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2018 American Budgeting Habits

There remains only a few weeks left before 2017 taxes are due and Americans are under pressure to finish. Completing tax returns can be a very involved task reminding the financially responsible individual in the household to take a look at income, and perhaps the household budget as a whole. Some Americans will receive a bonus tax return check, which can be used in many ways. What sort of financial responsibility are Americans taking this time of year? What are Americans using their tax refund for? We asked over 1000 respondents and below are the results.

Current Financial State:


  • Emergency Fund:  32% of people do not have an emergency fund
  • Savings Accounts: 46% of people have 1 savings account and 25% have 2
  • Streams of Income: 40% of people have at least one side-job, and 17% have multiple streams of income (twice as many males have a side job
  • Who’s in charge? 81% are in charge of their budget in the household


Budgeting Beginnings and Reasons


Top 5 reasons why people are budgeting:

  • 56% I like to control my finances
  • 46% to pay off debt (57% were 18-34)
  • 44% to avoid debt and improve credit
  • 39% to save money for a major purchase (house/car)
  • 34% to save for travel

Budgeting Skills Origins

  • 49% learned to budget from their parents
  • 24% online websites
  • 18% books
  • 18% financial advisor
  • 8% online blogs

Monthly Budgets are the Most Manageable. The timeframes when people adjust their budgets are as follows:

  1. 17% Daily
  2. 25% Weekly
  3. 28% Monthly
  4. 10% Quarterly
  5. 5% Half-Yearly
  6. 7% Yearly
  7. 9% I never adjust my budget

50% claim they often stick to their budget, and 29% say always

Digital is Becoming King


How people track spending habits:

  • 49% Cash
  • 53% Credit Card
  • 26% Check
  • 11% A financial manager (23% of men vs 6% women)
  • 17% A financial management app
  • 11% A financial management website

The Envelope System: 14% of people use and envelope system to budget their money , 24% of those were male.

Refund Fun:


52% of respondents will receive a federal tax refund this year. Here’s what they will spend it on this year vs what they spent it on last year

Spend on this year vs last

This Year (2018) Last Year (2017)
Property Tax 16% 24%
Credit Card Debt 26% 27%
General Bills 39% 44%
Save the Amount 53% 42%
Vacation 18% 20%
Shopping Trip 15% 15%
Medical Bill 16% 10%
Donate to Charity 14% 8%
Buy a Car 14% 8%


  • Twice as many people are going to buy a car this year with their refund
  • Twice as many people will donate to charity
  • More People will generally save their money
  • Less will be put towards property tax and general bills


This survey was run with Toluna QuickSurveys, the leading self-serve digital consumer insights solution. Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Toluna surveys. Create your own survey today! 

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