The Thrift Survey

Posted on 09/01/04

To develop a snapshot of Americans' views on thrift, In Character added a series of questions about Americans' saving, spending and giving habits and attitudes to a Harris Interactive online survey. There were 2,234 responses to the survey, which was conducted in June 2004. The results have a statistical precision of plus or minus three percentage points. The responses provide a statistically representative portrait of the U.S. adult population. Variances are due to rounding.

1. Influences on Learning About the Value of Money

Family (cited as very or extremely important by 55 percent of American adults) appears to have the greatest influence on teaching the value of money, by a wide margin. School is the second-most important (cited as very or extremely important by 24 percent of adults).

Women were more likely than men to indicate the influence of family was very or extremely important (60 percent compared to 50 percent). Those in the youngest age group (eighteen to twenty-nine years) were most likely to credit the family's influence (72 percent). Additional influences on learning about the value of money are listed below.

2. Importance of Becoming More Thrifty, by Gender

Nineteen percent of respondents considered being thriftier extremely or very important, and 47 percent considered it to be at least important. Fifty-three percent indicated it is only somewhat important or not at all important. Men and women seemed similarly interested in becoming more thrifty.

3. Attitudes About Thrift

Americans today think they are less thrifty than they were fifty years ago. Ninety-two percent of those aged forty-five to fifty-four agreed with that sentiment. When asked whether Americans today spend too much, 77 percent agreed strongly or somewhat, compared to just 6 percent who disagreed strongly or somewhat. Women were more likely than men to agree (83 percent, compared to 70 percent).

Fifty-seven percent of respondents agreed with the statement "It is hard to be thrifty in modern-day
America." Men were more likely to disagree with the statement, as were those who attended some college.

4. Frequency Of Thrifty Behaviors

Just over half of American adults do not pay their credit-card balances in full at the end of the month - 68 percent of those aged fifty-five years and older, 73 percent of retirees, and 57 percent of college graduates. Those earning $75,000 or more annually and those with college degrees are more likely to do so than those with less education or lower incomes.

Twenty-two percent of American adults indicated buying used clothes, books, and other items from thrift shops, yard sales, etc., often or all the time. Women are more likely to do this than men (27 percent to 16 percent). Thirty-eight percent of women aged thirty-five to forty-four indicated doing so, and adults with children are more likely to do so than those without (27 percent compared to 19 percent).