Tickets to Astros, Taylor Swift defy cutback on entertainment spending

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Consumers seemingly splurged last year on tickets to see the Astros or Taylor Swift while cutting back on outdoor gear and hobbies amid a rising cost of living.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday, U.S. consumers spent 27.4% more on fees and admissions in 2022 than they did the previous year. That would include tickets to concerts, sporting events, theater productions and even the zoo.

Many of Houston’s sports teams and other entertainment venues have experienced that phenomenon. Nearly 2.7 million people attended Houston Astros home games in 2022, up from about 2.1 million in 2021. The team went to the World Series in both years, winning it in 2022. And Taylor Swift’s tour had ticket prices soaring to more than $30,000 late last year. 

But spending on entertainment overall declined 3.1% in 2022 compared to 2021, after leaping 22.7 percent from 2020 to 2021. Entertainment was the only spending category to decline, suggesting that consumers are looking to economize where they can. Americans spent, on average, 24.5% less on entertainment supplies, equipment, and services in 2022 than they did in 2021. The category includes things such as athletic shoes, fireworks, and camping, fishing and hunting gear. They also spent 16.1% less on toys, hobbies and playground equipment. 

According to the BLS data, U.S. households each spent an average of $72,967 in 2022, up 9% from 2021. That’s roughly in line with overall inflation — the Consumer Price Index rose 8% in 2022 — and average income growth of 7.5% over the year. 

Other expenditures, on which many households have less wiggle room, saw significant increases in 2022 after increases in 2021, as well. Spending on housing increased 7.4% in 2022 after rising 5.6% in 2021, the bureau said. Overall, the category accounts for a third of consumer spending. 

Transportation spending rose 12.2% in 2022, even though average expenditures on vehicles dropped 6.9% as the price of new and used cars moderated slightly. “As gas prices climbed and more workers continued to go back into the office in 2022, this led to an increase in expenditures for public transportation as well as gasoline, other fuels, and motor oil,” the BLS report noted. 

In Texas in particular, insurance coverage has spiked. The average statewide rate for personal auto insurance soared 23.8 percent in 2022, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.

RELATED: Texans have seen car insurance premiums soar over past year

The additional consumer costs in recent years may help explain why many Americans are expressing more pessimism about the national economy than macroeconomic indicators seem to warrant. In an August CNN poll, 51% of respondents said the U.S. economy is in a downturn, though the nation saw GDP growth in the first and second quarters of the year and the unemployment rate has been under 4% since February. 

There are signs in the data that, despite pocketbook pressures, Americans are still determined to make room in their budgets for experiences after several years in which COVID lockdowns and concerns kept many people at home more than usual. Spending on food also increased 12.7% in 2022 compared with 2021, for example, driven by a 20.1% increase in spending on food away from home. 

And a Houston Zoo official says that although the zoo had a similar number of visitors in 2021 and 2022, revenues were up in 2022, as visitors took advantage of prepaid tickets that were introduced during the pandemic to manage crowd volumes. New arrivals at the zoo last year included a pair of orphaned cougar cubs, two newly hatched flamingo chicks and a tiny baby Goeldi’s monkey named Betty who weighed about as much as a light bulb at birth. 

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