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10 Shocking Money Facts

From kids' allowances to how much you spend on interest, these financial figures will surprise you

One of the great things about being The Ultimate Cheapskate and writing about smart spending for a living is that you get all kinds of interesting press releases and stumble across other fascinating frugal factoids almost every day. I keep a running list of what I consider to be the most shocking spending facts I come across, then annually I write up my Top 10 list for that year.

Here's my 2012 edition, not in any particular order — you can decide for yourself which you find most surprising, or perhaps most disturbing.

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The average allowance an American child now receives is about $780 per year, or $65 per month. — Mike Powell/Getty Images

1. The average allowance an American child now receives is about $780 per year, or $65 per month, according to a recent study by the American Institute of CPAs. At that pay rate, I'm thinking seriously about giving up this writing stuff and becoming a kid again. What's more — just like with most American adults' paychecks — hardly any of that $780 ends up unspent and in the bank.

2. Speaking of young people and money, the website says the typical American now first takes on debt(s) — usually a credit card and/or car loan — while still in high school. Heck, when I was in high school, my parents didn't even have a credit card! But nowadays, the average American adult has 13 outstanding credit obligations at any one time.

3. There are signs that "McMansion Mania" — the trend toward Americans wanting ever larger, more expensive homes — may be slowing or even reversing itself, according to data from the real estate website and the National Association of Home Builders. In the 1950s, the average American home was just under 1,000 square feet; by the 2000s it had ballooned to 2,300 square feet, despite steadily decreasing family size during the same period. But since 2010 our appetite for supersized housing has been waning, with most Americans now saying they prefer 2,100 square feet or less, and a third wanting to keep it under 2,000 square feet.

4. We may be slightly less intent on supersizing our homes, but our hunger for fast food — and spending on it — continues to grow. Americans now spend more than $110 billion annually on fast food. And a study by found that when people use a charge card to pay, they spend on average of about 50 percent more than when they pay with cash. That's hard on both our wallets and our waistlines.

5. Ever wonder which type of sales offers are the biggest turn-ons for consumers? According to a survey conducted this holiday season by the Omnibus Company, consumers are most tempted by buy one, get one free (45 percent) deals, followed by specific dollar amount discounts or percentage off deals (17 percent each) and free shipping (16 percent).

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