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

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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!

Tune in Tonight: Mental Floss on Jeopardy!

All that time you've spent on here is about to pay off.

Tune in tonight for Jeopardy! and you'll catch the debut of the "I Learned It From Mental Floss" category. Big bucket list moment for us.

We've been working closely with the Jeopardy! team over on Instagram, sharing amazing facts on both @jeopardy and @mental_floss. Study up!

Check your local listings for stations and show times.

Millennials Get Blamed for a Lot, But They Could Help to Save the U.S. Postal Service

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Millennials get a bad rap for destroying everything from homeownership rates to fabric softener sales, but there's one important traditional industry they're enthusiastic about: the U.S. Postal Service. According to CityLab, a new USPS report [PDF] finds that young people's appreciation for snail mail could help boost the often-struggling agency's fortunes in the future.

Probing for insights into the minds of young people ages 18 to 34 (a little off from the Pew Research Center's definition of Millennials as being people ages 22 to 37), the USPS conducted surveys and hosted live chats online to figure out what Millennials think of the agency, and how the Postal Service can ignite their love of snail mail.

That's vital, because as it is, technological innovations like email and online bill payments are putting the USPS out of business. It lost money for the 11th year in a row in 2017, and while shipping packages is getting more popular (thank you, online shopping habits), it hasn't been enough to offset the decline of mail during that year—mail rates declined by 50 billion pieces in 2017. Young people ages 18 to 34 received an average of 17 pieces of mail each week in 2001, while they only receive 10 now.

But Millennials, it turns out, love mail, even if they don't want to pay their bills with it. As the report observes, "many Millennials still delight in receiving personalized notes or cards around holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions." Three-quarters of respondents said that getting personalized mail from friends and family "makes them feel special." According to the report, around 80 percent of Millennials say they're satisfied with the USPS, around the same rate as older, stamp-loving generations. More Millennials than Boomers, meanwhile, have a USPS.com account, and 59 percent say that the USPS is an innovative organization.

Millennials mentioned several ideas for USPS improvements that already basically exist, like self-service kiosks, at-home package pickup, and Informed Delivery emails, meaning the Postal Service isn't always the best at getting the word out about the cool things it already does. The report also shows that the Postal Service is still working on an augmented reality service that could give you a look at what's inside a package before you open it. (The idea debuted in 2016, but the app was largely limited to showing animated messages.)

The surveys and discussions did come up with a new idea to endear the post office to Millennials: a rewards program. The young people surveyed suggested that members could earn points by buying stamps or mailing packages and use them to redeem discounts or enter contests.

Millennials: They may be ruining vacations, but at least they're ready to save the mail.

[h/t CityLab]

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