How much do you spend on fireworks?

A few weeks ago, I received a flyer from a fireworks store that made me shake my head. “Spend $400 in one purchase and earn 40% off for the rest of the season,” it read.

“What a bargain,” I thought as I flung it toward the recycling bin. I mean, does anyone really spend $400 at the fireworks store?

Then I remembered that, yes, many people do. Not only are most of my neighbors fireworks fanatics, but dozens of people I know do it every year, including people in my own family.

My uncle, for example, has been known to buy thousands of dollars in fireworks and put on a show for my entire extended family. The kids swim in the pool, we cook out, and he lights up the sky to the delight and giggles of all the little ones.

Most local towns in our area do the same, which means that anyone who pays local taxes is likely chipping in. In my old hometown even, they set off the biggest, brightest fireworks I've ever seen in the high school football field, and thousands of people gather nearby to watch.

Fireworks — the Stats

And I know this isn't just a local thing. In fact, a little research I uncovered shows that spending a boatload on fireworks is actually quite common. For more context on how much Americans spend overall, consider these facts from the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA):

  • In 2014, consumers spent $695 million total on fireworks for their own homes.
  • Overall firework spending doubled from $425 million in 1998 to more than $1 billion dollars in 2014, if you consider both consumer and retail spending on fireworks.
  • The largest fireworks displays to take place annually in the United States include shows in Seattle, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Addison, Texas, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Atlantic City, New York City, and Boston.

What Should the Priorities Be?

I have to admit, part of me just doesn't get it. Sure, I've been known to buy a few sparklers or those black wormy things, but I simply cannot imagine spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on something that provides such a small return.

And although I try not to judge the people who do, I suppose there's a part of me that thinks Americans have their priorities jacked up. With the average savings rate in the U.S. sitting at about than 5 percent, average household credit card debt now over $15,000, and the average retirement account severely lacking, part of me thinks it's strange that we, as Americans, would spend so much on something that will be ultimately set on fire.

On the other hand, there's something to be said for traditions, and fireworks on the 4th of July is as American as apple pie, Major League baseball, and the national anthem.

Either way, I'm going to do the same thing this year as I have done in years past. I'll spend around $20 for a few sparklers and fireworks small enough to light in our driveway. Then we'll head over to my uncle's or the local high school to watch the kind of fireworks that explode in the sky for miles around.

I don't dislike fireworks, and I don't mind it when people light them off. I just happen to enjoy them a lot more when someone else is footing the bill.

How much do you spend on average for fireworks, if you do? Do you think Americans spend too much or too little? Are you ready for Independence Day?

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Beth
Beth
5 years ago

I’ve never bought fireworks. I have nothing against the kind you use at home, it’s just that I’ve always lived places where there are fantastic fireworks displays. Maybe it’s that fireworks use and sales are more strictly regulated here in Ontario, but setting them off at home doesn’t seem to be the norm where I live.

I enjoy fireworks, but why pay hundreds of dollars when I can see a spectacular show for free?

JoeM
JoeM
5 years ago
Reply to  Beth

This – $0.

If I want fireworks, I can go to the many shows that start in late June through July 5 at neighboring towns/cities.

Tina in NJ
Tina in NJ
5 years ago

In New Jersey, it is illegal to buy fireworks. We’re not supposed to but them in Pennsylvania and bring them in, but doesn’t stop most people. My house is too close to my neighbors’ houses for a spectacular show, so I usually leave the displays to town-sponsored ones or friends with larger properties. Admission to the field at my mom’s town last Tuesday was $3/person in advance, but Mom bought the tickets.

Darren
Darren
5 years ago

My wife and I both max out Roth IRA and we are nearly maxing out our 401k’s. We own a house and zero out our credit card balance every month. I think we do a good job living within our means.

But, I am one of those people that spend a couple hundred dollars on fireworks every year. I personally get a lot joy out of lighting them off. I dislike firework shows and get zero satisfaction watching them. I will always buy fireworks.

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  Darren

I’m with you on this one.
I am the same.
The way I look at it, is Fireworks are almost like a hobby, and there’s nothing wrong with spending a few hundred dollars a year on them as long as your not getting into debt buying them.
I have many friends who are into race cars, they spend thousands of dollars on parts and accessories, they’ll go race the car once, and blow up that new “Mod” they just spent $900 on…

freebird
freebird
5 years ago

It’s illegal in this part of SoCal too. For good reason, we’re surrounded by canyons and with the drought it’s like sitting on a powder keg. A few years ago a very serious wildfire drove home the point so people don’t sneak them in any more. We get an excellent free show at our local high school football field.

Tre
Tre
5 years ago

I’ve never spent money on fireworks as an adult. Now that was a different story as a teenager, but I didn’t have a lot to spend so it wasn’t much.

Bryan@ Just One More Year
[email protected] Just One More Year
5 years ago

The last few years we spent $0 dollars on fireworks.

We are going away for the weekend and staying at a hotel near a fireworks display. We will be able to lounge outside by the hotel pool to see the fireworks show.

