Woman holding credit card looking at laptop
Woman holding credit card looking at laptop

The “Spaving” Trap: How 58% of Americans Wastefully Spend to Save

Read the Article

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Americans’ lives have changed drastically this year, and so have their financial habits. As a result of widespread economic instability, it’s been reported that 64% of Americans claimed their spending choices would be permanently changed in the wake of COVID-19. Even if nationwide concern about saving is on the rise, it’s important for consumers to keep an eye out for common traps like “spaving” when they do go shopping.

Spaving is a term used to describe when people end up spending more money in an effort to maximize their savings. Some common scenarios include adding extra items to your cart to qualify for free shipping, or buying things in bulk even when you probably won’t use everything. Most advertisers are guilty of encouraging spaving, especially during the holiday season.

To find out who admits to spaving and to pinpoint how this tricky spending habit creeps into our budgets, we surveyed 3,000 Americans. We confirmed that even though only 7 percent recognized that they spent more overall in the past three months, the majority of folks admitted to the top three spaving mistakes.

Some of our key findings include:

  • 58 percent of Americans admit to spaving—spending more money to save.
  • 32 percent claim they’ve bought more online just to get free shipping.
  • Roughly 1 in 5 Americans say they’ve saved more overall in the past 3 months, whereas only 7 percent say they’ve spent more money during this time period.

Over Half of Americans Admit to “Spaving”

The majority of Americans are guilty of at least one form of spending more in the hopes of saving money in the long run. Spaving is one of the worst financial traps because of its deceiving nature and how it capitalizes on both convenience and fear.

When we’re worried about shortages or lockdowns, frantically buying in bulk can lead to poor financial decisions that don’t add up. If you’ve fallen prey to panic buying or spaving, you’re not alone. Check out how many Americans admitted to spending more in an effort to save:

The 3 Ways Americans are Spaving

It turns out that spaving is more about feeling like you’re getting a deal than actually saving money. For example, now that we’re all shopping online, it’s easy to fall into traps of spending more to qualify for free shipping. There might be certain circumstances when this makes sense financially, but those instances are pretty rare.

1 in 5 Americans Increased Their Savings this Summer

It’s no surprise that the pandemic has impacted how we think about money. In times of economic crisis, instability, and uncertainty, people are more concerned about how they’re using their next paycheck.

50 percent of people say their spending habits have changed, of those, 21 percent of Americans claimed they’ve saved more overall, while 22 percent said they saved more in some areas while spending more in others. Meanwhile, only 7 percent said they’ve spent more money during this time period.

American Saving Habits Bar Chart

Perhaps the biggest revelation these survey questions can unveil is that a savings-obsessed mentality doesn’t always result in spending less money. It’s easy to be blindsided by advertisers when we’re hyper-focused on the idea of saving without following through and checking the math.

For example, when was the last time you actually calculated cost-per-item to figure out how much your discount club wholesale purchases are saving you? Be sure to take factors into account like expiration dates and how much might end up going to waste. You might find that spending less on smaller shopping trips at a local store is more beneficial for your budget.

To escape our consumerist society’s savings gimmicks, maybe it’s more important to fact check promotions and adopt a more frugal mindset. Take a look at our visual guide below to see if your financial habits in the wake of the pandemic are actually helping you save money.

Infographic with tips to avoid wasteful spending

Even if you feel like you’ve mastered the work from home lifestyle by now, the change in your daily habits has undoubtedly affected your budget, either for better or for worse. Without the commute to and from work, you’re likely spending less on gas and eliminating useless purchases you might have made while in transit.

Although you might rejoice at these saving victories, be sure to still keep a close eye on tracking your spending. To keep up your momentum to reach your financial goals, watch out for spaving traps and other obstacles trying to slow you down. After all, your budget always has areas for improvement.

Science Daily | USDA

This study consisted of two survey questions conducted using Google Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,500 completed responses per question. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey ran during August 2020.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further


Written by Mint

Mint is passionate about helping you to achieve financial goals through education and with powerful tools, personalized insights, and much more. More from Mint