8 Stats That Show How Coronavirus Has Changed Our Spending Habits

A third of Americans are spending money to deal with pandemic-related stress.

Our lives look a lot different now from the way they did even two months ago. The coronavirus pandemic turned our world upside down, drastically changing how people travel, work, parent and more.  

No matter how your pre-pandemic life looked, one thing you’ve probably altered is your spending. From impulse shopping to panic buying, Americans are spending money in ways we’ve never seen before. 

Here’s a look at some of the most interesting numbers about our coronavirus spending habits. 

1. A Third Of Americans Are Stress-Spending

With a global pandemic at hand, it’s no surprise that many people are feeling more stressed out than usual. There are many different coping strategies for stress, and for some, it’s spending money.

A recent survey by Credit Karma found that 35% of respondents made impulse buys to deal with stress during the coronavirus.

Among those who said they’ve made impulse purchases, close to half (45%) said they spend money because of stress at least once a week. Another 17% make impulse buys daily.

The survey also found that nearly one in five (18%) respondents are actually spending more now than they were before the pandemic. 

2. Entertainment And Alcohol Make Up Half Of All Nonessential Spending

Though you’re probably spending less money going out to bars and movies (like, none at all), there’s a good chance your spending on other escapist activities has increased.

Americans are spending the most nonessential money on entertainment (29%) and alcohol (23%) right now, according to a survey by WalletHub. Eighteen percent of respondents admitted that they’re actually overspending on nonessentials as well.

3. Online Shopping Is Up 60% Over Last Year

With more time stuck at home and most nonessential stores closed down, Americans have taken their shopping online. Online sales of consumer packaged goods are up 60% over the same week last year, according to Nielsen data for the week ending April 25.

Of the items purchased online, food is up the most: 86% for the one-week period ending April 25 versus the same week in 2019. That’s followed by household care (up 51%), health and beauty care (up 49%), pet care (up 24%) and baby care (up 23%).

4. Hand Sanitizer Sales Grew More Than Any Other Item In Stores

Though we’re forced to do more shopping online, essential businesses are still open to the public ― and the one item that’s seen the biggest surge in sales at physical stores is hand sanitizer. 

Hand sanitizer takes the number one spot for in-store week-over-week sales growth. Last week, it held the third position but rose as people restocked their health and safety products. Sales of the stuff have also increased a whopping 420% over a year ago, according to Nielsen. 

Behind hand sanitizer, the fastest-growing in-store purchases are oat milk (up 308% over the previous year), fresh meat alternatives (up 224%), baking powder (up 170%) and aerosol disinfectants (up 158%).

5. Frozen Items Are The Most-Purchased Foods

As Americans worry about limiting their trips to the grocery store and potential disruptions to food supply chains, many are focused on buying foods that keep for a long time.

Not surprisingly, frozen foods are the top growing in-store purchases (up 47% year over year), according to Nielsen data. That’s followed by meat (up 41%) and dairy (up 32%) as consumers continue to load up on food staples. 

6. Spending On Transportation Is Way Down

Not only are we spending more time in isolation, but attitudes toward public transportation have also shifted considerably in the past month, according to a survey by IBM.

More than 20% of respondents who regularly relied on buses, subways or trains said they no longer will, while another 28% said they will likely use public transportation less often.  

Ride-sharing apps are also suffering. More than half of those surveyed who had used ride-sharing apps and services said they will stop using them completely or use them less. Only 24% said they will stop using taxis and other traditional car services.

Just over 17% of respondents said they will rely on their personal vehicles to get around, with about one in four saying that that will be their exclusive mode of transportation going forward.

Many of those who were in the market for a new car are now waiting on the purchase, with about a quarter saying they plan to hold off for more than six months.

7. 40% Of Spenders Rely On Contactless Payment

There have been concerns over physical cash and its potential to spread the coronavirus. In light of this, consumers are turning to technology to mitigate their risk.

Nearly 40% of respondents said they are likely to use contactless payment options via their mobile device or credit card when shopping, according to the IBM survey.

8. A Quarter Of Shoppers Are Buying More From Local Businesses

With mandatory shutdown orders for nonessential businesses, even major retailers are feeling the pinch. Smaller mom and pop shops are especially hurting financially, which has prompted some people to prioritize shopping locally.

Some 25% of respondents in the IBM survey said they are now shopping more often at locally owned stores and buying more locally made, grown or sourced products. 

