November 21, 2023 | Allison Robertson

Small Indulgences, Big Impact: The Cost of Guilty Pleasures

The Cost of Guilty Pleasures

Cash in handsShutterstock

In the realm of personal finance, there's a fine line between necessary spending and indulging in little luxuries. These 'guilty pleasures' often appear insignificant in isolation but can add up over time.

In today's fast-paced world, where the hustle and bustle of daily life can often leave us feeling drained, finding small moments of joy and indulgence is not just a luxury, but a necessity for maintaining our mental well-being. 

These moments often come in the form of what many would call 'guilty pleasures' – those little treats or experiences that we spend money on, knowing they aren't essential but recognizing they bring us a disproportionate amount of happiness. 

But what makes a guilty pleasure stand out is its dual nature – while it brings momentary joy, it's not always essential or beneficial in the long run.

The Impact Your Guilty Pleasure Has On Your Wallet

Woman wearing blue shirt is seating on the table with sad faceKarolina Grabowska , Pexels

While indulging in small guilty pleasures can be a key aspect of self-care and personal happiness, it's important to be mindful of their cumulative impact on finances

These seemingly minor expenditures, whether it's a daily gourmet coffee, weekly takeout meals, or impromptu online shopping sprees, can quietly add up, leading to substantial monthly outlays. 

When not monitored, these habitual spends can evolve into unsustainable financial habits, subtly eating away at savings and potentially leading to budgetary strains. 

Small but Mighty Spending

Spending money with debit cardShutterstock

It’s the small, often unnoticed expenses that can have the most significant impact over time, underscoring the importance of striking a balance between enjoying life's little luxuries and maintaining a healthy financial discipline.

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with LendingTree, the average American spends approximately $199 a month on guilty pleasures, amounting to nearly $2,400 annually. 

This statistic highlights the significant role that small indulgences play in the budget and lifestyle of the average person in the United States.

Justifying Your Guilty Pleasure

Tear-Jerking Pexels

A guilty pleasure is typically something you enjoy, even though it may not be considered essential or beneficial. It's common for people to have these indulgences, often justified as a form of self-care or reward.

In today's fast-paced world, small treats can be a way to unwind or give oneself a brief respite. Most people have these indulgences, acknowledging them as little breaks in their routine that offer comfort, excitement, or a change of pace.

From that first sip of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee to the immersive escape of a good movie, these pleasures, though seemingly insignificant, play a vital role in our self-care routine. 

As we navigate the delicate balance between managing finances and nurturing our well-being, it’s important to acknowledge the value these small indulgences add to our lives.

So, what are the 10 most common guilty pleasures that Americans spend their money on?

1. Specialty Coffee

Woman Drinking Coffeearthurhidden

The daily ritual of grabbing a specialty coffee has become more than just a caffeine fix; it's a comforting routine for many.

Despite its average cost of $3 to $5 per cup, the appeal lies in its consistent quality and the luxury of choice it offers. Americans, in particular, are known for their love of coffee, with an average annual spend of $1,100 on coffee alone.

This habit illustrates not just a love for the beverage but also a cultural phenomenon around coffee culture and social interaction.

2. Fast Food

Fast Food Employees StoriesFlickr

Fast food's allure lies in its convenience and comfort, making it a popular choice for meals on the go.

On average, a fast-food meal costs between $5 and $7, and it's reported that about 36.6% of U.S. adults consume fast food on any given day. 

This statistic is a testament to the fast-paced lifestyle many lead, where convenience often trumps nutritional value.

3. Streaming Services

Young couple are watching Netflix on TV.cottonbro studio, Pexels

Streaming services like Netflix have become a staple in most households, with monthly subscriptions being common.

They offer non-stop entertainment and easy access, with costs ranging between $8 and $15 per month per service.

Over 78% of U.S. households have a Netflix subscription, indicating the massive shift in how entertainment is consumed in the digital age.

4. Candy and Snacks

Death FactsMax Pixel

Snacks, including candy, are regular purchases during grocery trips, serving as quick and accessible treats.

They typically cost between $1 and $5 per item, with the average American spending about $30 a month on snacks. 

This guilty pleasure reflects not just a love for sweets and treats but also the growing trend of snacking as a part of daily eating habits.

5. Alcoholic Beverages

Bearded man laughing and making a toast with other man at party.master1305, Freepik

Alcoholic beverages serve as a social lubricant and a means of relaxation, especially consumed in social settings or during weekends.

The cost for a drink at a bar or restaurant ranges from $5 to $15. Statistics show that Americans spend approximately 1% of their gross annual income on alcohol, highlighting its role in socialization and leisure.

