How Much Do Millennials Spend on Sports?

When it comes to saving money — and spending it — it’s all about priorities. For many millennials, having stuff takes a backseat to having fun. In fact, half of millennials say they’d rather drop their cash on experiences, versus buying material things.

Riley Adams, founder of millennial finance site Young and the Invested, says experiences easily trump “things” in terms of emotional value.

“For me, the sense of fulfillment which comes from experiencing new things far outweighs the fleeting happiness which comes from buying physical possessions. In the end, I value the lasting memory as my reward more so than a physical possession,” says Adams.

And just what are millennials spending on? Travel and concerts are on the list but they’re also spending big on something else: sports. With Americans collectively spending $14.8 billion to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday, we thought we’d take a closer look at the millennial mindset when it comes to sports and other experiences.

How millennial sports spending adds up

Over the last few years, spending patterns in the U.S. have fueled the growth of the experience economy, which includes spending on sports. Millennials easily outstrip other generations for monthly spending on entertainment in general, as well as sports.

Check out these numbers measuring how much Americans spent on sports in 2016:

  • $56 billion attending sporting events
  • $33 billion on athletic equipment
  • $19 billion on gym memberships

A more recent study found that Americans spend $155 per month on personal health and fitness, including:

  • $33 on gym memberships
  • $56 on health supplements
  • $35 on workout clothing and accessories
  • $17 for healthy meal plans
  • $14 on personal trainers

The 2016 survey found that 36 percent of millennials spend money on monthly gym memberships. In fact, they’re twice as likely as any other generation to hit the gym regularly.

Millennials are also spending money on professional sporting events. In 2018, 25 to 34-year-olds spent an average of $118.43 to watch the Super Bowl. Thirty-four percent of millennials paid for mobile apps to watch the NCAA tournament from their smartphones in 2017, and one in four paid to increase a data plan to make streaming games easier.

What motivates millennial sports spending

Todd Weitzman, founder of MoneyHax, says accessibility is one way to explain millennials’ sports spending preferences.

While being a sports spectator has always been a popular activity, it’s now more possible to actually become an athlete or participant, and this makes sports more relatable, says Weitzman.

The FOMO factor may also have something to do with it. Nearly 40 percent of millennials say they’ve spent money they didn’t have to keep up with their friends. Adams says the FOMO effect can be chalked up in part to social media, which makes it easy for millennials to share their experiences with their followers. Seeing a steady stream of sports-themed photos in your Facebook or Instagram feed, for example, can make you more inclined to spend on sports yourself.

Personal health and fitness spending, on the other hand, may have a link to millennials’ interest in self-care and wellness. In a 2015 survey, 94 percent of millennials said they were committed to self-improvement and they were willing to spend $300 a month on average to meet their fitness and wellness goals.

Finding balance with sports and experience spending

Spending on sports and experiences can feel good in the moment and lead to lasting memories. But, your budget can feel the pain later. Drawing boundaries on sports spending and finding ways to save money can keep those experiences from breaking the bank.

First, review your regular expenses and income to figure out how much you can reasonably spend on sports and experiences each month. You can also go over your sports and experience spending for the last year and total up how much you spent. Use that number as a guide to decide how much you want to earmark for sports spending each month. Remember to budget extra if you’re planning to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event like the Super Bowl or World Series.

Next, consider opening a bank account just for sports spending. This can be a savings account if you want to earn interest or a checking account if you want easy access to the money. The idea is to have a separate place to park money you plan to spend on experiences.

“Setting aside a fixed amount in a dedicated savings account might be a smart way to enforce discipline on your spending habits if you have trouble controlling your spending on entertainment events,” Adams says.

Ben Huber, co-founder of DollarSprout, agrees.

“Be it a gym membership, sporting event or some other form of entertainment, millennials should consider setting up direct deposit to a new account solely reserved for events and their associated travel expenses,” he says.

Finally, look for ways to cut corners on sports spending without sacrificing fun. Weitzman, for example, has used eBay and StubHub to find deals on tickets to games. He and his wife also bring bottled water and snacks along whenever possible to save money on concessions.

If you live near a sporting venue and you’re comfortable taking a gamble, Huber suggests waiting until the day before to try and score tickets.

“Ticket prices may drop 25-50 percent in the last 12 hours leading up to events on nearly all of the major ticket exchanges. If your travel plans are flexible and it’s not a highly sought after event, there’s a good chance you can save hundreds on premium seating at most major sporting events,” he says.

There are also plenty of apps and websites you can use to save on sports and fitness. TopCashback.com and Ebates, for example, allow you to earn cash back when you shop online at partner retailers. That could come in handy if you’re shopping online for new workout gear or sports equipment. You can also use sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com to find promo codes and printable coupons for even more savings on fitness.

How much will you spend on sports this year?

In-between checking out the Super Bowl halftime show, gearing up for March Madness or waiting for baseball season to kick off, think about how much you’ll spend on sports in the year ahead. From there, create a budget and open a bank account for sports spending. This way you can cheer on your favorite team or go to the gym without money headaches getting in the way.

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