Time put together an interesting list of random consumer factoids about how we spend our money. They took all the facts and trends that are reported each year by various sources and compiled them into one fascinating list. Some I agree with, and others I don’t — especially a recent survey that found owning a home is the best long term investment.
According to the article, we spend $1.2 trillion dollars on things we don’t need like candy, jewelry, alcohol, and gambling. Obviously, without some of these guilty pleasures life would be a little boring. Just keep it in moderation. Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t overspend in one area.
The factoid I liked — more than 8 million people stopped using credit cards in 2010. Time pulled this from a Bankrate article. People rely on their credit cards far too much to pay bills. I rely on my credit cards to earn rewards — often in the form of cash!
The article also points out the cost of owning a car each year, but the numbers used are a bit outdated even though they are from a 2011 AAA report. The report says our car expenses are $8,776 a year for gas, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation based on driving 15,000 miles. However, the costs are higher now because that was based on gas at $2.88 a gallon, and gas is more than a $1 more. While it looks like the price won’t stay around $4, we’ll probably still pay more than $2.88 a gallon for most of the year. The price increase trended upward faster than the price decline.
The U.S. Department of Energy also has a neat tool that allows you to calculate your gas costs for the year. Based on the price of gas now, around $3.96, and the 32 miles per gallon that my car averages I’ll spend $1856 just in gas.
On to the next way we spend our money — cable television . Time cited a factoid that the average pay TV subscriber gets 118 channels but only watches 17. In my household, we’re hoping to ditch cable very soon. We’re waiting for some of the new television options like Google TV, Android TV, or Apple TV to take off. Then, we’ll switch. We pay around $90 a month for basic cable (60 channels or so) and Internet. It’s outrageous, and it pains me to pay it each month.
The article also points out that 81% of adults said they believe buying a home is the best long-term investment. This factoid came from a March 2011 Pew Research Center Survey. Pew found 82% of homeowners who say their home is worth less now than before the recession either strongly (37%) or somewhat agree (45%) that homeownership is the best long-term investment. I’m surprised by these numbers, because one thing that’s come out of this recession is the reminder that home ownership is not always the best investment. It’s still better than throwing money to the wind as a renter, but you have to own wisely.
Owning a home is a long term investment, not short term. Many financial advisers will tell you that too many life factors and market factors get in the way of owning a home. Unlike a traditional investment, you can’t move your money around if your home value starts falling as many have done in the last few years. You’re stuck with that investment whether it works for you or not. There’s no bailing unless you walk away from your mortgage as many people have done in high foreclosure zones.
I’m not saying that owning a home is not a good idea, but I wouldn’t consider it the best long-term investment vehicle. I like one that has more flexibility.
Click here, and read the Time article for more interesting facts.