Consumers Adjusting to Economy by Purchasing Generic Brands, Cutting Back on Services

A new Harris Poll finds that more than half of all adults are saving money by purchasing more generic brands, while over 40% are brown bagging more often and cutting back on visits to hairdressers and barbers. Over 30% have switched to tap water and canceled one or more magazine subscriptions. Smaller percentages, but many millions of people, have also cut down on dry cleaning, cut back or canceled cable television service, canceled a newspaper subscription, stopped buying their morning coffee, changed or canceled their cell phone service, increased their use of carpooling or mass transit and canceled their telephone landline service. Consumer Spending logo

The survey also found that there are large differences by age. The proportions of different generations making these changes vary greatly.

The largest proportions of all adults making these changes to save money are:

  • 64% who have been purchasing more generic brands
  • 47% who are brown bagging lunch instead of buying it
  • 43% who have been going to hairdressers or barbers less often
  • 36% who have switched to tap water and refillable bottles instead of bottled water
  • 34% who have canceled one or more magazine subscriptions

Smaller numbers, but numbers that represent many millions of people, have also:

  • Cut back on dry cleaning (22%)
  • Canceled or cut back their cable TV service (21%)
  • Stopped buying coffee in the morning (20%)
  • Changed or canceled their cell phone service (15%)
  • Been carpooling or using mass transit (14%)
  • Canceled their telephone landline service and are only using their cell phones (12%)

Analysis by age reveals some substantial differences between generations on some but not all of these actions. Echo boomers, aged 18 to 32, are more likely than Matures, aged 64+, to brown bag, to have canceled or cut back their cable TV services, to have canceled their landlines, and to carpool or use mass transit. They are much less likely than Matures to have canceled magazine subscriptions. Baby boomers are more likely than older and younger generations to be buying more generic products, to be brown bagging and to have cut back on their visits to hairdressers and barbers.

These reduced spending patterns reflect a big increase in savings, and economists have been telling us for years that we need to increase savings, notes the report. They also show that most people are taking prudent actions to protect themselves in bad economic times.

"Harris Poll," conducted by Harris Interactive, as cited in a November 5, 2009 online report by MediaPost.  Website: www​.harrisinteractive​.com.