result of an in person or live experience like traveling or attending a concert.