Americans Are Increasingly Cutting Back on Small-Ticket Purchases to Save Money

July 29, 2013

Harris-Americans-Small-Ticket-Cutbacks-July2013More Americans are saving money by cutting out small-ticket expenses ranging from print subscriptions to cable TV services, details Harris Interactive in new survey results. At the same time, compared to late last year, more are planning to spend on big-ticket items such as a vacation lasting longer than a week. With no real change in disposable income expected, the researchers suggest that Americans might be “turning to the smaller changes they can make in everyday life to enable these larger purchases.”

Below are some of the ways in which Americans have cut back on expenses over the past 6 months:

  • Purchased more generic brands (62%, compared to 57% in November 2012);
  • Switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water (38% vs. 33%);
  • Canceled one or more magazine subscriptions (29% vs. 27%);
  • Canceled or cut back cable TV service (24% vs. 21%);
  • Canceled a newspaper subscription (18% vs. 16%); and
  • Canceled landline phone service and only using cell phone (20% vs. 16%).

Given that only 31% of respondents expect to have more money to spend however they want over the next 6 months, many are also planning to cut back in other ways. For example, 62% say it’s likely they’ll decrease their spending on eating out at restaurants and 59% believe it’s likely they’ll cut their spending on entertainment.

Still, 35% plan to take a vacation away from home lasting longer than a week, up from 29% in November 2012. Similarly, 16% expect to buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van (up from 13%) and 10% plan to purchase a house or condo (up from 8%).

While the researchers posit that consumers are cutting back on small-ticket purchases to allow themselves to splurge on big-ticket items (penny-wide, pound-foolish?), another possible explanation is income differences in the respondent sample. It’s indeed possible that more Americans are seeing the need to cut back on daily expenses, while others who are secure in their financial situation are feeling more confident about making bigger-ticket purchases.

About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between June 12 and 17, 2013 among 2,210 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

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