Signs of Optimism – or at least Acceptance – in American Spending Trends

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – January 22, 2014 – As 2014 approaches the end of its first month, many Americans are still sorting out their financial plans for the near future. With the government actually open for business – an improvement over last October – it should be a foregone conclusion that Americans may be facing the future with a bit more spring in their spending plans than in September of 2013, when the much-discussed federal shutdown was looming. But what about year over year? Are Americans loosening their purse strings or doubling down on pinching pennies?

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,311 adults surveyed online between December 11 and 17, 2013 by Harris Interactive. Results are compared, where appropriate, to both September 2013 findings (just prior to the aforementioned shutdown) and November of 2012 (just over one year earlier).

    Big ticket attitudes bounce back

    Americans are less likely than in September to say that they plan on decreasing their spending on eating out at restaurants (55%, down 7 points) and reducing spending on entertainment (52%, down 9 points) within the next six months.

    On the other hand, U.S. adults are more likely to say they will save or invest more money within the next six months (58%), when compared to both last September (up 11 points) and the previous November (up 8 points). Americans are also more likely to say that they will take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week (38%, up 11 points from Sept. 2013 and 9 points from Nov. 2012) and that they will have more money to spend the way they want (38%, up 10 and 8 points, respectively).

    Rural Americans seem less optimistic than their urban and suburban counterparts: they are less likely to say they anticipate saving or investing more money (50% rural vs. 60% urban and 60% suburban), taking a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week (30% vs. 39% and 41%, respectively), and having more money to spend the way they want (28% vs. 41% and 40%, respectively).

    Small ticket spending plans also on the rise

    There are signs of growth in small ticket expenditures as well, with modest year over year drops in going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often (34%, down 4 points from Nov. 2012), cancelling one or more magazine subscriptions (24%, down 3 points) and cutting down on dry cleaning (15%, down 3 points) over the past six months.

    More prevalent are changes vs. last September, with results again indicating Americans are making fewer spending sacrifices:

    • Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often (34%, down 7 points)
    • Cancelled or cut back cable television (21%, down 6 points)
    • Cut down on dry cleaning (15%, down 5 points)
    • Purchasing more generic brands (58%, down 4 points)
    • Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (42%, down 4 points)
    • Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water (33%, down 4 points)
    • Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions (24%, down 4 points)

    Is not getting worse good enough?

    It’s tempting to look at these small and big ticket indicators as signs that American attitudes toward the economy are improving – and this is true, up to a point. Over two in ten Americans (22%) expect their household’s financial condition to improve in the next six months; this is comparable to a year prior (23%).

    However, more notable is a trend away from the expectation that Americans’ household financial conditions will get worse, which at 27% is down 5 points from a year ago. Expectation that it will remain the same, at 51%, is up 7 points.

    These attitudinal shifts, coupled with recent and planned spending trends, may be indicating that Americans feel they have cut back enough, and that if things aren’t going to get better for them any time soon, then they’ll at least settle for things not getting any worse.

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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

