Americans Still Cutting Back on the Small Things to Save Money

Despite signs that the economy is turning around, consumers are still acting cautiously. For example, almost two-​thirds of U.S. adults (63%) 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.

These are some of the results of '"The Harris Poll" of 2,576 adults surveyed online between January 18 and 25, 2010 by Harris Interactive.

There are other things Americans are doing or have considered doing in the past six months to save some money:

  • Almost half (45%) say they are brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it, with 8% having considered doing so; 34% say this is not applicable to them;
  • Two in five (39%) are going to the hairdresser/​barber/​stylist less often and 8% have considered doing so;
  • One-​third of Americans (34%) have switched to refillable water bottles instead of purchasing bottles of water while 10% have considered doing so;
  • The media is also taking a hit as 33% of U.S. adults have cancelled one of more magazine subscriptions, one in five (19%) have cancelled a newspaper subscription and 22% have cancelled or cut back on cable television service with an additional one in five (20%) having considered doing so; and,
  • One in five Americans say they have cut down on dry cleaning (22%) and stopped purchasing coffee in the morning (21%).

The only thing a majority of U.S. adults say they have neither done nor considered doing is changing or cancelling their cell phone service (52%), and only 15% have done so.

Generational differences in spending/​saving

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 (56%) and cut back on hair styling (43%). Matures (those aged 65 and older) are more likely to cancel a magazine subscription (45%). Echo Boomers (those aged 18–33) are more likely to cancel their landline service and only use their cell phone (20%) and to carpool or use mass transit (26%).

So what?

These may seem like small savings, but 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. Are these cuts temporary or will they become lifestyle changes? Will people spend more on these items when the economy turns around? And when will that be?

"The Harris Poll," conducted by Harris Interactive, February 16, 2010.  Website: www​.harrisinteractive​.com.