Study reveals where consumers will reduce spending

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Consumers are reacting to economic trends.

A new survey reveals where consumers plan to cut back their spending in the coming months.

Dining out, travel, electronics and apparel are at the top of planned spending cutbacks, according to the September Monthly Consumer Sentiment Study from data and tech market research company Numerator.  The study found that personal finances remain the primary concern for surveyed U.S. consumers. 

Nearly two in five (39%) respondents say personal finances are their primary concern for the coming months, up from 36% who said the same in August 2022. These levels are more than double that of the next highest-cited concern (“world events” at 17% of consumers) and more than six times that of COVID-19 related concerns (6%). 

However, the almost six in 10 respondents who have a high level of concern regarding the economy is down 13 percentage points from its recent peak in June 2022.

Top areas where consumers intend to reduce spending in the coming months due to inflation are:

  • Dining out (46% of respondents).
  • Travel (44%).
  • Electronics (42%).
  • Apparel (41%).
  • Toys & games (32%)
  • Snacks and candy (30%).
  • Alcohol (29%).
  • Home and garden supplies (26%).
  • However, nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents do not expect to cut back at all, holding steady since August, which Numerator says is another sign that economic worries are lessening.

Other interesting findings include:

  • Nearly all respondents (98%) still indicate at least moderate economic concern, 77% think inflation will continue to increase, 71% think the country is currently in an economic recession, and 70% expect the economy to worsen in the next few months.
  • Nearly seven in 10 (69%) respondents say gas prices are impacting their ability to afford other things.
  • Three-quarters (76%) of respondents are worried about rising prices on essential goods and services, while 68% are worried about rising gas prices, and 62% are concerned about rising prices on non-essential goods and services (e.g. travel, restaurants).
  • The biggest economic concern among low-income respondents is having government benefits (such as disability, Social Security, EBT/SNAP) reduced (38%).
  • The biggest economic concern among middle-income respondents is the stability and affordability of the housing market (31%).
  • The biggest economic concern among high-income respondents is the impact that the economy will have on retirement savings or pension plans (51%).
  • Nearly three in four respondents (74%) state that they are wary of spending on premium or luxury items at this time. Taking money out of personal savings or retirement accounts is also uncomfortable for nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%). Other areas causing discomfort to significant percentages of respondents include spending on non-essential items (61%), traveling (57%), and dining out or ordering food delivery (46%). 

Holiday shopping intent looks strong
Despite inflation, a solid majority of consumers will spend at least $100 this holiday season, according to the 2022 Holiday Preview from Numerator. Roughly six in 10 (59%) surveyed consumers expect to spend more than $200 on holiday purchases in 2022. Another 12% will spend $150 to $200 and 8% will spend $100 to $150, meaning about eight in 10 (79%) respondents will spend a minimum of $100 during the 2022 holiday season.

Only a combined 12% of respondents plan to spend $50 or less. Eighty-four percent of respondents plan to purchase Christmas gifts, while 34% intend to purchase Hanukkah gifts and 8% will purchase New Year’s Eve gifts.

The Numerator Consumer Sentiment Survey is fielded on a monthly basis to 1,000-plus consumers from Numerator’s purchase panel.