Spending Plans for Next Six Months Signal Consumer Wariness

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – April 2, 2014 – With the first quarter of the calendar year behind us and tax deadlines approaching, many Americans may be putting thought into where their money has gone in the recent past and where it might be going in the near future. While attitudes haven’t changed overwhelmingly since last December, some shifts in plans for the next six months may indicate that Americans are questioning their financial prospects over the next few months; that said, looking further back it’s clear that American financial attitudes are greatly improved from where they were a few years ago.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,234 U.S. adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014.

    Big ticket spending: holding or folding?

    Americans are more likely than in December to say that they plan on decreasing their spending on eating out at restaurants (59%, up 4 points) within the next six months, along with being less likely to say they will save or invest more money within the next six months (52%, down 6 points), that they will have more money to spend the way they want (34%, down 4 points) and that they will buy a new computer (23%, down 5 points) when compared to last December.

    Americans’ attitudes are close to or unchanged from December levels in many areas, including the likelihood that they’ll reduce spending on entertainment (54%, down 2 points), take a vacation away from home lasting longer a week (39%, up 1 point), move to a different residence (17%, down 1 point), buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van (15%, down 2 points), purchase a house or condo (holding steady at 8%), start a new business (8%, down 2 points) and buy a boat or recreational vehicle (unchanged at 4%).

    Men are more likely than women to report both spending and saving as among their plans for the near future:

    • Save or invest more money (55% men vs. 49% women).
    • Take a vacation away from home (42% men vs. 36% women).
    • Buy a new computer (27% men vs. 20% women).
    • Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van (18% men vs. 13% women).
    • Buy a boat or recreational vehicle (5% men vs. 3% women).

    Five year plan

    In examining these numbers, it’s also important to broaden our outlook and take stock in how far we’ve come as a country since the lows reached just a few years ago during the depths of the Great Recession. Compared to five years ago (March of 2009), Americans are far less likely to anticipate that the next six months will see them decreasing their spending on eating out at restaurants (59%, down 15 points) and reducing their spending on entertainment (54%, down 20 points) and considerably more likely to expect that they’ll have more money to spend the way they want (34%, up 13 points).

    Small ticket spending over past six months shows little change from December

    Looking back at activities done over the past six months to save money, numbers haven’t changed much from December findings. Six in ten Americans (59%, up 1 point) say they have been purchasing more generic brands, just over four in ten (42%, holding steady from December results) say they’ve been brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it and just over a third each say they’ve been going to the hairdresser less (36%, up 2 points) and that they’ve switched to a refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water (34%, up 1 point).

    There have been some slight increases in cutbacks, with over one-fourth (27%, up 3 points) saying they cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions and nearly two in ten (18%, also up 3 points) saying they’ve cut down on dry cleaning.

    Women are more likely than men to report that they’ve been purchasing more generic brands (65% women vs. 52% men) and going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often (44% women vs. 28% men), and that they’ve switched to a refillable water bottle (37% women vs. 31% men).

    As might be expected, those with children in the household may be feeling the squeeze more than those without, as they are more likely to report several cutbacks over the past six months:

    • Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (49% with vs. 39% without).
    • Cancelled or cut back cable television service (26% with vs. 21% without).
    • Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning (24% with vs. 17% without).
    • Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone (22% with vs. 16% without).
    • Begun carpooling or using mass transit (16% with vs. 11% without).

    To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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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

