Mystery Spending

One place where cash can simply disappear is while shopping. That’s according to a new survey commissioned by Visa Inc. U.S. consumers cannot account for an average of $21 per week in cash spending. That adds up to more than $1,000 per year. Younger adults between the ages of 18 to 24 claim to lose track of $2,500 annually, more than twice the average amount.

The international survey of more than 12,000 adults in 12 markets around the world (including 1,000 U.S. consumers) asked respondents to estimate their, “mystery spending,” or the cash they spend but cannot account for every week. “Despite consumers’ focus on controlling spending, they are still losing track of a considerable amount of money each year, particularly when shopping or spending leisure time with friends and family; key activities during the holiday season,” says Wayne Best, Visa’s chief economist.

Where does the cash go? U.S. consumers said they were most likely to mystery spend while:

  • Purchasing food and other groceries (34 percent).
  • Leisure shopping for non essentials (32 percent).
  • Enjoying a night on the town (31 percent).
  • Dining out (26 percent).

Additionally, 22 percent of U.S. consumers believe that small cash purchases make it hard to track spending. “Even for the most organized spender, it can be tough to keep track of every cup of coffee, greeting card, or teacher’s gift picked up at the mall and paid for with cash,” said Best. “While cash purchases can be difficult to track, the survey revealed that consumers believe debit cards can help them monitor spending more closely and stay within budget.”