USAA Survey Finds Great Recession Scared Us Into Better Budgeting

Perhaps a bit like the notoriously frugal generation that came of age during and directly after the Great Depression, Americans have shown a scant silver lining when it comes to the Great Recession.

USAA Bank surveyed consumers on how their habits have changed since the last great bubble spectacularly dissolved and hundreds of thousands of Americans lost jobs, homes and to some degree, hope. The results weren’t all bad news, as it seems looming financial ruin has caused Americans to take a long, hard look at spending habits.

Very nearly half (49%) of survey participants say they now budget, and even greater numbers heavily suggest that frugality is becoming a valued personal trait among cash-strapped Americans:

When asked about their budgeting personality, three-fourths of respondents described themselves as a “penny pincher” (40 percent) or a “big picture budgeter” (36 percent). And nearly nine out of 10 (86 percent) said they always or often stick to specific targets within their budget for everyday expenses.

Interestingly, the advent of smartphones was pegged as a powerful tool in managing personal finances more efficiently. 70% of respondents said they would be swayed not to purchase a pair of jeans if they used a mobile phone to check their bank balance and would go over budget, and nearly one in four say they’d be more likely to implement a budget if their mobile phone supplied budget related updates.