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Stressed by holiday spending? Dining out tops list of where Americans blow budgets

We're stressed about our finances, but willing to spend some serious dollars in this category according to two independent surveys.
/ Source: TODAY

During the holidays, most of us tend to take up that collective battle cry of indulgence: "Treat yo self." Yet treating ourselves and others appears to be stressing us out according to a recent survey.

Principal Financial Group asked 1,122 employed adults in the U.S. on topics including finances during the holidays, overall happiness and personal spending. Over half (53 percent) of those polled ranked holiday spending as moderately stressful to their finances, with 11 percent of employees saying that holiday spending will stress their finances.

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Interestingly, when asked if they were happy with their current financial situation, 40 percent said yes, with 46 percent of men and 32 percent of women polled ranking themselves as happy. Additionally, more men responded that they felt in control of their personal finances at 63 percent, while 32 percent of women responded in kind. And 54 percent of all respondents feel stressed about their current financial situation, up from 39 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

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Whether they’re happy and in control of their finances or unhappy spendaholics, it turns out that everyone is interested in treating themselves to a fine meal of hearty cuisine, with 24 percent admitting that they “blew their budget” this quarter while dining out — up from 22 percent last year. Food and groceries were the runner-up at 19 percent, while 15 percent said they overspent on entertainment. Even so, three in ten employees said they didn’t blow their budget in 2015 in any of the areas offered.

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Those who blew their budget dining out this year are in good company. A separate Harris Poll conducted with Michelin from June 24-26 surveyed 2,028 adults and found that they were willing to spend $203 on average to have a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Millennials (adults ages 18-34) were willing to spend the highest amount — an average of $282 — for their meal, while on the other end of the spectrum, adults ages 65 and up were willing to spend $122.

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Geographically speaking, diners living in the West were willing to spend $352 for what they considered to be an “unsurpassed meal,” while diners in the Northeast said they would pay $182. Diners in the South said they would pay $149 and diners in the Midwest said $148. Men responded on average that they would spend $241 on their meal, while women said $166.

Last but not least, the No. 1 type of cuisine respondents treated themselves with was served in a steakhouse, while Italian food ranked second. Bon appetit!