Skip to content

AARP Bulletin Survey on Spending: Executive Summary

The AARP Bulletin commissioned a nationwide survey in June 2011 to find out how often consumers have trouble limiting their spending or spending their money.   The survey also includes questions on how consumers might label themselves – either as a “tightwad” or “spendthrift.”    

Survey findings indicate that about two in five respondents report having some difficulty limiting their spending --often spending money when it might not be in their best interest.  And one in three report that they  have trouble spending money -- often not spending money on things they should spend it on due to anxiety about spending or other reasons.  

Key findings included:    

  • Two in five respondents (42%) report that they have some difficulty limiting their spending and often spend money even if they would do better not to.  Respondents ages 18-49 (18%) are more likely than those ages 50+ (10%) to say that they often or always have trouble limiting their spending. 
  • One in three (34%) say that they have trouble spending money because it makes them anxious and they don’t spend money on things they should spend it on.  However, over three in five (64%) say that they never or rarely have trouble spending money.    
  • Almost a quarter of all respondents (24%) consider themselves to be a “tightwad” – someone who has difficulty spending money, while over one in ten (15%) describe themselves as a “spendthrift” – someone who has difficulty controlling their spending.

The study was conducted for AARP via telephone by Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) using its national omnibus survey service.  The interviews were conducted from June 1–5, 2011, among a nationally representative sample of 1,078 people ages 18 and older.  SSRS weighted the data to be nationally representative of the adult population 18 years of age and older.  For additional information contact Lona Choi-Allum at 202-434-6333.