Frugal Spending

According to the The Harris Poll online survey in June, 2013 by¬†Harris Interactive, Americans may be increasingly implementing many types of frugal habits in everyday life. Increasing percentages predict they’ll likely be making big ticket purchases in the coming six months. This, despite little change in the percentage anticipating they’ll have more money to spend the way they want in the next six months (31%, relatively unchanged from 30% last November), and no change in the percentage anticipating they’ll save or invest money within that period (50%, identical to November 2012 findings).

Looking at some larger expenditures U.S. adults anticipate in the next six months:

  • 35% of Americans say they will likely take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week, up from 29% last November
  • 25% anticipate buying a new computer; a nearly identical 24% said this last November
  • 22% anticipate moving to a different residence (up from 16% last November) and 8% anticipate purchasing a house or condo (up slightly from 6% last November)
  • 16% expect that they will buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van (up from 13% in 2012), and 7% anticipate buying a boat or recreational vehicle (up from 5% last November)
  • 10% plan on starting a new business (8% in November, 2012)

Americans are constantly barraged with money-saving tips – and while it’s always a good idea not to spend more than you need to, the percentage of Americans looking to save a few bucks in various ways can provide a good read of their attitudes toward the economy, says the report.

Majorities of Americans say that they are likely to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants (62%) and reduce spending on entertainment (59%) in the next six months (up from 59% and 55%, respectively, in November of last year).

Spending/Savings Over Next Six Months (Percent of Respondents; Base: All U.S. adults)
  Likely (net) Very likely Somewhat Likely Not Likely (net)
Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

62%

29%

32%

38%

Reduce spending on entertainment

59

26

33

41

Save or invest more money

50

20

30

50

Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

35

18

18

65

Have more money to spend the way you want

31

8

23

69

Buy a new computer

25

7

18

75

Move to a different residence

22

10

11

78

Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

16

6

10

84

Purchase a house or condo

10

4

6

90

Start a new business

10

3

7

90

Buy a boat or recreational vehicle (e.g. trailer, motor home)

7

2

5

93

Source: Harris Interactive, July 2013

The majority also report that the past six months has found them purchasing more generic brands to save money (62%, up from 57%), while over four in ten report “brown bagging” their lunch instead of purchasing it to save money (44%, up slightly from 41%).

Small Ticket Spending/Savings Over Past Six Months (Percent of Respondents; Base: All U.S. adults)
  Have done Have considered Have not done or considered Not applicable
Purchasing more generic brands

62%

13%

20%

5%

Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

44

9

17

30

Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

39

9

33

19

Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

38

11

26

25

Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

29

8

25

37

Cancelled or cut back cable television service

24

25

39

12

Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

22

8

23

48

Cut down on dry cleaning

22

6

20

53

Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

20

21

40

19

Cancelled a newspaper subscription

18

10

33

39

Changed or cancelled cell phone service

17

18

54

11

Begun carpooling or using mass transit

15

9

31

45

Source: Harris Interactive, July 2013

Other changes over the past six months which Americans are showing an increasing willingness to embrace (vs. November 2012) in order to save money include:

  • Switching to refillable water bottles instead of purchasing bottles of water (38%, up from 33%)
  • Cancelling or cutting back cable television service (24%, up slightly from 21%)
  • Cutting down on dry cleaning (22%, up from 18%)
  • Cancelling landline phone service and only using a cell phone (20%, up from 16%)
  • Changing or cancelling cell phone service (17%, up slightly from 14%)

While not every money-saving change showed much growth from last year, all at least held steady, with no declines emerging:

  • 39% of Americans report going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often
  • 29% report cancelling one or more magazine subscription
  • 22% stopped purchasing coffee in the morning
  • 18% cancelled a newspaper subscription
  • 15% began carpooling or using mass transit

When these questions were fielded in November 2012, the fiscal cliff and a potential government sequester were on the immediate horizon. These newer findings indicate that while Americans’ expectations of disposable income growth may not be on the rise, they may be unwilling to put off important purchases forever – and may instead be turning to the smaller changes they can make in everyday life to enable these larger purchases, concludes the report.

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