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Survey: 39 million U.S. adults feel pressured to overspend on celebratory events this year

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You’ve probably experienced a canceled event within the last two years—a birthday, a wedding, a graduation. Some predicted that years of pent-up party demand would lead to a second Roaring ‘20s following the pandemic. It’s true that many are finally going through with rescheduled events and making up for lost time now that COVID-19 restrictions are lighter. But with inflation at a record high and a recession looming, these celebrations are a financial burden for many.

A new survey from Bankrate found that 39 million Americans feel pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with this year on celebratory events, like weddings, birthdays, baby showers and graduations. And young adults are feeling the pressure more than older generations.

Celebratory spending poll: Key findings

Notable findings from the April 2022 survey of 2,438 adults include:

  • Attendance for celebratory events in declining: Despite the anticipated increase of weddings and other celebratory events in 2022, individual Americans are actually attending fewer events than in previous years. Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults said they plan to attend at least one celebratory event this year—down from 65 percent in 2021.
  • Younger adults are feeling the pain most: 28 percent of Gen Z and 23 percent of millennials feel pressured to overspend on an event this year. Conversely, only 5 percent of boomers feel this way.
  • More men than women report feeling pressure to spend: 17 percent of men reported feeling increased pressure to spend more on celebratory events this year, while only 13 percent of women felt the same.

Young adults are shouldering the cost of the booming wedding industry

After years of delays and restrictions, experts predict historic nuptial numbers for 2022. An estimated 2.5 million Americans plan to tie the knot this year—the most since 1984.

But as wonderful as it is to celebrate a marriage—especially if you’ve been waiting several years—a wedding is a financial commitment, even if you aren’t in the wedding party. A 2018 Bankrate survey found the average cost of attending a close friend’s or family member’s wedding was $627. For distant friends and family, that number dropped to $370—still, no measly sum.

Young adults are the largest group attending at least one wedding in 2022, with 35 percent of Gen Zers and 33 percent of millennials planning to attend a wedding this year. Additionally, younger adults are more likely to be part of a wedding party, which adds additional expenses.

And with inflation to blame for tighter budgets and pricier goods and services, weddings this year may be a bigger financial burden than usual.

Caleb Reed, founder of TheDollarBudget.com, believes higher costs will affect all celebrations this year. “With inflation hitting a 40-year high, spending more than you’re comfortable with to attend a celebratory event will hurt your wallet much more than it has in the past,” Reed says.

“Inflation on wedding costs is being passed on from wedding vendors to customers,” he says. “Everything from wedding cakes to decor has seen a sharp price increase, and consumers are paying the difference.”

While wedding attendees don’t need to worry about the cost of a venue or cake, they will have to watch out for increased prices on gas and airfare, lodging, food and beverages outside of the wedding, and goods they’ll purchase for a wedding gift.

Economic uncertainty may be driving lower celebration attendance

Despite the predicted increase in celebratory events, there actually was a small dip in the number of adults who plan to attend one this year. Sixty-five percent of adults said they attended at least one celebration in 2021. This year, that number dropped to 61 percent. While 4 percentage points may seem like a small drop, that’s a difference of about 13 million people.

Economic uncertainty may be a factor in people’s reluctance to attend events this year. “The cost of fun can be a budget buster, especially with inflation running rampant,” says Bankrate’s senior industry analyst Ted Rossman. “It’s important to come up with a good plan before committing to these events, particularly since pricey destination weddings and bachelor/bachelorette parties have grown increasingly common.”

Good strategies include using credit card rewards to defray the cost of attendance and potentially signing up for a credit card with a 0% interest promotion if you need more time to pay off your balance, Rossman says.

The bottom line

For most American adults, 2022 will include at least one celebratory event. With rising costs straining budgets, millions of people feel the pressure to overspend to attend these events.

The key is to plan ahead and be honest with yourself. Compile all the events on your calendar for the coming year and estimate the associated expenses for each. With hard numbers in front of you, it’s easier to decide which events to budget for and which you feel more comfortable skipping.

Methodology

Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,438 adults. The survey was conducted on April 13-15, 2022.

Written by
Meredith Hoffman
Credit Cards Reporter
Meredith Hoffman is a personal finance writer covering credit card news and advice at Bankrate. She is originally from Columbia, S.C., and received her bachelor's degree from the Univ. of North Carolina at Wilmington. Before joining Bankrate in October 2019, Meredith worked as the news editor of Wilmington’s local newspaper, The Seahawk.
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