Friday Fives: Where Americans Spend Their Money

Someone said, “Show me the things you buy and I’ll show you the things you believe.” That’s the quote that inspired this week’s Friday Fives: Where Americans Spend Their Money. Only this isn’t the Top 5 items, which may be fairly obvious. This is the second group of five – items 10 through 6.

If leading effectively means understanding those you lead, this list can be very enlightening.

The Top 5 overall is a relatively easy list to guess:

5. Child Care: $47 billion
4. Soft Drinks: $65 billion (Coke is #1 with 26% of the market – $16.9 billion. Diet Coke is #2.)
3. Beer: $96 billion (As someone who has seen the destruction of alcoholism, it’s very difficult not to make an editorial comment here. But I guess I just did.)
2. Fast Food: $117 billion (McDonald’s french fries are the number one fast food item in sales.)
1. Groceries: $478 billion

So, my focus here is the next group of five on the list. I’m guessing if someone stopped you on the street and asked you to guess, you likely would not get many of them. In fact, before you scroll down, see if you can guess just one.



10. Professional Sports - $25.4 billion

According to W.R. Hambrecht, one of the nation’s largest investment banks, we spend a significant amount of our disposable income on items such as professional jerseys, subscription television fees and participating in fantasy sports. According to a Holy Cross College study, Americans also spend an average of 936.68 hours a year watching professional sports on television. You read it right.


9. Dollar Store Purchases - $30 billion

Yes, thirty billion dollars at the dollar store! The top ones include Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, Fred’s Super Dollar and 99 Cents Only. Most of the items sold at these stores are cast-offs, remnants or overruns. But whether it’s a Skybar or Christmas ornaments we love our dollar store finds. Time Magazine even did a piece on what to buy and not to buy at dollar stores. Our own dollar store recently added a freezer section. My wife was giddy.


8. Alternative Medicine - $33.9 billion

Consumer Reports sites purchases of such supplements as vitamins, echinacea, fish oil, etc. According to one study – “The most commonly used products were multivitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C, and calcium. Five percent of the subjects used a fiber supplement, and there was a similar level of use of other botanicals (including garlic, gingko, and ginseng) and of specialty products (including glucosamine, melatonin, and lecithin).”


7. Gambling - $34.6 billion

Think about it. There are only six things that Americans spend more money on than gambling. The figure is from the American Gaming Association and may be somewhat alarming. According to a Frontline report: “Gambling generates more revenue than movies, spectator sports, theme parks, cruise ships and recorded music combined.” It begs the question, what are these people who gamble looking for?

Before we get to the item in the sixth slot, and therefore number one on this Friday Fives list, here are some others of note. Credit Card Late Fees just missed the top ten, coming in at $18 billion. Chocolate is 14th, at $16 billion (2.8 billion pounds). Romance Novels are 18th – $10 billion – and Pet Halloween Costumes are 29th, with $300 million spent annually. And now to number six:


6. Lawn Care - $49 billion

Yep, you read that right. We love our lawns – some folks can get quite obsessive about them. There’s even a book about it: American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn.

Did you guess any on the list? Will it preach?