The Big List of Consumer Curiosities

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Here’s a compendium of interesting, sometimes weird, sometimes surprising factoids about consumer spending, housing, modern family life, and more.

Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on stuff they don’t need—alcohol, candy, gambling, jewelry, and the like.

Saturday is the day of the week when consumers tend to spend the most—an average of $76, according to a 2009 survey, compared to $55 on the lowest-spending day, Tuesday.

62% of Americans said they were buying more generic brands in 2010.

A 2010 Consumer Reports survey showed that generic store-brand foods taste as good as pricier national brands.

More than 8 million people stopped using credit cards in 2010.

A AAA report factoring in all automobile expenses (gas, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, etc.) says that the average car driven 15,000 miles per year costs $8,776 annually, or 58.5¢ per mile.

The AAA figures are based on gas prices of $2.88 per gallon. In April, a gallon cost about $4, and the average household spent $368 a month to gas up.

62% of people who own smartphones believe their phone will be obsolete by the time their wireless contract is up. Hence, the growing “fear of obsolescence” holding some consumers back from buying new electronics.

The average iPhone customer has a wireless bill of $95 a month.

The average American consumer spent a smidge under $1,000 last year on TV, Internet, and video games.

The average pay TV subscriber gets 118 channels but watches only 17.

28% of cable subscribers say they would consider dropping cable for broadband video.


In a recent survey, 15% of respondents said they would change jobs for a shorter commute, and 4% said they called in sick because they didn’t want to deal with their commute. What would people do if their commute was suddenly shortened? The most popular answer was: sleep.

In another survey, 84% of workers said they planned on looking for new jobs in 2011, up from 60% the year before. This is unsurprising considering that employee morale is at a three-year low.

Both unemployment and working long hours are tied to serious health problems. So take it easy, just not too easy.


The average size of a newly built single-family home in the U.S. was 2,377 square feet, down from 2,521 in 2007.

According to a survey of home builders, by 2015 the average home will be 2,152 square feet.

New homes are 29% pricier than existing homes—which is one reason why while existing home sales are down 3%, sales of newly built houses are down 28%.

In 2009, 3.5% of household income went to property taxes, up from 2.9% in 2005.

81% of adults in a recent survey say they believe that buying a home is the best long-term investment a person can make.


The majority of parents say it is easier to talk to children about drugs than family finances. Only 28% of those surveyed said they are “very prepared to discuss basic financial principles such as setting goals, the importance of saving, smart spending, inflation, and diversification.”

The number of households with more than one family doubled up under one roof increased 11.7% from 2008 to 2010.

Households are arguing more about money lately: 61% of people surveyed reported that discussions about household finances regularly turn into arguments, up from 45% not long ago. Could be that families are more agitated what with all the extra people in the house.

The percentage of American households with individual life insurance policies is at its lowest levels in 50 years.

Kids really are cheaper by the dozen, apparently. Data suggests that the third child (and all those thereafter) are much less expensive to feed, clothe, and house than the first two.

Giving money to kids to get good grades doesn’t work, according to Harvard researchers. That’s the gist after a series of studies gave $6.3 million to thousands of students, who presumably would argue against the results so long as the cash keeps coming their way.