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USA Today flamed for ‘average’ American budget story

Once again, actual average Americans are baffled by the reported averages.


Alex Dalbey


Posted on May 8, 2019   Updated on May 20, 2021, 1:04 pm CDT

In keeping with tradition, another national publication, this time USA Today, published a piece on what “average” Americans are wasting money on, and average Americans are roasting them for it.

USA Today tweeted a graphic showing all the different ways Americans are supposedly wasting money on “nonessentials” and it’s raised quite a few questions. For example, one of the non-essential categories is “buying lunch.”

Another non-essential spending category is grooming. $94 a month may seem high, but if you get your hair cut once every month and a half, that’s already $30 at its cheapest. Toothpaste, shampoo, face wash, razors, shaving cream, and makeup all go in that category, too. According to USA Today, grooming is non-essential, nevermind the social and financial consequences of not grooming for work or potential work.

Another strange “non-essential” category USA Today highlighted was online shopping. The fact is people buy essential things online. I buy my cat’s prescription dry food online because I can’t get it in a physical store. Many people with disabilities shop online because the physical wear of shopping in a store can be damaging and exhausting. Similarly, rideshare services and taxis are a necessary expense for people who can’t drive themselves and don’t live in areas with reliable public transportation (which is most of the United States). But the infographic says that’s a non-essential expense as well.

According to the Census Bureau, 42.87% of Americans make under $25,000 a year. Yet publications like USA Today claim that the “average” American is spending $18,000 on “non-essentials.” The truth behind the “study” cited by USA Today is that it was run by a life insurance company, Ladder. It essentially functions as a chastisement, suggesting that consumers should be spending money on life insurance, not “non-essentials” like food and cable internet access. With that knowledge, it’s no wonder the numbers are so wildly off from the real averages: The goal isn’t better financial literacy, it’s guilting the working class into funneling more money upward.


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*First Published: May 8, 2019, 9:52 am CDT