US: As belts tighten, what kind of spending gives Americans the biggest bang for their buck?
June 28th, 2023, Hoang Nguyen

US: As belts tighten, what kind of spending gives Americans the biggest bang for their buck?

From getaways to the latest gadgets, there are countless choices for Americans to spend their money on.

But if they were forced to make one purchase, what do people think offers the best return on investment (ROI)?

In a new survey from YouGov, we delve into the minds of US consumers and explore their perspectives on discretionary spending categories they believe offer the biggest bang for their buck.

So without further ado, the biggest perceived ROI is...well, it’s a three-way race.

Vacations and travel

One in five (21%) consumers consider travel to be the most worthwhile purchase. It’s evident that people in the US value the enriching experiences, relaxation and memories that come with exploring new destinations.

In fact, over the last three months consumer intention to travel has reached its peak since the pandemic. Data from Global Travel Profiles — YouGov’s travel-specific audience intelligence and destination tracking tool,available in 30 markets — reveals that 60% of US consumers plan to take a domestic or international vacation in the next 12 months.


Next on the list, but not significantly less important, is the purchase of a new or used car (18%). Consumers likely view owning a reliable vehicle as a practical and necessary investment, offering convenience, mobility and potential long-term value.

Data from YouGov Profiles reveals that a fifth of US consumers say they are very likely or likely to purchase a car or truck in the next 12 months.


Jewelry (18%) also holds a prominent place in consumers’ minds, on par with the share of people who chose travel or cars. Offering emotional appeal and in some cases, the potential for investment appreciation, jewelry can be a store of timeless value.

The data points to a notable difference in jewelry’s perceived ROI, especially among generations. Boomers (22%) were significantly more likely than other generations to say they think jewelry represents the best return on investment.


We live in a technology-driven world and it’s no surprise that electronics secured a spot on this list. Roughly one in 10 (9%) consumers believe electronics offer the best return on investment. From smartphones and tablets to smart home systems and wearables, consumers likely rely on electronics for completing tasks, enhancing productivity and staying entertained.

Again, there’s a generational difference in the perceived ROI of electronics, with Gen Z (15%) being significantly more likely to say they think this discretionary category offers the highest ROI.

Entertainment subscriptions

And speaking of staying entertained, the subscription model that revolutionized the ways we consume media holds a fair level of appeal as well. Capturing another 9% of consumer preference on best ROI, entertainment subscriptions grant us access to a vast library of movies, TV shows, sports and music.

Other discretionary spend categories

While vacations, cars and jewelry dominate consumer perceptions of return on investment, other purchases also make the list albeit in smaller percentages. Appliances (7%), restaurants (6%), tickets to concerts/sporting events (5%), furniture (4%), alcohol (2%) and spa visits all garnered recognition for their potential return on investment in our poll.

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Photo by Frederick Warren on Unsplash