Almost 4 in 5 consumers have at least one financial regret from the last year, according to Student Loan Hero’s survey of more than 1,000 Americans. These data show that the biggest financial regrets are saving too little (especially for a car) and spending too much (especially for dining out).

At the same time, not all financial regrets are created equal. A majority of 56% felt guilty about spending on non-essential items, while just over half of those surveyed regretted major purchases, such as a house, car, or a large investment.

Here are some interesting data points from the Student Loan Hero Financial Regret Survey – the COVID-19 edition.

Main conclusions

  • Americans’ biggest financial regret not saving as much as they wanted over the past year, while spending too much on non-essentials was the second most common regret. (Read more)
  • Among the missed savings opportunities, do not rank money to buy a car was the most regretted, affecting 1 in 5 survey respondents. (Read more)
  • 56% of consumers feel guilty about their spending on non-essential items. (Read more)
  • While respondents were less likely to regret large purchases, a quarter of millennials regretted how much money they spent at university. (Read more)
  • Restaurant food was the most regrettable expense, with 42% of consumers saying they needed to cut back on restaurant meals. (Read more)
  • Despite the financial stress of the pandemic and the economic crisis, a small majority (54%) said it feel in control of their finances. (Read more)
  • 79% of consumers have at least one financial regret from the last year, slightly lower 83% reported last year. You can compare these results to our 2019 financial regrets survey. here.

Not saving enough at the top of the financial regrets list

For the third year in a row, our survey found that not saving enough was the number one regret for many consumers. Over 39% of respondents said they had not saved as much as they wanted, followed by 29% who regretted spend too much on things they didn’t need.

Men were more likely than women to regret overspending (33% vs. 25% of women), while women were more likely to say they had not paid off as much debt as they wanted (25 % versus 17% of men).

While not as common, other regrets include not paying bills on time (10%), not investing enough (10%), and making a bad career decision (7%).

For many, the COVID-19 outbreak played a role in the missed financial goals. For example, of those who said they didn’t save as much as they wanted, 36% said they were made redundant or put on leave, and 46% said their pay or hours had been reduced – two common misfortunes in the middle economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, only 1 in 5 respondents reported no financial regrets in the past 12 months. This group appeared to be one of the least financially affected by the pandemic, with just 8% reporting a layoff or leave, and only 6% experiencing a reduction in their pay or hours.

Consumers wish they had saved more for cars, emergencies

When it comes to why respondents said they wanted to save their money, the largest group (20%) would have liked to have saved more for a car.

Then was a emergency fund, 19% regretting having put money aside for this purpose. Women were particularly likely to cite emergency savings, with 28% saying they would have liked to build up their emergency fund, compared to just 10% of men.

Some other savings goals that consumers felt were unsuccessful were retirement (16%), a home (15%), and vacations (9%). Only 14% of those surveyed said they did not have a goal for which they would have liked to save more.

If you’re struggling to meet your savings goals, these 101 tips to save more money can help you.

More than half of consumers feel guilty about non-essential spending

Regret is not the only negative financial feeling among respondents – guilt was also frequently cited. A majority of 56% of those surveyed said they felt guilty about spending on non-essential items.

This number was particularly high among men (70% versus only 43% of women), as well as Generation X (81%). What’s more, 75% of those who were made redundant or on leave due to the pandemic also said they felt guilty about spending on non-essential items.

As for the amount of money they spent on things they considered unnecessary, almost a third of consumers (31%) estimated that they had wasted at least $ 10,000 in the last year. An additional 26% said they spent between $ 1,000 and $ 4,999.

Often times, you don’t realize you’re overspending until it’s too late. To become more aware of your habits and stop wasting money, find out how identify and avoid your spending triggers.

42% say they need to eat out less

When it comes to overspending, many consumers have identified the same culprit: going out to eat (or taking food out to restaurants, given current pandemic restrictions). Of those polled, 42% said they needed to cut back on dining out, with a particularly high number among Millennials (53%) compared to Gen X (47%), Gen Z (45 %) and baby boomers (28%).

Meanwhile, around 1 in 4 consumers said they should have spent less on clothes and shoes, while other over-spending regretted included alcohol (18%), cigarettes (18%), groceries (17%) and coffee (16%). Men were twice as likely as women to say they wanted to spend less on alcohol (24% vs. 12%).

However, not everyone felt sorry for their spending behaviors. About 18% said there was no expense they felt they needed to cut.

If you feel like you’re wasting money on non-essential things, it can help to stick to a budget. Find out more how to create a budget that works in this guide.

Most don’t regret major purchases

While non-essential expenses prompted remorse among many respondents, fewer appeared to regret large purchases, such as a house or a car. Almost half (49%) of those surveyed said they had not regretted their large purchases in the past year.

For example, only 13% regretted buying a car and only 5% felt uncomfortable buying a home. Likewise, relatively few respondents felt bad about spending money on an investment (5%) or vacation (6%).

The college cost was a little different, however, with 19% of respondents regretting how much they spent to attend college. This sentiment was particularly high among millennials, with 25% reporting spending too much on college.

Before choosing a college, it pays to compare the costs between your options. By choosing an affordable school, you can avoid incurring heavy student loan debt. You can also save money by apply for scholarships and make the most of financial aid.

Credit card debt causes the most regrets

When it comes to getting into debt, consumers seem to have the most remorse for their credit card.

A total of 42% regretted credit card debt, versus personal loan debt (14%) or mortgage debt (13%).

Credit cards often carry relatively high interest rates, making them one of the most difficult types of debt to pay off. To avoid paying exorbitant interest, try not to charge your card more than what you can afford to pay each month.

Meanwhile, only 11% reported regrets about student loan debt, despite mixed feelings about college spending detailed in the previous section of this report. Here, a significant generational gap has emerged, with 25% of Gen Z and 17% of Gen Y regretting student debt, but only 6% each for Gen X and Baby Boomers, respectively.

If you have student loan debt, explore your options to adjust your payments under a new one. student loan repayment plan. You should also consider refinance your student loans for new terms and possibly better rates, especially if you have private student loans.

54% feel in control of their finances

But even though most respondents admitted to having regrets about money in the past year, a majority (54%) said they felt in control of their finances. 36% more said they felt “a little” in control.

In fact, only 1 in 10 consumers surveyed said they did not feel in control of their finances at all. Still, there were differences on this score in terms of both gender (14% of women said they did not feel in control vs. 6% of men) and generation (17% of Gen Z vs. 12% of baby boomers, 9% of millennials and 6% of generation X).

If you share any of these regrets, it might be time to take a closer look at your personal finances. You can start by tracking your cash flow and design a spending plan it works for you.

If you have debt, consider strategies to pay it off faster, such as debt avalanche or debt snowball methods. If you owe student loans, explore your options for reimbursement.

While it’s helpful to take stock of your financial situation, there’s no point in regret. Once you’ve identified the areas where you can improve, you can research and decide how. take back control of your finances.


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