Three in ten Americans cut back on non-essential purchases during the pandemic

Christien PhebySenior Business Journalist
April 28, 2021, 5:19 PM GMT+0

Data from YouGov Direct highlights how the pandemic has changed US consumers’ financial behaviours

From a financial perspective, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a singular challenge for some Americans – and an opportunity for others. Data from YouGov Direct reveals a landscape where US consumers have become variously generous, parsimonious, austere, indulgent, and much more.

Three in ten, for example, say they have cut back on non-essential purchases (32%), and a fifth say they have cancelled subscriptions for things they might pay for in ordinary circumstances (21%). There’s also evidence that some are trying to reduce their utility bills however they can: a fifth say they’ve not turned on their lights or electric appliances unless they absolutely need to (21%), 17% say they’ve taken fewer showers or baths, and 15% go as far as to say they’ve eaten less food than normal. A minority – just over two in five (43%) say they haven’t done any of these things.

Beyond cutting back, nearly two in five Americans say they’ve started saving more money each month (38%), while a quarter say they’ve increased their monthly debt repayments (25%). The pandemic has created greater incentives to stay at home, which may have made it easier for some consumers to save money in the absence of a daily commute (and the daily purchases such as lunch and coffee that can accompany life in the office).

Our data shows that some US consumers have also discovered a more generous side: 20% say they have given more to charity as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, while 14% have lent money to family or friends. As traumatic as the pandemic may have been, the basic human reaction for many Americans has been to put the money saved from not eating out, traveling, attending entertainment events or buying clothes towards a long-awaited purchase, a loan to family or friends, or a donation to someone in need.


YouGov polled 1,200 US adults online on [date] between 5:39 and 6:39pm EST. The survey was carried out through YouGov Direct. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, political affiliation, and ethnicity. Results are nationally representative of adults in the United States. The margin of error is 4.1% for the overall sample. Learn more about YouGov Direct.

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