Commentary

Brown Bagging and Generics Lead Consumer Spending Savings

The economy is turning around based on what one hears from economists and the White House, but according to the results of The Harris Poll of 2,576 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 25, 2010, when it comes to small things people can do each day to save money, consumers are still acting cautiously. 63% of U.S. adults say they have purchased more generic brands in the past six months to save money, while an additional 12% say they have considered doing so.

Spending/Savings Over Past Six Months (considered doing in order to save money)

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% of All Adults (rounded)

Consideration

Have Done

Have Considered

Have not done nor considered

Not applicable

Purchasing more generic brands

63%

12%

18%

7%

Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

45

8

13

34

Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

39

8

31

22

Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottle of water

34

10

21

34

Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

33

7

23

37

Cut down on dry cleaning

22

4

17

57

Cancelled or cut back cable television service

22

20

41

18

Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

21

6

19

54

Cancelled a newspaper subscription

19

9

31

42

Changed or cancelled cell phone service

17

14

52

17

Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

15

21

45

19

Begun carpooling or using mass transit

14

8

31

48

Source: The Harris Poll, January 2010

There are also some generational differences in what people are doing to save money. Gen Xers (those aged 34-45) are more likely to brown bag lunch and cut back on hair styling. Matures (those aged 65 and older) are more likely to cancel a magazine subscription. Echo Boomers (those aged 18-33) are more likely to cancel their landline service and only use their cell phone, and to carpool or use mass transit.  

Spending/Savings Over Past Six Months - By Generation (Considered In Order To Save Money)

 

% of Generation Saying "Have Done" (rounded)

 

Total

EchoBoomers (18-33)

Gen. X (34-45)

BabyBoomers (46-64)

Matures (65+)

Purchasing more generic brands

63%

60%

66%

63%

61%

Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it

45

51

56

46

20

Going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often

39

39

43

38

35

Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottle of water

34 40

37

31

28

 

Cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions

33

24

31

36

45

Cut down on dry cleaning

22

18

24

21

27

Cancelled or cut back cable television service

22

24

26

22

14

Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning

21

25

27

19

14

Cancelled a newspaper subscription

19

16

20

20

20

Changed or cancelled cell phone service

17

19

20

17

11

Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone

15

20

16

15

6

Begun carpooling or using mass transit

14

26

16

7

4

Source: The Harris Poll, January 2010

According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, says the report, 49% of the general U.S. population said they will spend the same or more money this month as last month. And, in specific spending areas, responded this way when asked where their money will go during February 2009:

  • Groceries - 52%
  • Child/elder care - 50%
  • Medical bill/healthcare - 49%
  • Auto expenses - 48%
  • Entertainment - 47%
  • Dining out - 45%
  • Loans/credit card payments - 44%
  • Tax payments - 44%
  • Education - 43%

However, 83% of the general population has a defined saving plan in place. 30% of the general population and 42% of young professionals plan to cut back on extra purchases such as "morning lattes" and "manicures" as part of their plan.

The report concludes that these may seem like small savings, they are the things many financial planners say people need to do more of to save money. And, it seems in these times of greater economic hardship, Americans are finally heeding that advice. But, says the writer, are these cuts temporary or will they become lifestyle changes?

For more from the Harris study, please visit here.

 

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