This year will be about $300 if our only purpose was for the July 4th holiday. It is also my wife’s birthday this weekend so it is a quick get away for us.

Jeff
Jeff
5 years ago

$0, when I feel like sending money up in smoke I spend it on ammo at the gun range instead.

Dianecy
Dianecy
5 years ago

Ooh, this is great! Whenever I am asked the difference between wants and needs, I’m going to use fireworks as an example, LOL.
Seriously, in CA we are in year four of a serious drought. Even a rich person would be a fool to spend a penny on fireworks this year.

Kristin
Kristin
5 years ago

Fireworks are illegal in NYS where I live. Sparklers are even illegal in some counties, so, $0.

Kayla @ Femme Frugality
Kayla @ Femme Frugality
5 years ago

In years past, I’ve spent between $25-75 on fireworks. This year, I’m not buying any. #frugalwin

Jerome
Jerome
5 years ago

Guilty m’lord… Yeah I buy for 2-3 hundred dollars worth each year. And each year I intend to spend less, and I have been successful in lowering it a bit, but I will always buy some as long as we have kids at home. It is just too much fun to miss out on. As usual it is a question of balance. We don’t have expensive pets or go out much, so having a nice evening once a year with our kids and friends seems money well spend.

Jerome
Jerome
5 years ago

I was just looking at some statistics to try to bring the 1 billion spend on fireworks each year into perspective, and I found that in 2014 people in the US spend 56 billion on their pets. I know that it feels like pets give you love etc. etc. But spending wise there are bigger issues than fireworks and bigger savings to be found.

Ramon
Ramon
5 years ago

Jesus… im all for budgets and being frugal and the whole 9 yards…. but i have a feeling your just the cheapest ones of them all. Your uncle sounds like a great guy for the things he does to put smiles on all the people. Nothing wrong with splurging a little bit. I grew up with parents who would buy fireworks for us and it was magical times.

akoilady
akoilady
5 years ago

I’m surprised that other than the California posters, no one mentioned the hazards of home done fireworks. Last year a house burned down in my son’s neighborhood due to fireworks. Apparently so many people do them in his neighborhood that the city had a fire truck stationed in the neighborhood this year. Now, we might not “see” that sort of cost, but I’m sure it’s reflected in city taxes somehow. So many communities in our area have great displays that are free of charge. Also, an amusement park sets them off and they are easily seen from outside of the… Read more »

Bruce
Bruce
5 years ago

I bought $164 worth for my family of 4. I don’t have debt(house and cars are paid for) and I save 35% of my paycheck so I think I can afford it. Many years ago when I couldn’t afford it I just watched other people’s fireworks shows.

Alexander @ Cash Flow Diaries
Alexander @ Cash Flow Diaries
5 years ago

Ever since I moved to texas, my family and I just go out to the country, (uncles house) and put on our own fireworks show and do BBQ all day long. Sort of like your uncle. Its so much more enjoyable this way however it does add up real fast. I think we spent close to $1000 in fireworks this past weekend.

Sometimes its worth it though especially when you have a ton of kids who arent going to forget it. Good family memories you know!!

Ely
Ely
5 years ago

I think fireworks can be a lot of fun. I also think the cost to buy them is the least of the costs involved. Fire risk is extremely high where I live right now; wildfires are raging up and down the west coast, the Northwest is experiencing record temperatures and drought, and blowing stuff up in the street just seems incredibly foolish and short-sighted.

That’s not even considering the children injured and veterans (and pets!) traumatized by fireworks every year. I like fireworks, but it’s increasingly hard to see setting them off at home as anything but selfish and ill-considered.

Glorified Plumber
Glorified Plumber
5 years ago

Man… growing up, there were Indian reservations just 15-20 minutes away and we would LOAD UP, like truckloads. Laws were lax back then. I recall several summers in a row, we’d get like 10 families at someones house, and pool up $500+ in fireworks. Us kids would have so many to light off we would get tired and bored of doing it. These days, it is much easier to just sit on the hill at my friends house and watch the fireworks in the valley going off all night (Vancouver, Washington valley). I would say at peak, easily 15 explosions… Read more »

David S.
David S.
5 years ago

We buy about $80 in fireworks, almost completely the mortars and roman candles, though we did get some of those parachute ones this year. Yeah, it is money being burned, but when you have your financial ducks in a row, you can budget fun money towards fun.

Mark
Mark
5 years ago

Like many others, I spent a couple of hundred bucks on fireworks this year and plan on continuing to do so. We live in a rural area and have some friends over for the Forth. We encourage every one to bring over some fireworks and light them all off. It really is a blast. I hope we are creating memories for our children. We also have our financial ducks in a row. The only debt we have is our mortgage and we max out both of our 401k’s every year. The main thing is living below your means. We are… Read more »

Kristin
Kristin
4 years ago

I love America; cherish our history, heritage, & the freedoms we hold dear- and savings is one of them! 😉
Kudos to you for saying it straight- and I too will enjoy OTHER’S Big Bang for their bucks, while watching my little Grandbuddies squeal at my own meager purchase of a few glow worms or snap pops just for them…

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