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Americans say cars and technology worth more than weddings and vacations

Survey reveals cost return analysis of both big and small ticket expenditures 

Feb. 15, 2017

As tax season comes into full swing, many Americans are taking a closer look at their finances to determine if they should cut costs or use their refunds towards more extravagant purchases. The COUNTRY Financial® Security Index, a survey that measures sentiments on a range of personal finance topics, examined how Americans currently evaluate the worth of big and small expenditures, ranging from homes and college degrees to gym memberships and streaming services.

While personal preferences may differ by individual, when it comes to big-ticket expenses, the general consensus among those polled was that buying a home (84 percent), getting a four-year college degree (73 percent) or securing a post-graduate degree (68 percent) were most worth the money, while home technology (47 percent), weddings (41 percent) and luxury vacations rounded out the bottom.


Big Ticket Purchases/Costs Percentage of respondents who felt it was worth the cost Percentage of respondents who felt it was not worth the cost
House/home purchase 84% 14%
Four-year college degree 73% 25%
Post-graduate degree (e.g. Masters, Doctorate, etc.) 68% 29%
New car 60% 37%
Latest home technology (like a big screen television) 47% 50%
Wedding 41% 56%
Luxury vacation 40% 58%
Boat 14% 84%

COUNTRY Financial also looked at the perceived worth of smaller purchases, focusing specifically on the growing popularity of membership and subscription services. An examination of these services found that cable/satellite television was the most common with 65 percent of respondents currently paying for a subscription, followed by video streaming (36 percent), like Netflix® or Hulu®, and premium membership programs (32 percent), such as Amazon Prime® and Costco®. Diving deeper into current users of these subscriptions, we found that video streaming services and premium membership programs were considered as providing the most ‘bang for your buck,’ with 95 percent of users rating it as worth the cost. Gym memberships and music streaming subscriptions provided users the second most value, with 88 percent of users rating it as worth the expense.

Chart - Are subscription services worth the cost?

Interestingly, while cable/ satellite TV was the most common subscription, users rated it the least worth the expense from the list, with 31
percent of users deciding it was not worth the cost. 

While having many options provide great flexibility for consumers, payments for subscription services can easily add up and periodic evaluation of these services can help ensure you are spending on the things you most value. 

Do a personal financial audit with this self-evaluation checklist

When it comes to performing a personal financial audit, here are some questions worth asking to help start a self-evaluation:

  • What existing debts do you have and how much are the interest rates for each?

  • What are your monthly recurring bills and for how much?

  • Am I living within my means? 

  • What loans or payments can I most easily pay off? Where should I cut on spending?

  • Which subscription services/ monthly payments can I most easily cut out of my life? 

  • Which big ticket purchases do I want to splurge on?

When doing a self-evaluation of your finances, it is important to think about the following factors. Where can you afford to spend? Where do you want to be financially in 5, 10, 20, 30 years? And, what plans can you enact to reach your financial goals while maintaining a healthy balance overall?

About The COUNTRY Financial Security Index®

Since 2007, the COUNTRY Financial Security Index has measured Americans' sentiments of their personal financial security. The Index also delves deeper into individual personal finance topics to better inform Americans about the issues impacting their finances.  

The COUNTRY Financial Security Index was created by COUNTRY Financial and is compiled by GfK, an independent research firm. Surveys were conducted using GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, a national, probability-based panel designed to be representative of the general population and includes responses from approximately 1,006 U.S. adults for national surveys. The margin of sampling error for a survey based on this many interviews is approximately +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.