SAN JOSE, Calif. - In March, the prospect of working from home due to shelter-in-place restrictions offered the allure of saving time and money. Three months later and only half that equation turned true. New research finds Americans are spending more, not less, each month.
“The average person working from home during the pandemic is spending an average of $108 more per month,” said Ted Rossman, an analyst for CreditCards.com, which commissioned the study.
Rossman said about 900 people were surveyed over two days in May. The biggest uptick in spending was seen in utility bills, and groceries.
Half of the people KTVU surveyed in the College Park Shopping Center in San Jose say they’re spending more to put food on the table.
“I think so. Everybody stay at home. Eat a lot. That’s why (laughs),” said Yiftu, a mother of three teenagers who was out with her youngest. Added shopper Jason Waltrip, “I’m not actually working at the moment. So I have more time to spend money.”
“I have seven boys. So everything is food,” said Adriana Carrillo. “Every time I go it’s like 500 bucks, and it’s every other week.”
Aviation industry worker Adam Bilentschek says he keeps to a tight budget, but still finds himself spending more.
“I thought I’d be saving more. I thought I’d be cooking more at home,” he said. “But I find myself running more trips to the stores.”
San Jose State University economist Dr. Colleen Haight said economic theory can explain some of this behavior. She said shelter-in-place orders disproportionately affect lower-wage earners. The more affluent can afford not to spend.
“Our low income households are still spending more. Because now they’re eating at home. they’re leaving the lights on. They may need a more robust internet connection for their children to access school work. And this is going to raise their bills. whereas the higher income households are generally going to save money because they’re not spending on the things they used to like to do, the extra things,” said Dr. Haight.
As more companies signal working from home will become a permanent part of the new normal, experts believe it may force an adjustment for households that are left struggling to balance the monthly budget.