Carat from Fiserv The PayFac Economy and the Embedded Payments Revolution January 2024 Banner

Consumers Face ‘Funflation’ as Live Event Prices Surge

family on roller-coaster ride

For many Americans, having fun has apparently become a source of financial stress.

As The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Tuesday (Oct. 17), ticket prices for concerts, sporting events and theme park admissions have all jumped this year, leading to a scenario in which a growing number of consumers are forgoing live entertainment.

“Anything live, anything experiential is just going through the roof,” said Jessica Reif Ehrlich, a Bank of America analyst who has dubbed the phenomenon “funflation.”

The report, citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditures Survey, says the cost of admissions and fees climbed faster than the prices of food, gasoline and other staples last year, with those increases continuing through 2023.

U.S. consumers will likely spend $95 billion this year on tickets for concerts, movies and sporting events, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The WSJ notes that is up 23% from all of last year, and 12.5% greater than the $84.4 billion spent on the same entertainments in the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

Still, this year has seen the concert industry flourish, the WSJ says, thanks to robust demand from those consumers who don’t mind the high cost of tickets.

“We’re seeing record attendance everywhere,” Ehrlich said. “Everything is sold out.”

As noted here earlier this month, Americans increased their spending by 5.8% in August versus the prior year, fueled by a jump in “experience” spending. Delta Air Lines said it recorded record revenue, and Ticketmaster saw sales rise by nearly 18%.

And PYMNTS Intelligence has found that, in spite of their difficult financial circumstances, consumers still engage in nonessential spending, with more than 60% of consumers relying on each paycheck and 21% attributing their financial situation to nonessential spending, and 10% citing it as the chief reason.

“For those consumers who are not bound by paycheck-to-paycheck living, it seems that they indulge in nonessential purchases more frequently, with 85% and 78%, respectively, showing a preference for grocery and retail shopping,” PYMNTS wrote recently.

Other consumers are more cautious with their paychecks, or in at least one case, their severance checks. After being laid off by Amazon, Texas resident Angela Wentink described in the WSJ report how she flirted with the idea of using that money to purchase Taylor Swift tickets for her daughter.

“Do I do something that feels really irresponsible and take this check and make my daughter’s dreams come true?” she recalled thinking, before ultimately deciding she couldn’t stand to pay thousands for “nosebleed seats.”