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After two years spent pinching pennies, it appears that Americans have left their frugal ways behind. That is the finding of a Harris Poll, conducted in December 2011, which showed that for the first time since 2009 Americans are not taking simple actions to save money.
To conduct this poll, custom market research firm Harris Interactive surveyed 2,237 adults asking them about 12 simple changes they could have made to save money. Changes on this list ranged from purchasing more generic brands to brown-bagging lunch and cutting back on dry cleaning to canceling newspaper or magazine subscriptions. Recent improvements in the economy seem to correlate with these changes as several significant differences occurred in consumer spending habits over the past six months. Several notable changes that took place from June 2011 to the December poll include:
- Generic brands— 61 percent report buying generic brands in December compared with 67 percent in June.
- Brown bagging— 42 percent still bring their lunch to work, down from 46 percent in June.
- Morning coffee— 17 percent stopped buying coffee in the morning versus 21 percent in June.
- Haircuts— 37 percent reported going to a hair salon less frequently compared with 43 percent in June.
- Dry cleaning— 19 percent said they had cut down on dry cleaning, dropping from 24 percent in June.
Another notable way in which people stopped saving money was seen in an increased consumption of media. The December 2011 poll represented the lowest number of people canceling magazine or newspaper subscriptions and cable service in the past 26 months.
One area, however, where Americans would not make a trade-off to save money was in their use of cellphones and changes to cell service. According to the poll, the number of people who had changed cell service has remained similar since Harris Interactive began conducting these polls in June 2009.
While these results show that adults are spending more money on these activities, Harris Interactive notes that it could also be that people had previously made the above changes.