6. Cosmetics and Skincare

Woman is buying a make up at cosmetics section in store.Tero Vesalainen, Shutterstock

Cosmetics and skincare are popular for self-care and beauty enhancement, with monthly or bimonthly purchases being quite common. Depending on the product, prices range from $5 to $50.

The average woman reportedly spends about $313 per month on her appearance, emphasizing the importance placed on personal grooming and beauty in society.

7. Magazines and Books

Woman Browsing A BookstorePixabay, Pexels

Books and magazines, though less frequently purchased, serve as a source of entertainment and education. They cost between $5 and $30 for books and around $5 for magazines.

Around 73% of Americans read a book in the past year, showcasing a continued appreciation for written content in various forms.

8. Takeaway or Delivery Meals

Family having take out dinnerbernardbodo, Adobe Stock

Takeaway and delivery meals, popular 1-2 times a week, offer a break from cooking and the convenience of delivered food.

These orders typically cost between $10 and $30, with the average American spending $67 a month on takeaway meals. 

This trend highlights the busy lifestyle of many, where time constraints lead to a preference for convenience in dining.

9. Gourmet Desserts and Baked Goods

Banned For Life FactsPexels

Gourmet desserts and baked goods are often treated as special indulgences, especially popular during weekends or special occasions.

The joy of these sweet treats, priced between $4 and $8, goes beyond their taste to their presentation and the craftsmanship involved.

Their popularity is reflected in the $11 billion annual spending on bakery products in the U.S.

10. Movie Tickets

Caught My Partner CheatingShutterstock

Going to the movies remains a classic form of entertainment, with tickets costing between $9 and $15.

Despite the rise of streaming services, the average American goes to the movies about 5 times a year, indicating the enduring appeal of the cinema experience.

Final Thoughts

Cashier Taking A Cardantoniodiaz, Shutterstock

While these small guilty pleasures add up in terms of expenses, they are integral to the fabric of modern living, providing moments of joy, relaxation, and comfort.

The key is to indulge in them mindfully, ensuring that these little joys don't derail our financial goals and responsibilities.



Things Only Wealthy People Know Exist

There are a million things that money can buy—and a lot of them are things that most people don't even realize are an option. Here's a glimpse into the secret world that only the richest of the rich have access to.
May 21, 2024 Jamie Hayes
Industries That Millennials Are Killing

20 Industries That Millennials Are Killing

Discover the industries that millennials are impacting and why traditional businesses are struggling to adapt. Our in-depth analysis explores the changing consumer habits and values driving these shifts. From casual dining to traditional retail, see how the millennial mindset is reshaping the economy.
May 29, 2024 Peter Kinney

How Social Media Can Affect Your Job Search

Uncover 10 things people post on social media that employers consider red flags. Find out how employers are finding people, why they're looking, and what to avoid posting if you want to get a job.
April 30, 2024 Matthew Burke

20 Billionaires Who Actually Started Off Poor

Most of the world's wealthiest people were born pretty darn wealthy to begin with. But the American Dream can come true—just ask any of these true self-made billionaires.
May 11, 2024 Jamie Hayes
Great Wealth Transfer Internal

The Great Wealth Transfer

Uncover the truth about The Great Wealth Transfer, dubbed "the greatest wealth transfer in history." Find out which generation will benefit the most from those before them, and what might happen to the money they inherit.
May 9, 2024 Sammy Tran
Homestead Budget Internal

How to Start a Homestead On A Budget

Uncover 10 steps to starting your homestead on a budget. Find out how you can get supplies, plants, and even animals basically for free, and how to maintain it all for next to nothing.
May 17, 2024 Allison Robertson

Dear reader,

It’s true what they say: money makes the world go round. In order to succeed in this life, you need to have a good grasp of key financial concepts. That’s where Moneymade comes in. Our mission is to provide you with the best financial advice and information to help you navigate this ever-changing world. Sometimes, generating wealth just requires common sense. Don’t max out your credit card if you can’t afford the interest payments. Don’t overspend on Christmas shopping. When ordering gifts on Amazon, make sure you factor in taxes and shipping costs. If you need a new car, consider a model that’s easy to repair instead of an expensive BMW or Mercedes. Sometimes you dream vacation to Hawaii or the Bahamas just isn’t in the budget, but there may be more affordable all-inclusive hotels if you know where to look.

Looking for a new home? Make sure you get a mortgage rate that works for you. That means understanding the difference between fixed and variable interest rates. Whether you’re looking to learn how to make money, save money, or invest your money, our well-researched and insightful content will set you on the path to financial success. Passionate about mortgage rates, real estate, investing, saving, or anything money-related? Looking to learn how to generate wealth? Improve your life today with Moneymade. If you have any feedback for the MoneyMade team, please reach out to [email protected]. Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Moneymade team