Those weekly splurges cost $7,400 extra annually. Here are the biggest budget busters

Online shopping tops the list.
Image: Young woman studying at home
Topping the list of categories where respondents overspend is online shopping, followed by grocery shopping and subscription services.Getty Images
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By Sarah O'Brien, CNBC

Sticking to a household budget is apparently difficult. As in, really difficult.

While 74 percent of people say they have some sort of budget, 79 percent don’t stick to it, according to new research from, a crowd-sourced shopping platform. The average weekly amount consumers spend — not counting bills such as mortgage or rent, utilities, etc. — is $340, or $143 more than the average $197 budgeted. That equals overspending by about $7,400 each year.

“The struggle with overspending exists regardless of how much people earn,” said certified financial planner Josh Nelson, founder and CEO of Keystone Financial Services in Loveland, Colorado. “I’ve heard ‘I don’t know where all the money goes’ from people who make a gazillion dollars and from poor college students and everyone in between.”

The survey, conducted in August, asked 2,000 adults about their budgeting habits and weekly spending. Topping the list of categories where respondents overspend is online shopping, followed by grocery shopping and subscription services. (And, yes, overindulging on coffee ranks in the top 10.)

Consumer debt has continued to climb, reaching nearly $13.9 billion in the second quarter of 2019, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Credit card debt comprises roughly $1 trillion of that. Separate data from show that just 38 percent of cardholders are “very confident” they can pay their monthly balance in full.

If going over your budget is causing credit card debt to pile up or is standing in the way of your ability to reach other goals, there are some ways to rein yourself in, financial advisors say.

These are the top 10 budget killers, according to

  • Online shopping 40 percent
  • Grocery shopping 39 percent
  • Subscription services 37 percent
  • Technology products 36 percent
  • Buying lunch everyday 35 percent
  • Household essentials 32 percent
  • Coffee 32 percent
  • Food delivery 32 percent
  • Gym memberships 30 percent
  • Entertainment (movies, concerts, etc.) 29 percent

For starters, make sure your budget is realistic.

“Most people hate budgeting and going through the exercise of figuring out where they’re spending their money,” Nelson said. “But people end up finding a lot of areas where they can cut back without affecting their quality of life one bit.”

For example, he said, you might be paying subscriptions to online publications, games and services that you no longer need.

“Sometimes people don’t even know they’re still being charged for things they aren’t using,” Nelson said.

And if online shopping is a weakness, one trick is to leave the item in your cart for at least 24 hours.

“Chances are it’s an impulse purchase,” said Jessica Goedtel, CFP and assistant vice president at Valley National Financial Advisors in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “By delaying it a day or longer, you give time for that impulse to cool off.”

Additionally, don’t view budgeting as deprivation, said CFP Eric Roberge.

“What I always tell my clients is that it’s not about depriving yourself, or not spending, or being cheap,” said Roberge, founder of Beyond Your Hammock in Boston and co-host of the “Beyond Finances” podcast.

“Good budgeting is about getting clear on what’s actually important to you and then putting your money where your values are,” Roberge said.

In other words, he said, align your spending with your values and cut back in areas that don’t reflect them.

“By tracking your spending and just paying attention, you’re well positioned to make more intentional, mindful choices about your money,” Roberge said. “You don’t need to deprive yourself, but you do need to be disciplined and focused on what matters most to you.”

Disclosure: Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow. is a financial wellness and education initiative from CNBC and Acorns, the micro-investing app. NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.


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