Americans’ Spending/Saving Plans Suggest Cautious Optimism

NEW YORK , N.Y. – December 18, 2014 – As the year comes to a close, Americans plan to become more relaxed in their spending habits, as intentions to decrease key types of spending continue to decline in comparison to a year ago. Plans to purchase big ticket items remain largely consistent and fewer Americans are making small ticket spending/savings efforts than have in the past several years. However, this appears to point at least in part towards stabilizing attitudes rather than pure optimism, as intentions to save or invest more money as well as the expectation to have more money to spend the way they want have also decreased since this time last year.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,276 U.S. adults surveyed online between November 12 and 17, 2014.

To spend or to save, that is the question

Just under half (48%) anticipate saving or investing more money in the next six months, down 10 points from this time last year (48% in December 2013), and only 32% expect to have more money to spend the way they want, also down from last year (38%).

  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to anticipate saving or investing more money in the next six months (63% vs. 47% Gen X’ers, 39% Baby Boomers, and 33% Matures) and having more money to spend the way they want (43% vs. 30% Gen X’ers, 28% Baby Boomers, and 20% Matures).
  • Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to expect to save or invest more money in the next six months (55% vs. 45%, respectively).

While still over half of Americans (52%) expect to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants, this is down 4 points from June of this year (56%) and 3 points from December 2013 (55%). Similarly, half of Americans (50%) anticipate that they’ll reduce spending on entertainment in the next six months, down 3 points from June (53%) and 2 points from December (52%).

  • Generational differences exist in future spending/savings intentions, with Matures less likely than all other generations to anticipate decreasing spending on eating out at restaurants in the next six months (38% vs. 57% Millennials, 53% Gen X’ers, and 52% Baby Boomers).
  • Additionally, those with children in the household are more likely than those without to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants (61% vs. 48%, respectively) and reduce spending on entertainment (56% vs. 48%, respectively).

It’s the little things

Looking back on saving efforts in the past six months, the biggest thing Americans have focused on is purchasing more generic brands, with over half opting to do so (54%). This effort is showing a gradual decline though, down 2 points from June (56%) and 4 points from last year (58% December 2013). This habit is particularly popular among women compared to men (59% vs. 48%). In fact, most small tickets spending and savings efforts over the past six months have decreased in the past year. However, one third of Americans began brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (37%) and went to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often (33%) to save money.

Looking across generations, some differences exist among these top three thrifty habits:

  • Matures are the least likely to have cut down on trips to the hairdresser/barber/stylist (23% vs. 36% Millennials, 36% Gen X’ers, and 31% Baby Boomers).
  • Matures are also the least likely to have switched to brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (10% vs. 43% Millennials, 46% Gen X’ers, and 33% Baby Boomers).

Interestingly, those with children in the household are more likely than those without to have upped their brown-bagging efforts as well (48% vs. 32%, respectively).

 

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TABLE 1a

SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS

“How likely will you be to do the following within the next 6 months?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

LIKELY (NET)

Very likely

Somewhat likely

NOT LIKELY (NET)

Not that likely

Not at all likely

Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

%

52

23

29

48

27

21

Reduce spending on entertainment

%

50

23

27

50

27

22

Save or invest more money

%

48

16

33

52

24

28

Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

%

37

16

21

63

18

45

Have more money to spend the way you want

%

32

7

25

68

30

38

Buy a new computer

%

26

6

20

74

25

50

Move to a different residence

%

18

6

12

82

14

68

Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

%

16

6

10

84

15

68

Purchase a house or condo

%

10

3

7

90

10

79

Start a new business

%

9

3

6

91

10

82

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

%

4

1

3

96

7

89

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 1b

SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS – Trend

“How likely will you be to do the following within the next 6 months?”

Percent saying “Very/Somewhat Likely”

Base: U.S. adults

  Nov 2008 Mar 2009 May 2009 Sept 2009 Dec 2009 May 2010 Sept 2010 Jan 2011 May 2011 Nov 2011 Nov 2012 June 2013 Sept 2013 Dec 2013 Mar 2014 June 2014 Nov 2014
Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants %

65

74

66

67

62

64

66

63

61

61

59

62

62

55

59

56

52

Reduce spending on entertainment %

64

74

64

67

58

62

62

59

59

58

55

59

61

52

54

53

50

Save or invest more money %

49

50

53

50

53

52

52

49

51

51

50

50

47

58

52

50

48

Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week %

29

35

36

28

35

36

31

36

34

29

29

35

27

38

39

37

37

Have more money to spend the way you want %

25

21

26

25

27

27

28

30

28

26

30

31

28

38

34

32

32

Buy a new computer %

22

22

21

19

23

20

21

22

25

23

24

25

25

28

23

24

26

Move to a different residence %

18

20

19

14

17

19

17

21

19

14

16

22

16

18

17

18

18

Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van %

12

11

12

10

12

12

12

14

14

12

13

16

14

17

15

17

16

Purchase a house or condo %

10

10

9

8

8

7

10

10

9

7

8

10

7

8

8

10

10

Start a new business %

9

10

8

7

7

6

10

10

10

6

8

10

7

10

8

7

9

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

5

5

5

4

4

3

6

7

6

3

5

7

4

4

4

5

4


TABLE 1c

SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS – by Generation, Gender & Children in Household

“How likely will you be to do the following within the next 6 months?”

