By the Numbers: How Americans Spend (More of) Their Money

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iStock

Every day, Americans spend an average of $101, according to Gallup. The bulk of that money goes to housing, food, and, transportation—but a surprising amount of it gets spent on Funyuns. Previously, we broke down where the $10.7 trillion that Americans spent in a single year went. Here’s an updated look at the lesser known slices of America’s big financial pie chart.

Touring Civil War battlefields: $442 million [PDF]

(That’s the tally for 15 NPS Civil War battlefields in five states. “[B]lue and gray makes green,” says Kevin Lanston, a deputy commissioner for tourism in Georgia. [PDF])

Drinking beer on Independence Day: $1 billion

Lighting up fireworks: $800 million

Lighting up (legal) marijuana: $6.9 billion

(“Sales are projected to increase to $21.6 billion by the year 2021,” according to Arcview Market Research.)

Eating Cheetos, Doritos, and Funyuns: $4.8 billion

Fixing car damage caused by potholes: $3 billion

De-icing streets with road salt: $2.3 billion

Buying bags of ice: $3 billion

Shopping for (artificial) Christmas trees: $854 million

Chopping (real) Christmas trees: $1.3 billion

Enjoying the great outdoors: $646 billion [PDF]

(If this number appears inflated, that’s because it reflects the total impact of outdoor recreation, including trip-related sales such as hotels, food services, and vacation expenses.)

Fishing trips: $41.8 billion

Bicycling trips: $81 billion [PDF]

Rock climbing/hiking trips: $12 billion [PDF]

Treating trips and falls: $76.3 billion

Birdwatching: $26 billion [PDF]

Paying for wild birdfeed: $3 billion

Treating dog bites: $570 million

Going under the knife for aesthetic cosmetic surgery: $13.5 billion

Purchasing cosmetics: $62 billion

Getting your nails done: $7.47 billion [PDF]

Getting hammered: $223.5 billion

(According to the CDC, this includes the cost of lost workplace productivity, health care expenses, law enforcement expenses, and impaired driving accidents.)

Binging at food trucks: $2.7 billion

Treating acid indigestion: $2 billion

Eating quinoa: $1.32 billion

Chewing chewing gum: $2 billion

Chewing chewing tobacco: $5.93 billion

Buying chew toys: $32 million

Going back to school: $75.8 billion

Prepping for standardized tests: $12 billion

Treating stress-related illnesses: $300 billion

Purchasing fake degrees: ~$100 million

(More than 100,000 fake degrees are sold each year in the U.S., at approximately $1000 a pop.)

Giving graduation gifts: $5.4 billion

Playing Fantasy Football: $4.6 billion

Watching the Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl: $14.1 billion

Eating pizza: $32 billion

Eating supermarket hot dogs: $2.4 billion

Treating Ischemic heart disease: $88.1 billion

Buying heartfelt Valentine’s Day jewelry: $4.3 billion

Taking a risk with lottery tickets: $80.55 billion

Taking a risk with online dating: $2 billion

Buying flowers: $31.3 billion

Freshening up with mouthwashes, gargles, and rinses: $1.8 billion

Going to the bar: $20 billion [PDF]

Hitting the nightclub: $1.9 billion

Popping Himalayan Viagra: $5 to 11 billion

(Yarsagumba, or caterpillar fungus, is a parasitic fungus made by ghost moth larvae. This “Himalayan Viagra” has been considered an aphrodisiac for millennia. Numbers reflect global sales.)

Tuning the radio to smooth jazz: $190 million

Pregnancy: $55.6 billion

Last time we did this, a handful of readers expressed interest in seeing these numbers arranged in ascending order. If you’re drooling to see these numbers neatly ordered, a sheet is linked here. Enjoy!

FYI: The FDA Has Ceased Its Food Inspections

istock.com/Olivier Le Moal
istock.com/Olivier Le Moal

It may be safe to eat romaine lettuce again, but The Hill is reporting that the FDA is suspending "most food inspections" amid the current partial government shutdown.

As the government shutdown rounds out its third week, the effects have begun to take a toll on both minor and major scales. Government workers are missing paychecks, affordable housing contracts are expiring, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not able to cover all of its usual duties. According to the official FDA website, around 55 percent of their $5.4 billion budget comes directly from federal funding, with the other 45 percent coming from industry user fees.

With fewer resources for protecting the nation's food supply, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb has had to delegate most workers to investigate "high risk facilities," such as those that produce seafood or cheese.

In 2018, nearly a dozen different products were cited for salmonella contamination, including raw turkey, pre-cut melon, and even Honey Smacks cereal. The FDA also warned of a possible salmonella outbreak from eggs last May.

Though the FDA will continue to inspect foreign manufacturers and products, the agency generally conducts roughly 160 food inspections per week. They look for any possible contamination due to various unclean circumstances, and that is only the beginning of a much longer process if foods actually need to be recalled. The FDA also investigates cases sent to them by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); after an illness or outbreak has been reported, the FDA works to trace where the contaminant could have come from before recalling and pulling problematic products from the shelves. All of this takes a lot of work, as we recently reported.

[h/t The Hill]

America's Paper Towel Obsession, Explained

iStock.com/Eerik
iStock.com/Eerik

At this point, the Brawny man can probably afford something nicer than a flannel shirt. Americans spend roughly $5.7 billion annually on paper towels, using them to clean up everything from spilled coffee to baby dribble to windows. Roll after roll is unspooled from a paper towel holder, makes a detour into a mess, then winds up directly in the garbage.

Are we really so lazy that we can’t wring out and reuse a sponge, a cloth wipe, or washable napkins? Or has Big Towel brainwashed us into believing that paper towels are simply the most convenient method of keeping things clean?

The question was recently explored by The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker, who noticed that Americans make up nearly half of the world’s paper towel use. (Second-place France spends just $635 million per year on discarded towels, little more than a tenth of what the U.S. shells out.) Pinsker wondered if it was due in part to population, but even on a per capita basis, we still spend more on towels than any other country in the world. Countries with comparable economies don’t buy as much as we do.

It turns out that the reasoning behind our alleged paper towel obsession may reside in how we problem-solve. In using a disposable towel, a mess can be immediately addressed and discarded, leaving no trace or obligation to clean our cleaning supplies.

There may also be pragmatic reasons: Using one-time-use towels reduces the chances of cross-contamination. (Imagine a sponge covering a bacteria-covered surface, then being set aside for reuse later.) And in a public bathroom setting, paper towels may actually be more hygienic than hand dryers, which can spread bacteria.

If you have a paper towel addiction, one tip Pinsker passed along is to consider reusing them. (Provided, of course, the mess wasn’t made up of raw meat or fish.) Sturdier paper towels can sometimes stand up to multiple applications before they start to break apart. You can also try using fewer towels by folding one in half and taking advantage of what’s known as interstitial suspension to trap water between the layers.

[h/t The Atlantic]

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