Poll: More People Skip Morning Coffee Purchase, Brown Bag Lunches In Last Year

July 21, 2011

Americans say they expect the economy to get worse in the next year, and their recent behavior shows a buckling-down and cutting-back mentality, possibly in preparation for hard times ahead. Over three quarters of Americans have begun purchasing more generic brands to save money (67 percent), up from six in ten who said they did this in February (61 percent) and the highest number reporting doing so since the question was first asked two years ago.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,163 adults surveyed online between June 13 and 20, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

And, it’s not just labels that Americans are cutting back on. The recent poll, which has been asked seven times since June 2009, shows that now Americans are doing each item listed as a way to save money more than they did in February of this year, and either slightly more than or equal to the levels these things were done one year ago, in June 2010.

Other findings include:

  • Slightly more people today are brown-bagging their lunch as a way to save money (46 percent) than did so in either February or October (45 percent in both) and the number of people using refillable water bottles rather than purchasing bottles of water is the highest it’s been since June 2009 (39 percent);
  • Currently more than two in five Americans are going to the hairstylist or barber less often (43 percent) as a way to save money. The only other time this number has been greater than two in five was 20 months ago, in October 2009 (43 percent);
  • In terms of Americans’ media consumption, three in ten have cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions to save money (31 percent), up from 30 percent in February and 27 percent in October. One in five U.S. adults have cut back on cable TV service (22 percent) and slightly fewer say they have cancelled a newspaper subscription (18 percent);
  • Now a quarter of Americans say they have cut back on dry cleaning as a way to save money (24 percent) which is up from the 21 percent who said they did this in both February and October;
  • One in five have stopped purchasing coffee in the morning (21 percent), a number which has more or less stayed constant since October 2009; and,
  • While some Americans have cancelled their landline telephone service, changed or cancelled their cell phone service or begun carpooling or using mass transit as ways to save money, these don’t seem to be the top priorities as fewer than one in five say they have done each of these things every time the questions were asked.

While there are some differences in the changes older and younger Americans are making to save money — for example, older Americans who may no longer work are less likely to report beginning to brown bag their lunch, carpool or use mass transit, or purchase coffee in the morning — what is clear is that most Americans are making some changes in order to cut back on expenses. While making more careful spending decisions may be good for a household budget, continual cutting back doesn’t do much to help the overall economy grow. It seems a balance will need to be reached to make Americans feel secure in their own household’s finances as well as comfortable enough spending to allow the country’s economy to grow once again.

For the complete report, click here.