    %

    59

    26

    32

    41

    23

    18

    Reduce spending on entertainment

    %

    54

    23

    31

    46

    26

    20

    Save or invest more money

    %

    52

    18

    35

    48

    22

    26

    Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

    %

    39

    17

    21

    61

    19

    43

    Have more money to spend the way you want

    %

    34

    7

    27

    66

    31

    35

    Buy a new computer

    %

    23

    5

    18

    77

    26

    51

    Move to a different residence

    %

    17

    7

    10

    83

    14

    69

    Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

    %

    15

    4

    11

    85

    17

    68

    Purchase a house or condo

    %

    8

    2

    6

    92

    10

    82

    Start a new business

    %

    8

    3

    5

    92

    10

    82

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

    %

    4

    1

    3

    96

    8

    88

    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

    Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

    %

    65

    74

    66

    67

    62

    64

    66

    63

    61

    61

    59

    62

    62

    55

    59

    Reduce spending on entertainment

    %

    64

    74

    64

    67

    58

    62

    62

    59

    59

    58

    55

    59

    61

    52

    54

    Save or invest more money

    %

    49

    50

    53

    50

    53

    52

    52

    49

    51

    51

    50

    50

    47

    58

    52

    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

    Have more money to spend the way you want

    %

    25

    21

    26

    25

    27

    27

    28

    30

    28

    26

    30

    31

    28

    38

    34

    Buy a new computer

    %

    22

    22

    21

    19

    23

    20

    21

    22

    25

    23

    24

    25

    25

    28

    23

    Move to a different residence

    %

    18

    20

    19

    14

    17

    19

    17

    21

    19

    14

    16

    22

    16

    18

    17

    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

    Purchase a house or condo

    %

    10

    10

    9

    8

    8

    7

    10

    10

    9

    7

    8

    10

    7

    8

    8

    Start a new business

    %

    9

    10

    8

    7

    7

    6

    10

    10

    10

    6

    8

    10

    7

    10

    8

    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


    TABLE 1c

    SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER NEXT SIX MONTHS

    By Gender, Children in Household, Metro Status

    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

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

    59

    61

    61

    58

    51

    56

    61

    64

    56

    Reduce spending on entertainment

    54

    56

    57

    50

    52

    52

    56

    60

    51

    Save or invest more money

    52

    65

    52

    47

    36

    55

    49

    57

    50

    Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

    39

    36

    35

    41

    44

    42

    36

    35

    40

    Have more money to spend the way you want

    34

    41

    36

    28

    29

    36

    32

    39

    32

    Buy a new computer

    23

    30

    22

    21

    17

    27

    20

    26

    22

    Move to a different residence

    17

    30

    15

    11

    7

    19

    16

    20

    16

    Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

    15

    22

    14

    14

    9

    18

    13

    20

    14

    Purchase a house or condo

    8

    15

    7

    5

    3

    9

    8

    13

    6

    Start a new business

    8

    13

    8

    6

    1

    9

    6

    10

    7

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

    4

    8

    3

    2

    1

    5

    3

    8

    2

     

    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

    %

    59

    15

    20

    6

    Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

    %

    42

    9

    16

    33

    Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

    %

    36

    10

    31

    23

    Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

    %

    34

    12

    28

    27

    Cancelled or cut back cable television service

    %

    23

    28

    36

    14

    Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

    %

    27

    7

    25

    40

    Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

    %

    19

    7

    23

    51

    Cut down on dry cleaning

    %

    18

    4

    21

    56

    Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

    %

    18

    18

    45

    19

    Cancelled a newspaper subscription

    %

    17

    11

    31

    42

    Changed or cancelled cell phone service

    %

    16

    19

    54

    11

    Begun carpooling or using mass transit

    %

    12

    8

    35

    46

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


    TABLE 2b

    SMALL TICKET SPENDING/SAVINGS OVER PAST SIX MONTHS – TREND OF HAVE DONE

    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: U.S. adults

    2009

    2010

    2011

    2012

    2013

    2014

    June

    Oct

    Feb

    June

    Oct

    Feb

    June

    Dec

    Nov

    June

    Sept

    Dec

    Mar

    Purchasing more generic brands

    %

    62

    64

    63

    65

    62

    61

    67

    61

    57

    62

    62

    58

    59

    Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

    %

    47

    47

    45

    48

    45

    45

    46

    42

    41

    44

    46

    42

    42

    Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

    %

    36

    43

    39

    38

    37

    38

    43

    37

    38

    39

    41

    34

    36

    Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

    %

    33

    36

    34

    39

    37

    35

    39

    31

    33

    38

    37

    33

    34

    Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

    %

    29

    34

    33

    31

    27

    30

    31

    25

    27

    29

    28

    24

    27

    Cancelled or cut back cable television service

    %

    19

    21

    22

    22

    22

    22

    22

    21

    21

    24

    27

    21

    23

    Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

    %

    15

    20

    21

    22

    22

    21

    21

    17

    20

    22

    20

    20

    19

    Cut down on dry cleaning

    %

    20

    22

    22

    24

    21

    21

    24

    19

    18

    22

    20

    15

    18

    Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

    %

    11

    12

    15

    15

    17

    16

    16

    14

    16

    20

    19

    18

    18

    Cancelled a newspaper subscription

    %

    17

    21

    19

    17

    17

    16

    18

    15

    16

    18

    15

    15

    17

    Changed or cancelled cell phone service

    %

    14

    15

    17

    15

    17

    14

    14

    14

    14

    17

    16

    15

    16

    Begun carpooling or using mass transit

    %

    13

    14

    14

    12

    14

    13

    14

    13

    14

    15

    14

    13

    12

    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

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen. X (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Purchasing more generic brands

    59

    58

    58

    60

    58

    52

    65

    59

    59

    Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

    42

    49

    54

    38

    16

    42

    42

    49

    39

    Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

    36

    36

    40

    36

    30

    28

    44

    38

    35

    Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

    34

    38

    33

    33

    28

    31

    37

    35

    34

    Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

    27

    22

    26

    29

    36

    25

    29

    28

    26

    Cancelled or cut back cable television service

    23

    26

    24

    21

    16

    22

    23

    26

    21

    Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

    19

    23

    20

    19

    9

    18

    20

    24

    17

    Cut down on dry cleaning

    18

    18

    18

    19

    18

    18

    18

    19

    18

    Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

    18

    25

    21

    14

    7

    20

    16

    22

    16

    Cancelled a newspaper subscription

    17

    14

    16

    18

    19

    15

    18

    18

    16

    Changed or cancelled cell phone service

    16

    18

    20

    14

    9

    16

    16

    19

    15

    Begun carpooling or using mass transit

    12

    23

    12

    7

    3

    12

    13

    16

    11

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 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¨ #31, April 2, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.