Consumers' inflation concerns ease, but worries about resuming student loan payments might impact spending habits, 84.51° reports

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Image credit: Getty Images - Justin Paget
Image credit: Getty Images - Justin Paget

Related tags 84.51 Economics Inflation Food price inflation

Consumer concerns around inflation are easing slightly, but discretionary spending may remain tight as many prepare for the return of student loan payments, according to a consumer survey conducted by 84.51° in September.

When it comes to overall inflation sentiment, consumers are slightly less concerned about inflation in September 2023 than a year ago and have begun to pull back on deal hunting and trading down, 84.51° reported​. In September 2023, 64% of surveyed consumers said that they were extremely concerned about inflation, down from a high of 69% in November and December of last year, according to a 84.51° Real Time Insights survey of Kroger shoppers in the last three months.

To offset inflation, 63% of consumers said they are looking for sales, deals, and coupons more often, down from 68% in July and August. Additionally, 53% of consumers said they are cutting back on non-essential food items like snacks and candy to battle inflation, and 48% have switched to a lower-cost brand, compared to 61% and 53% in August, respectively.

Student loan forbearance ends, triggering budget concerns

In October, the student loan forbearance that was in effect since the beginning of the COVID pandemic will expire, putting additional pressure on consumers. For those with student loan debt, 49% of survey respondents said they “are extremely concerned with their ability to maintain their budget,” 84.51 stated.

However, the return of student loan payments might not hurt food and beverage brands, with 27% of consumers saying that it will less likely have an impact on groceries than other discretionary spending. For example, 58% of consumers said they are more likely to cut spending on dining out, and 44% said they would likely reduce their spending on food delivery services.

Holiday spending predictions

Consumers are looking forward to celebrating the holiday season, including Halloween, while 33% of consumers said they were excited for the holidays but have mixed feelings on shopping. For instance, 34% of consumers are not cutting back on Halloween expenses, while 27% plan to cut back on beverages. Additionally, 44% of consumers plan to stock up on candy for the house, 40% are getting candy for trick-or-treaters, and 40% said they’ll stay home to pass out candy this year.  

Lastly, consumers of all backgrounds are looking to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month through food and finding new recipes, with 41% of consumers saying they like trying new multi-cultural dishes, and 26% turn to social media for meal inspiration.

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