Consumers Still Cutting Small Expenditures

Not content with deferring big-ticket purchases, consumers are still scrimping on small expenditures as well, according to a new Harris Poll. If the people around you seem less coiffed, pressed, informed and/or entertained, their economizing accounts for it.

Respondents were asked to say whether they’d done a number of things “over the past six months in order to save money.” Grooming has taken a hit, with 37 percent saying they’ve been “going to the hairdresser/barber/stylist less often.” Likewise, 21 percent said they’ve “cut down on dry cleaning.”

Purchases of out-of-home food and drink have also been a target for people wishing to economize. Forty-five percent said they’ve been “brown bagging lunch instead of purchasing it”; 37 percent have “switched to refillable water bottle instead of purchasing bottle of water”; 22 percent have “stopped purchasing coffee in the morning.” Consumers are also trading down on items they can’t avoid buying: 62 percent said they’ve been “purchasing more generic brands” in the past six months.

As if print media didn’t have enough trouble these days, it has also been deemed expendable by significant numbers of economizers. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they’ve “canceled one or more magazine subscriptions” in the past six months, and 17 percent have “canceled a newspaper subscription” during that period. But print isn’t the only medium taking a hit, as 22 percent said they’ve “canceled or cut back cable television service.” Curtailing their connection to the outside world in another way, 17 percent have “changed or canceled cell-phone service,” matching the number who’ve “canceled landline phone service and only using cell phone.”

The numbers of people making such cutbacks have been quite stable in Harris Polls dating back to last June, when the recession supposedly ended. The most significant changes have been in the direction of greater economizing, with a seven-percentage-point rise since last June in the number of respondents forgoing a morning coffee and a six-point rise in the number who’ve canceled their landline phone service.

A breakdown of the data by age group finds the 35-44-year-olds especially intent on paring their small expenditures. They were the people most likely to have stopped buying coffee in the morning (35 percent said they’ve done this). The 35-44s were also the age cohort most likely to be buying more generic brands (70 percent), brown bagging their lunches (62 percent), getting their hair done less often (45 percent), switching to refillable water bottles (44 percent), canceling/cutting back on cable TV (28 percent), changing or canceling cell-phone service (21 percent) and canceling a newspaper subscription (22 percent).