Americans’ Sense of Frugality Largely Persists

May 3, 2018

This article is included in these additional categories:

Customer-Centric | Spending Trends

More American adults believe they’ve been spending less money in recent months (35%) than more (30%), a pattern that has persisted since the recession, per new Gallup data. However, the gap between spending less and spending more continues to narrow, and for the first time this year the proportion who are spending the same as they used to (35%) has matched the percentage who are spending less.

Still, perceptions of frugality remain. Most of those who are spending less money believe this will become their new normal: 26% of adults overall believe this is the case, against 9% who are spending less but feel this is a temporary change in their spending patterns.

The situation is reversed when it comes to those spending more: Americans are 50% more likely to say their increased spending is temporary (18%) than to say it’s a new normal (12%).

Overall, the percentage of American adults who believe they’re spending more as a new normal (12%) sits at the higher end of the 6-14% range set from 2009 through 2017. The share who believe they’re spending less as a new normal (26%) is the lowest it has been since the recession.

This indicates an apparent gradual shift towards spending, even if it isn’t necessarily borne out by retail spending results.

Separately, Gallup survey results indicate that 59% of adults feel that they’re the type of person who more enjoys saving than spending money, while 40% enjoy spending more than saving.

That 40% who feel they prefer to spend rather than save is the highest since 2009. However, it remains lower than pre-recession levels: in 2005, for example, 46% said they preferred to spend money, against half who preferred to save money.

The Gallup analysts argue that “retailers should note that they can connect with consumers’ idealized view of themselves by offering discounts, sales and other mechanisms that reinforce frugality.” Indeed, consumers’ love of discounts doesn’t appear to be letting up: recent survey data indicates that more Americans are using coupons than ever, both paper and digital.

About the Data: Gallup’s 2018 data is based on telephone interviews conducted April 2-11, 2018, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

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