    Save or invest more money

    %

    58

    19

    39

    42

    19

    23

    Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

    %

    55

    23

    32

    45

    25

    20

    Reduce spending on entertainment

    %

    52

    21

    31

    48

    26

    22

    Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

    %

    38

    17

    21

    62

    18

    44

    Have more money to spend the way you want

    %

    38

    9

    28

    62

    31

    31

    Buy a new computer

    %

    28

    7

    22

    72

    25

    47

    Move to a different residence

    %

    18

    6

    12

    82

    13

    69

    Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

    %

    17

    5

    12

    83

    15

    68

    Start a new business

    %

    10

    3

    7

    90

    9

    81

    Purchase a house or condo

    %

    8

    3

    5

    92

    11

    82

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

    %

    4

    1

    3

    96

    7

    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

    March 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

    Save or invest more money

    %

    49

    50

    53

    50

    53

    52

    52

    49

    51

    51

    50

    50

    47

    58

    Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

    %

    65

    74

    66

    67

    62

    64

    66

    63

    61

    61

    59

    62

    62

    55

    Reduce spending on entertainment

    %

    64

    74

    64

    67

    58

    62

    62

    59

    59

    58

    55

    59

    61

    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

    Have more money to spend the way you want

    %

    25

    21

    26

    25

    27

    27

    28

    30

    28

    26

    30

    31

    28

    38

    Buy a new computer

    %

    22

    22

    21

    19

    23

    20

    21

    22

    25

    23

    24

    25

    25

    28

    Move to a different residence

    %

    18

    20

    19

    14

    17

    19

    17

    21

    19

    14

    16

    22

    16

    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

    Start a new business

    %

    9

    10

    8

    7

    7

    6

    10

    10

    10

    6

    8

    10

    7

    10

    Purchase a house or condo

    %

    10

    10

    9

    8

    8

    7

    10

    10

    9

    7

    8

    10

    7

    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


    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

    Gender

    Children in Household

    Metro Status

    Male

    Female

    Yes

    No

    Urban

    Suburban

    Rural

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Save or invest more money

    58

    61

    55

    64

    55

    60

    60

    50

    Decrease spending on eating out at restaurants

    55

    49

    61

    61

    53

    58

    53

    57

    Reduce spending on entertainment

    52

    47

    56

    55

    51

    48

    53

    54

    Take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week

    38

    40

    37

    42

    36

    39

    41

    30

    Have more money to spend the way you want

    38

    40

    36

    42

    36

    41

    40

    28

    Buy a new computer

    28

    31

    26

    38

    24

    35

    26

    25

    Move to a different residence

    18

    19

    18

    22

    16

    25

    16

    16

    Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van

    17

    20

    15

    26

    13

    20

    18

    12

    Start a new business

    10

    12

    8

    17

    7

    18

    8

    5

    Purchase a house or condo

    8

    8

    7

    11

    7

    11

    8

    5

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

    4

    6

    3

    7

    3

    7

    4

    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

    %

    58

    13

    22

    7

    Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

    %

    42

    8

    16

    34

    Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

    %

    34

    9

    32

    26

    Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

    %

    33

    11

    27

    29

    Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

    %

    24

    5

    23

    48

    Cancelled or cut back cable television service

    %

    21

    24

    38

    17

    Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

    %

    20

    6

    21

    53

    Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

    %

    18

    16

    39

    27

    Changed or cancelled cell phone service

    %

    15

    17

    51

    17

    Cancelled a newspaper subscription

    %

    15

    8

    29

    48

    Cut down on dry cleaning

    %

    15

    6

    20

    59

    Begun carpooling or using mass transit

    %

    13

    7

    31

    49

    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

    June

    Oct

    Feb

    June

    Oct

    Feb

    June

    Dec

    Nov

    June

    Sept

    Dec

    Purchasing more generic brands

    %

    62

    64

    63

    65

    62

    61

    67

    61

    57

    62

    62

    58

    Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

    %

    47

    47

    45

    48

    45

    45

    46

    42

    41

    44

    46

    42

    Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

    %

    36

    43

    39

    38

    37

    38

    43

    37

    38

    39

    41

    34

    Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

    %

    33

    36

    34

    39

    37

    35

    39

    31

    33

    38

    37

    33

    Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

    %

    29

    34

    33

    31

    27

    30

    31

    25

    27

    29

    28

    24

    Cancelled or cut back cable television service

    %

    19

    21

    22

    22

    22

    22

    22

    21

    21

    24

    27

    21

    Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

    %

    15

    20

    21

    22

    22

    21

    21

    17

    20

    22

    20

    20

    Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

    %

    11

    12

    15

    15

    17

    16

    16

    14

    16

    20

    19

    18

    Changed or cancelled cell phone service

    %

    14

    15

    17

    15

    17

    14

    14

    14

    14

    17

    16

    15

    Cancelled a newspaper subscription

    %

    17

    21

    19

    17

    17

    16

    18

    15

    16

    18

    15

    15

    Cut down on dry cleaning

    %

    20

    22

    22

    24

    21

    21

    24

    19

    18

    22

    20

    15

    Begun carpooling or using mass transit

    %

    13

    14

    14

    12

    14

    13

    14

    13

    14

    15

    14

    13

    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

    58

    59

    56

    56

    63

    51

    64

    61

    57

    Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

    42

    54

    52

    38

    9

    37

    47

    55

    37

    Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

    34

    35

    35

    34

    30

    28

    40

    40

    32

    Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water

    33

    41

    29

    30

    27

    30

    35

    34

    32

    Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

    24

    19

    23

    26

    30

    21

    25

    24

    24

    Cancelled or cut back cable television service

    21

    24

    21

    20

    15

    19

    23

    26

    18

    Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

    20

    26

    22

    18

    8

    19

    21

    27

    17

    Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

    18

    25

    21

    15

    5

    21

    16

    23

    16

    Changed or cancelled cell phone service

    15

    22

    15

    11

    11

    17

    14

    19

    14

    Cancelled a newspaper subscription

    15

    13

    16

    15

    14

    16

    14

    17

    14

    Cut down on dry cleaning

    15

    12

    14

    17

    17

    15

    15

    16

    14

    Begun carpooling or using mass transit

    13

    25

    13

    5

    3

    13

    13

    16

    11


    TABLE 3

    EXPECTATIONS FOR HOUSEHOLD FINANCIAL CONDITION IN NEXT SIX MONTHS

    Thinking about your household’s financial condition, do you expect it to be better or worse in the next 6 months?

    Base: U.S. adults

    2012

    2013

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    March

    April

    May

    June

    July

    Sept

    Oct

    Nov

    Dec

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    BETTER (NET)

    23

    24

    23

    21

    22

    26

    24

    24

    19

    18

    20

    22

    Much better

    3

    4

    3

    3

    4

    5

    4

    5

    4

    3

    4

    4

    Somewhat better

    20

    20

    20

    17

    18

    20

    20

    19

    15

    15

    16

    18

    Will remain the same

    44

    46

    50

    49

    49

    50

    53

    49

    52

    48

    50

    51

    WORSE (NET)

    32

    31

    27

    30

    28

    24

    23

    26

    29

    34

    30

    27

    Somewhat worse

    22

    22

    20

    21

    20

    18

    17

    18

    21

    24

    19

    19

    Much worse

    10

    8

    7

    9

    8

    6

    6

    9

    8

    11

    11

    8

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

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between December 11 and 17, 2013 among 2,311 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

    The Harris Poll® #7, January 22, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

    About Harris Interactive

    Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for The Harris Poll® Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research across a wide range of industries. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing a client’s research investment. Serving clients worldwide through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help our clients stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.