4 Out of 10 Americans Admit Spending Too Much to Feel Successful or Impress Others

LendingTree conducted a study, and out of the 1,600 surveyed, nearly 40 percent admitted overspending to impress others. The primary categories were clothes, shoes, or accessories.

4 Out of 10 Americans Spend Too Much to Feel Successful or Impress Others

But if four out of ten admitted this, you know the number is much higher. That is a tough conclusion to admit to, even on a survey.

The survey found that about 25 percent of the overspenders were struggling with debt as a result.

Key Findings

  • Nearly 40% of Americans have overspent to impress someone else, especially on clothes, shoes or accessories (16%) and gifts (15%). Their main reasons for doing so are to feel “successful,” impress family or friends, reciprocate generosity or impress a date.
  • 27% of those who overspent to impress others are currently in debt. An additional 36% previously had related debt. By generation, Gen Xers are most likely to currently be in debt for this reason (34% of whom overspent).
  • The vast majority who overspent to impress others wish they hadn’t. 77% say they regret overspending. To make matters worse, more than a third aren’t in contact with at least one person they previously tried to impress.
  • Americans’ desire to keep up with friends and family becomes financial pressure. Nearly 30% of Americans feel financially pressured to keep up with others, mainly their family (17%) and friends (13%). Gen Zers feel the most pressure (51%). Higher-income earners feel more pressured by income than those who make less.
  • Another key form of overspending to impress is not asking to be paid back for the money you’re owed. 55% of Americans say they’ve hesitated to ask someone to send their share of money owed, including 28% who didn’t ask to be paid back. By gender, women (32%) were more likely not to request money owed than men (23%).
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A solid portion of Americans (39%) say they’ve spent more money than they could afford to impress another person. This is especially common among the younger generations — Gen Zers ages 18 to 25 (52%) and millennials ages 26 to 41 (46%). Only 34% of Gen Xers ages 42 to 56 and 25% of baby boomers ages 57 to 76 say the same.

Why are people willing to overspend to impress others? The most common reasons are to feel “successful,” impress family or friends, reciprocate generosity or impress a date.

And who has not “accidently” overspent on hoping a date would end favorably? Just saying.

4 Out of 10 Americans Spend Too Much to Feel Successful or Impress Others

Women Versus Men

Despite the wide variations by age, there’s no gender divide — 38% of men have overspent to impress versus 39% of women.

Where a gender divide arises is the more precise motivation behind overspending to impress. For example, 41% of men say they did so to impress a date, versus 17% of women. Additionally, women are twice as likely as men to say they overspent because they were afraid or embarrassed to say no (31% versus 15%).


Regarding generational divides, Gen Zers and millennials’ main reason for overspending is to feel successful. At the same time, Gen Xers want to feel like a better friend or family member and baby boomers want to reciprocate generosity.

Understandably, overspending can lead to regret. Most consumers (77%) who overspent to impress others wish they hadn’t. This was more common among Gen Zers (85%) and millennials (82%) than Gen Xers (74%) and baby boomers (60%).

The survey findings reveal two potential reasons for this regret: debt and estrangement.

First looking at bad feelings surrounding debt, 63% of those who overspent went into debt as a result. That breaks down to 27% who currently have debt associated with overspending and 36% who previously had debt.

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We defined generations as the following ages in 2022:

  • Generation Z: 18 to 25
  • Millennial: 26 to 41
  • Generation X: 42 to 56
  • Baby boomer: 57 to 76


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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