7 Small Changes to Free Up More Money

December 10, 2012

Do you remember my summer of savings tour? This was when I was traveling around the country and appearing on local television stations to offer my five small changes that add up to big savings so people could have more money. Well, it turns out I was on to something.

The Harris Poll just released its latest survey findings on Americans and their spending habits. And while 2012 doesn’t seem to be that much different than 2011 in many ways, in other instances Americans are discovering a renewed frugality.

According to the Harris Poll, three in five Americans (59%) say that within the next six months they are likely to decrease spending on eating out at restaurants, similar to the number who said this in November of last year (61%). Additionally, just over half (55%) say they plan on reducing spending on entertainment in the next 6 months; this is the lowest this number has been since the question was first asked in November of 2008.

As far as smaller changes people can make in their spending to free up more money, here are some changes that have taken place over the last year.

  • 57% of U.S. adults say they have been purchasing more generic brands over the past six months, which is down from the 61% who said so in December, 2011;
  • Two in five (41%) now say they are brown bagging lunch, which is about the same as the 42% who said so last December;
  • One-third of Americans report switching to refillable water bottles rather than purchasing bottles of water (33%) and one in five stopped purchasing coffee in the morning (20%), up slightly from the 31% and 17%, respectively, who said so in December, 2011;
  • In terms of media consumption, over one-quarter of Americans have cancelled one or more magazine subscriptions (27%, up from 25%), one in five have cancelled or cut back on cable television service (21%, no change from 2011), and 16% have cancelled a newspaper subscription (15% in December 2011);
  • Looking at communications, 16% have cancelled landline service and are only using a cell phone (up from 14% in December, 2011) and 14% of U.S. adults have changed or cancelled their cell phone service (no change from last year);
  • Over a third of Americans are still cutting back on going to the hairdresser, barber or stylist (38%) and about one in five are cutting down on their dry cleaning (18%). Both numbers are similar than last year (37% and 19% respectively); and,
  • 14% report that they began carpooling or using mass transit, which is similar to last year, though this number is less telling as in suburban or rural areas these may not be viable options.

I’m thinking that we’re going to see a larger return to these frugal habits in 2013, given how the economy is going and with the looming fiscal cliff.

What changes have you made in the past year to free up more money–or which you are committing to make anew in 2013?

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