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Before You Go

10 Ways To Save Money That Take An Hour Or Less
Roll Over Your Old 401(k)(01 of 10)
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“Employees should consider rolling over an old 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan into an IRA, which typically takes a matter of minutes. Though the money in the old plan will continue to grow tax-deferred, investors can end up paying much higher fees in an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) due to expensive fund options and plan administration costs. Those fees eat directly into an individual’s potential return. The savings can be significant if you switch to an IRA — even close to 1 percent in some cases. Over time, that can really add up.” ― Kristin McFarland, a wealth advisor and certified financial planner at Darrow Wealth Management in Boston. (credit: JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images)
Switch Banks(02 of 10)
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“If you aren’t earning at least 1 percent on your savings, you’re leaving money on the table. By simply switching from a traditional brick-and-mortar bank to a high-yield savings account, you can make your money work harder for you and earn on your savings effortlessly. It takes just a few seconds to compare interest rates between financial institutions to find the best option for you; opening a high-yield online savings account can be done in a matter of minutes.” ― Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert (credit: MajaMitrovic via Getty Images)
Negotiate With Your Internet Provider(03 of 10)
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“Call your internet provider and negotiate your bill. Let them know your budget has changed and you are shopping around. Providers usually have some sort of special promotion going on that they’ll offer you. For example, my provider once offered a huge discount for college students and gave us our internet for half price during the school year. Spending 10 minutes on the phone saved us around $300-$400.” ― Jaime Gibbs, a faith and finance blogger at Like a Bubbling Brook (credit: recep-bg via Getty Images)
Complete A Health Assessment(04 of 10)
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“Many people don’t realize that their health insurance provider offers the option to complete a health assessment, which means they miss out on hundreds of dollars each year. Ours has typically been a simple online survey that takes about 20 minutes to complete. In exchange (no matter what the results), we get $150 in gift cards for every insured person over 18.” ― Val Breit, owner of personal finance blog The Common Cents Club (credit: krisanapong detraphiphat via Getty Images)
Sign Up For Auto-Pay(05 of 10)
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“If you follow a reasonable budget, setting your bills to auto-pay is a great way to save time and money. Start by looking at your monthly mandatory expenses and find a company that incentivizes customers to sign up for automatic billing. Usually, they’ll offer a reduced interest rate or discounts on future transactions, depending on what type of bill it is. If you’re going to have to pay a bill eventually, why not get a discount for doing it automatically? Common places to find discounts can include student loans, car loans or utilities such as your electric bill. And the biggest perk? You don’t have to worry about remembering to pay the bill in full each month ― it’s all taken care of.” ― Ben Huber, owner of Dollar Sprout (credit: Petar Chernaev via Getty Images)
Rethink Your Health Insurance(06 of 10)
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“Re-evaluate your health insurance options at work since now is enrollment time. What did you sign up for in the past that you now don’t need? For example, I knew someone who had health insurance and cancer insurance. The cancer insurance, which she did not need, was $100 a month. She removed it for instant savings.” ― Ja’Net Adams, speaker, author and creator of Debt Sucks University (credit: Manop Phimsit / EyeEm via Getty Images)
Skim Your Bank Statements(07 of 10)
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“Spend 30 to 60 minutes one evening and review your past two to three months of bank statements. You might find your bank is charging you monthly maintenance fees that can be avoided and save you a couple hundred dollars a year. One way to avoid monthly fees is to enroll in direct deposit or, if you can, keep at least $1,000 in your checking account.” ― Jason Reposa, CEO and co-founder of MyBankTracker (credit: Image Source via Getty Images)
Listen To A Personal Finance Podcast(08 of 10)
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“There are many out there, which can be from a few minutes long to almost an hour. These types of podcasts will greatly impact your knowledge and help you to learn how to save money at no cost to you. And you also aren’t spending hours to learn, either. It’s something I do each week and has helped me make smarter money choices.” ― Todd Kunsman, founder of Invested Wallet (credit: MStudioImages via Getty Images)
Switch To A Prepaid Cellphone Plan(09 of 10)
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“Call your cellphone provider and ask about their prepaid pricing plans. With a few minutes on the phone, you can save $15 or more per month ($180+ per year), plus increase your data limit. After switching to prepaid, we saved $15 a month and increased our data from 3GB shared to 10GB each (20GB total).” ― Evan and Nikayla, the bloggers behind Budgeting Couple (credit: Bronek Kaminski via Getty Images)
Set It And Forget It(10 of 10)
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“Using an app like Acorns can take less than 10 minutes to set up and will continuously save (and actually invest) money every time you make a purchase. Acorns works by rounding up each transaction to the nearest dollar and investing the difference for you automatically. It’s a simple and quick way to get a method of saving and investing money every single day in place.” ― Dustyn Ferguson, blogger at Dime Will Tell (credit: LeoPatrizi via Getty Images)
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