Sometimes it just feels good to be bad.
After years of recession-imposed restraint, American consumers have more cash in their pockets, and some of it is going to our favorite guilty pleasures.
Real consumer spending climbed 3.4 percent in the year ending in January, the most since 2006. Here are the vices that won over our black hearts and hard-earned dollars.
1. Gambling. Americans must have felt either lucky or desperate in 2014. High-rollers hit the craps tables hard as expenditures on gambling at casinos surged 10.7 percent in the year ended in January, the biggest gain since December 2006. Lotteries also saw a 1.8 percent bump.
2. Alcohol. Booze consumption made an impressive comeback, too. Spending on alcohol in purchased meals (at bars and restaurants), jumped 8.3 percent in January. Americans haven’t shown that much eagerness to drink since December 2001.
Thankfully, people were better behaved when it came to purchases of alcohol for consumption “off-premises,” with a respectable 1 percentage point increase. That could mean the rise at bars and restaurants was due to something other than a burning need to chug.
3. Sweets. When the Commerce Department says spending increased 2.9 percent on bakery products, it’s probably safe to assume they meant cupcakes.
The media may have declared the end of the cupcake’s reign as America’s favorite sugary addiction, but we find it hard to believe that bread or pastries took the cake (or all the dough!) on January’s rise in spending.
And the losers:
Coffee and cigarettes. Coffee and cigarettes are said to be “recession-proof” because people still spend on these small pleasures when times are tough. In January, Americans must have traded the buzz of caffeine or nicotine for alcohol, as spending in each was down.
Expenditures on coffee, tea and other beverage materials were cut 2.6 percent, while tobacco was the biggest loser, falling 3 percent.