Being a chronic optimist is a tough gig sometimes.

There’s a national front-page shooting almost every day. Urban crime is rampant. Legislators are being expelled by their peers for being legislators. Thriving companies are laying people off, if only because Wall St. is seducing them with easy 10% bumps in their stock price. 

Depending on which tribe you’re in, there are about 40 Anheuser-Busch beers you can’t drink anymore (good luck with that). Social Security will supposedly be bankrupt in 10 years, and my Penguins missed the playoffs for the first time in 17. Eighteen thousand cows died in an explosion in Texas – all those future delicious hamburgers and rib eyes…just…gone. 

Hell, even the Ted Lasso episode was sad this week, for f–k’s sake.

So, what are we supposed to do? 

Treat yourself. That’s what.

I made a noteworthy discovery in our data this week, all by myself, believe it or not. Every so often I do something here other than overpromise and take credit. 

For the first time since we began tracking this in 2014, the green line in the chart fell below the red one. 

Americans are splurging at unprecedented levels. Inflation be damned. 

It didn’t just start during COVID either. In October of 2014, 52% of people said they never splurged. It’s been falling ever since. 

The trend is even more pronounced among women. They’re 65% more likely than men to splurge on physical products and 27% more likely to splurge overall. Because we treat women like shit on this planet, that’s why.

It might seem counterintuitive to see people self-caring at record rates when economic headwinds are howling. Or maybe not, if you think about it.  

Never before have we enjoyed the optionality we have today. You can spend 50% more or 50% less on a carton of milk, depending on where you want to shop. The Internet, with all its foibles, is a magical deflationary tool. I can price shop for anything I want, depending on how few stars or negative reviews I’m willing to tolerate. 

I alluded to the problem a month ago, I just didn’t expect to see solid proof so quickly. Travel is up. Prestige beauty is up. Restaurant spending is up. Splurging is all the rage.

When the world around you feels like a raging dumpster fire you can’t control, take matters into your own hands.

Treat yourself.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

On that note, consumer confidence seems to have stopped bleeding, for a moment anyway. Maybe it’s all that self-care paying dividends. All I know is our Economic Sentiment Index had its first positive reading in over two months. Optimism for personal finances saw the biggest jump, by a lot. Other than another resilient, if not stellar jobs report and the continued, albeit slower, cooling of inflation, there weren’t a lot of big economic headlines to explain the bounce. It could just mean the sour notes of the past few weeks were temporarily driven by the SVB fiasco, and people have moved on. 

Time is increasingly kicking money’s ass. On theme with today’s prologue, this is a trend we initially saw skyrocketing in the first year of COVID (when we were reminded what it was like to actually have time). We might have expected to see those numbers backslide, however, as financial strains increased – but no. In fact, the number of U.S. adults who say they prioritize time over money has grown by three percentage points since 2021. Notably, the largest portion of respondents say they prefer to use their free time for relaxation – although “time” people are more likely than “money” people to use it to catch up on personal to-do’s or spend time with friends/family. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but time can.

Everybody loves ‘Made in America,’ even if Americans can’t agree on much else. In our 3 Things to Know this week, we saw a clear juxtaposition among a population of people who love their country, while seeing it from two completely different points of view. Seventy-five percent of U.S. adults now say that American-made is at least somewhat important to them when making a purchase decision. Secondly, and mostly unrelated, we looked at who is and isn’t paying attention to Trump indictment news. Basically, MSNBC and CNN watchers are nearly twice as likely as Fox watchers to be paying attention to it ‘very closely.’ Only one side cares. You’ll have to read the article to see the third thing.

People are thrift shopping more, they’re just doing it less online. An interesting confluence of cultural and economic trends, the number of people – especially Gen Zs – who say they’re buying secondhand clothes has climbed nearly 20% over the past year. Makes sense in the current economic climate. What may not seem as obvious is that online thrift shopping has fallen slightly during the same period. Young people are migrating toward in-store experiences, relatively speaking. It makes H&M’s partnership with thredUP super smart.

“Hey ChatGPT, convince a Republican to support AI.” Even while a full third of U.S. adults are still on the fence about AI tools and large language models like ChatGPT, the people who have formed an opinion on the subject are decidedly skeptical. Forty-five percent of Americans would support greater regulation and certification of the tech – doubling the 22% who oppose such oversight. Historically the anti-regulation crowd, Republicans, are much more likely than Dems or Independents to be very concerned about the proliferation of AI. This is where populism and capitalism collide. 

Package delivery might be discriminatory. Ok, that’s a strong and possibly hyperbolic statement. All I’m saying is that a remarkably consistent percentage of people regularly have packages delivered to their homes, spanning age groups – in fact, the oldest Americans are the least likely to say they ‘rarely/never’ receive package deliveries. The problem is that lower-income families and people in urban areas are much more likely than higher-income, non-urban families to experience missing, misplaced, or damaged packages. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

More awesomeness from the InsightStore™

The most popular questions this week:

Answer Key: Every week at the grocery store; Yearly; At Cannes, yes; Bartender, definitely; Not nearly often enough.

Hoping you’re well.