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Spending Plans for Next Six Months Signal Consumer Wariness

However, looking back five years shows how much outlooks have improved

NEW YORK, April 2, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- With the first quarter of the calendar year behind us and tax deadlines approaching, many Americans may be putting thought into where their money has gone in the recent past and where it might be going in the near future. While attitudes haven't changed overwhelmingly since last December, some shifts in plans for the next six months may indicate that Americans are questioning their financial prospects over the next few months; that said, looking further back it's clear that American financial attitudes are greatly improved from where they were a few years ago.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,234 U.S. adults surveyed online between March 12 and 17, 2014. (Full findings, including data tables, available here)

Big ticket spending: holding or folding?
Americans are more likely than in December to say that they plan on decreasing their spending on eating out at restaurants (59%, up 4 points) within the next six months, along with being less likely to say they will save or invest more money within the next six months (52%, down 6 points), that they will have more money to spend the way they want (34%, down 4 points) and that they will buy a new computer (23%, down 5 points) when compared to last December.

Americans' attitudes are close to or unchanged from December levels in many areas, including the likelihood that they'll reduce spending on entertainment (54%, down 2 points), take a vacation away from home lasting longer a week (39%, up 1 point), move to a different residence (17%, down 1 point), buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van (15%, down 2 points), purchase a house or condo (holding steady at 8%), start a new business (8%, down 2 points) and buy a boat or recreational vehicle (unchanged at 4%).

Men are more likely than women to report both spending and saving as among their plans for the near future:

  • Save or invest more money (55% men vs. 49% women).
  • Take a vacation away from home (42% men vs. 36% women).
  • Buy a new computer (27% men vs. 20% women).
  • Buy or lease a newly manufactured car, truck or van (18% men vs. 13% women).
  • Buy a boat or recreational vehicle (5% men vs. 3% women).

Five year plan
In examining these numbers, it's also important to broaden our outlook and take stock in how far we've come as a country since the lows reached just a few years ago during the depths of the Great Recession. Compared to five years ago (March of 2009), Americans are far less likely to anticipate that the next six months will see them decreasing their spending on eating out at restaurants (59%, down 15 points) and reducing their spending on entertainment (54%, down 20 points) and considerably more likely to expect that they'll have more money to spend the way they want (34%, up 13 points).

Small ticket spending over past six months shows little change from December
Looking back at activities done over the past six months to save money, numbers haven't changed much from December findings. Six in ten Americans (59%, up 1 point) say they have been purchasing more generic brands, just over four in ten (42%, holding steady from December results) say they've been brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it and just over a third each say they've been going to the hairdresser less (36%, up 2 points) and that they've switched to a refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottles of water (34%, up 1 point).

There have been some slight increases in cutbacks, with over one-fourth (27%, up 3 points) saying they cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions and nearly two in ten (18%, also up 3 points) saying they've cut down on dry cleaning.

Women are more likely than men to report that they've been purchasing more generic brands (65% women vs. 52% men) and going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often (44% women vs. 28% men), and that they've switched to a refillable water bottle (37% women vs. 31% men).

As might be expected, those with children in the household may be feeling the squeeze more than those without, as they are more likely to report several cutbacks over the past six months:

  • Brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it (49% with vs. 39% without).
  • Cancelled or cut back cable television service (26% with vs. 21% without).
  • Stopped purchasing coffee in the morning (24% with vs. 17% without).
  • Cancelled landline phone service and only using cell phone (22% with vs. 16% without).
  • Begun carpooling or using mass transit (16% with vs. 11% without).

To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between March 12 and 17, 2014 among 2,234 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.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #31, April 2, 2014
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll.  Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]

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SOURCE The Harris Poll

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