Published in: Banks | Sept. 24, 2019

3 in 4 Americans Say This Money Practice Would Make Them Happier

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Your money should make you happy -- so why aren't most Americans doing more with their cash to bring them joy? 

Money can't buy happiness. But you can adopt financial habits that help your money bring you more joy. 

Unfortunately, many Americans aren't doing that. In fact, a recent Ascent study on the wasteful spending habits of Americans revealed that 75% of Americans believe they'd be able to spend more on things that make them happier if they wasted less.

Yet, despite knowing that wasted dollars interfere with our finances and our happiness, most Americans still waste money regularly. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do to break this cycle and use money to improve your life. If you believe wasting less would be better for you, we've got some tips to help you cut the careless spending.

A man and a dog sitting in a grassy field at sunset.

Image source: Getty Images

Americans are wasting a lot -- even though less waste would improve happiness

Here are some notable results of The Ascent's survey:

  • Close to 6 in 10 Americans wasted money just in the past week alone.
  • 64% of Americans admitted to wasting a considerable amount of money in their lifetimes.
  • The average amount of money wasted by survey respondents was $139 per month.

Most of us know that we're guilty of waste, with 79% of Americans admitting they personally waste too much. 95% of respondents believe Americans as a whole waste more than we should.

Yet the careless spending continues because it's hard to break the cycle. This can have very real consequences, including increasing the chances of credit card debt and making it harder to live on a budget

How to stop wasting and spend on things that make you happy instead

There's good news for the three in four Americans who recognize that less waste could improve happiness. Realizing there's a problem is half the battle. 

When you know you're doing too much frivolous spending, there are steps you can take to stop it. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  • Track your spending: Sometimes, writing down what you buy will prompt you to be more mindful of purchases. You can record every transaction in a notebook and transfer it to a spreadsheet at the end of the day to get an idea of where your money's going. While there are apps that do this for you, manually tracking spending could make more of an impact on what you buy. 
  • Institute a 24-hour rule: Taking the time to think before you buy can significantly reduce purchases you regret. To avoid buyer's remorse, make a rule: You have to think about any purchases over $50 or $100 for at least a day. You could also take this to the next level and extend the waiting period by 24 hours for every $100 you'd be spending. This means you'd wait five days before making a $500 purchase. 
  • Shop with a list: Write down everything you plan to buy, whether you're hitting up the grocery store or a shoe store or Target. Do this before you go and don't buy anything that's not on the list. This will help you resist discounts and sales. Remember, a sale doesn't actually save you money unless you need the item anyway. 
  • Have a no-spend day, week, or month: Commit to not buying anything other than food or gas. Once you learn to make do with what you have and stop reaching for your wallet, you'll get out of the spending mindset. 

You can be happier by wasting less

Once you're not spending $100 or more on wasted purchases every month, you'll have more money to buy things you actually want. Or the ability to boost your savings account and improve your financial situation. 

You can become one of the minority of Americans who don't waste. And you can stop contributing to our country's overspending problem. Knowing that your hard-earned money improves your life should make a notable difference in how happy you are with your financial state.

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