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Americans' spending/saving plans suggest cautious optimism

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Americans' spending/saving plans suggest cautious optimism

Millennials most likely to anticipate increases to saving/investing and disposable income in coming months.

As the year comes to a close, Americans plan to become more relaxed in their spending habits, as intentions to decrease key types of spending continue to decline in comparison to a year ago.

According to a new Harris Poll, plans to purchase big ticket items remain largely consistent and fewer Americans are making small ticket spending/savings efforts than have in the past several years. However, this appears to point at least in part towards stabilizing attitudes rather than pure optimism, as intentions to save or invest more money as well as the expectation to have more money to spend the way they want have also decreased since this time last year.

"Just under half (48%) anticipate saving or investing more money in the next six months, down 10 points from this time last year." 

To spend or to save, that is the question

Just under half (48%) anticipate saving or investing more money in the next six months, down 10 points from this time last year (48% in December 2013), and only 32% expect to have more money to spend the way they want, also down from last year (38%).

  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to anticipate saving or investing more money in the next six months (63% vs. 47% Gen X'ers, 39% Baby Boomers, and 33% Matures) and having more money to spend the way they want (43% vs. 30% Gen X'ers, 28% Baby Boomers, and 20% Matures).
  • Those with children in the household are more likely than those without to expect to save or invest more money in the next six months (55% vs. 45%, respectively).

While still over half of Americans (52%) expect to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants, this is down 4 points from June of this year (56%) and 3 points from December 2013 (55%). Similarly, half of Americans (50%) anticipate that they'll reduce spending on entertainment in the next six months, down 3 points from June (53%) and 2 points from December (52%).

  • Generational differences exist in future spending/savings intentions, with Matures less likely than all other generations to anticipate decreasing spending on eating out at restaurants in the next six months (38% vs. 57% Millennials, 53% Gen X'ers, and 52% Baby Boomers).
  • Additionally, those with children in the household are more likely than those without to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants (61% vs. 48%, respectively) and reduce spending on entertainment (56% vs. 48%, respectively).

It's the little things

Looking back on saving efforts in the past six months, the biggest thing Americans have focused on is purchasing more generic brands, with over half opting to do so (54%). This effort is showing a gradual decline though, down 2 points from June (56%) and 4 points from last year (58% December 2013). This habit is particularly popular among women compared to men (59% vs. 48%). In fact, most small tickets spending and savings efforts over the past six months have decreased in the past year. However, one third of Americans began brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (37%) and went to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often (33%) to save money.

Looking across generations, some differences exist among these top three thrifty habits:

  • Matures are the least likely to have cut down on trips to the hairdresser/barber/stylist (23% vs. 36% Millennials, 36% Gen X'ers, and 31% Baby Boomers).
  • Matures are also the least likely to have switched to brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (10% vs. 43% Millennials, 46% Gen X'ers, and 33% Baby Boomers).

Interestingly, those with children in the household are more likely than those without to have upped their brown-bagging efforts as well (48% vs. 32%, respectively).

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