Percent saying “Very/Somewhat Likely”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in Household

Millennials (18-36)

Gen X (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

52

57

53

52

38

50

54

61

48

Reduce spending on entertainment

50

51

49

53

43

48

52

56

48

Save or invest more money

48

63

47

39

33

50

46

55

45

Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

37

38

36

37

36

40

34

37

37

Have more money to spend the way you want

32

43

30

28

20

33

31

35

31

Buy a new computer

26

25

30

24

24

28

24

33

22

Move to a different residence

18

31

16

10

6

20

16

23

16

Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

16

18

18

15

14

18

15

24

13

Purchase a house or condo

10

17

9

7

1

12

8

15

8

Start a new business

9

15

11

2

3

11

6

16

5

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

4

7

6

1

1

5

3

7

3

indicates a response rate of <0.5%

 

TABLE 2a

SMALL TICKET SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER PAST SIX MONTHS – Summary Grid

“Have you done or considered doing any of the following over the past six months in order to save money?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

Have done

Have considered

Have not done or considered

Not applicable

Purchasing more generic brands

%

54

14

24

8

Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

%

37

10

18

35

Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

%

33

8

35

24

Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

%

31

12

30

28

Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

%

22

7

28

43

Cancelled or cut back cable television service

%

21

23

39

17

Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

%

16

8

25

51

Cancelled a newspaper subscription

%

16

9

29

46

Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

%

15

16

44

24

Cut down on dry cleaning

%

15

6

21

58

Changed or cancelled cell phone service

%

14

14

58

14

Begun carpooling or using mass transit

%

11

8

35

46

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

TABLE 2b

SMALL TICKET SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER PAST SIX MONTHS – “Have Done” Trend

“Have you done or considered doing any of the following over the past six months in order to save money?”

Base: U.S. adults

 

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

June

Oct

Feb

June

Oct

Feb

June

Dec

Nov

June

Sept

Dec

Mar

June

Nov

Purchasing more generic brands

%

62

64

63

65

62

61

67

61

57

62

62

58

59

56

54

Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

%

47

47

45

48

45

45

46

42

41

44

46

42

42

39

37

Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

%

36

43

39

38

37

38

43

37

38

39

41

34

36

35

33

Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

%

33

36

34

39

37

35

39

31

33

38

37

33

34

34

31

Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

%

29

34

33

31

27

30

31

25

27

29

28

24

27

24

22

Cancelled or cut back cable television service

%

19

21

22

22

22

22

22

21

21

24

27

21

23

22

21

Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

%

15

20

21

22

22

21

21

17

20

22

20

20

19

19

16

Cancelled a newspaper subscription

%

17

21

19

17

17

16

18

15

16

18

15

15

17

13

16

Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

%

11

12

15

15

17

16

16

14

16

20

19

18

18

17

15

Cut down on dry cleaning

%

20

22

22

24

21

21

24

19

18

22

20

15

18

17

15

Changed or cancelled cell phone service

%

14

15

17

15

17

14

14

14

14

17

16

15

16

16

14

Begun carpooling or using mass transit

%

13

14

14

12

14

13

14

13

14

15

14

13

12

12

11

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding

 

TABLE 2c

SMALL TICKET SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER PAST SIX MONTHS – by Generation, Gender & Children in Household

“Have you done or considered doing any of the following over the past six months in order to save money?”

Percent saying “Have done”

Base: All U.S. adults

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children in Household

Millennials (18-36)

Gen X (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Purchasing more generic brands

54

53

56

54

50

48

59

57

52

Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

37

43

46

33

10

35

39

48

32

Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

33

36

36

31

23

27

38

33

33

Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

31

38

27

29

20

27

34

37

28

Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

22

18

23

25

24

22

22

24

21

Cancelled or cut back cable television service

21

24

25

19

10

22

19

28

18

Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

16

18

20

15

6

16

16

20

14

Cancelled a newspaper subscription

16

13

17

20

9

17

15

18

15

Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

15

19

18

13

6

16

15

19

14

Cut down on dry cleaning

15

14

15

18

11

15

15

16

15

Changed or cancelled cell phone service

14

19

12

13

9

15

14

19

12

Begun carpooling or using mass transit

11

16

10

9

2

11

10

12

10

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between November 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,276 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #113, December 18, 2014

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll