Americans are continuing their down-market inclination to penny pinch, despite the upswing in the U.S. economy (notwithstanding the volatility in the stock market as of late.)
According to research from market intelligence agency Mintel, more than 9 in 10 (91%) of U.S. consumers are budgeting their money the same as or more than they did in 2014.
Deal-seeking behavior has become a basic human truth, regardless of personal or macroeconomic factors that can cause consumers to slide along a budget shopping spectrum, says Diana Smith, senior research analyst, retail and apparel at Mintel.
“By and large, Americans are holding onto their budgeting mentality post-recession, with many sharing a penchant for ‘beating the system’ — stretching their dollars in a way they deem valuable,” Smith says. “Unfortunately for retailers looking to make a profit, consumer expectations for fair prices have not waned, and technology advancements are enabling shoppers and merchants to be smarter than ever.”
The latest Mintel research reveals that while 46% of adults are at a budgeting status quo — budgeting their money the same as last year — a further 45% of consumers are budgeting more, rising to a significant 62% of households with two children under age 18.
Millennials and Hispanics are both keeping a careful eye on their expenditures, with 57% of these consumers agreeing they are budgeting more than a year ago.
Overall, 40% of Americans are classified as “heavy budget shoppers” (based on attitudes and behaviors) with single parents of kids under age 18 (23%), those earning between $50k and $74.9k (22%) and females (21%) among the most likely to take multiple budgeting actions (e.g., using coupons, seeking out advertised deals in store flyers).
Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) adults are budgeting more this year because of rising expenses such as food, electricity and other utilities. Other key reasons that Americans are watching their spending include paying down debt (32%) and because someone in the household became unemployed or took a pay cut (18%).
To better manage finances, today’s budget-loving shoppers are using a variety of tactics in their bargain-hunting pursuits, with 44% of U.S. consumers who shop at major retailers often or always shopping around to different stores to ensure they get the best prices. What’s more, Mintel research indicates that pride is at the forefront of bargain shoppers’ minds, as three-quarters (76%) of adults always, often or sometimes share their shopping conquests, indicating the sense of pride and accomplishment they get from stretching their budgets.
“Researching products online and in-store before purchasing plays a key role in the bargain hunting process, and for the extreme budget shopper, it’s safe to say that low prices usually trump convenience. It is clear that Americans will sacrifice their own time to save a buck or two,” Smith says.
Mintel research also indicates that store brand stigma is waning. Store or private label brands are no longer seen as generic and poor quality, as two in five (38%) Americans who shop at major retailers always or often buy store or private label brands instead of national brands. In fact, the most affluent consumers (those with $150K HHI) are also the most likely group (41%) to opt for store brands when compared to those with lower incomes.