Frugal Trade? Americans Spend Less on Food, More on Tech

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Rogelio V. Solis/APA customer looks at the screen size on the new iPhone 6 Plus while waiting in line to upgrade his iPhone at a Verizon Wireless store in Flowood, Miss., last month.
By Steve Liesman | @steveliesman

Nearly half of Americans have cut back on spending, including for travel, food and health care, in order to afford their technology.

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that 49 percent of the 805 respondents economize to afford technology. The nationwide survey, with margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, found the top way to save for technology, chosen by about a third, is to cut back on traditional entertainment such as movies and restaurants. But 20 percent report cutting back on clothing, 11 percent purchase less food and 10 percent have reduced spending on health care.

Two groups that stood out as skimping the most to keep up with the Tech Joneses: women between the age of 18 and 49 and people with incomes between $50,000 and $75,000. Nearly 60 percent of respondents in both of these groups have reduced spending to afford technology.

When it comes to which technology is the most important, Americans clearly choose the cellphone. Asked which bills they definitely would pay if they ran into hard times, 39 percent said they would make sure to get a check in the mail for their cellphones, compared with 28 percent for Internet services and 20 percent for pay television, such as satellite or cable. But just 46 percent felt totally committed to paying their credit card bills, just five points above the response for paying for cellphone bills.

By contrast, 92 percent say the definitely would pay their mortgage or rent bill and 90 percent would make sure to pay the utility bills. Seniors were the most committed to paying the cable bill.

More than half of Americans report paying more for technology, with 31 percent saying they do so because it's more expensive and 13 percent because they are just buying more technology. Nine percent cited both reasons.

7 Best Things to Buy in October
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Frugal Trade? Americans Spend Less on Food, More on Tech

Sure, plenty of Halloween costumes are at their most expensive now, but you can still find affordable options if you know where to look. "Shop last year's inventory to get the lowest prices. Most stores have a clearly marked clearance section in store and online," notes Howard Shaffer, vice president of, on Kiplinger. "You can also save 30 to 40 percent off this year's costumes if you wait to shop a day or two before Halloween. The selection will be gone, but the deals will be there. And, you can always shop online. Coupon codes will allow you to save even more on sale items and stack your savings."

"There are a lot of great deals on camping equipment in October," Shaffer says. "It's the end of camping season, and clearance sales are offering 60 to 70 percent off tents, summer hiking gear and fishing gear." It figures that camping essentials are cheaper just when you've wrapped up your outdoor shenanigans. That's often the nature of retail, though, and you can use it to your advantage. If your current camping supplies are looking a little rough, don't wait until the peak buying season to buy. Instead, purchase discounted goods now and put them in storage for next year.

Denim continues to be a hot buy this month, especially now that the back to school flurry of sales has died down and retailers are eager to keep sales up between now and the holidays. Denim is typically discounted by stores as a "get you in the door" maneuver in hopes that you'll stick around and buy more stuff. In addition to finding sales in stores, look for online promotions.

As car dealerships anticipate the new year, many are eager to sell both current and earlier models. "The clock is ticking on 2014, and dealers want to get rid of their new summer inventory," reports Apartment Therapy. "Now that it's October, the end of the year is in sight, and they are starting feeling the pressure." If you can, wait to the end of the month -- or the end of a promotion -- to take advantage of car salesmen who are especially eager to make that sale.

There are several jewelry buying lulls in the year. One of those is in early fall while everyone's preoccupied with Halloween and back-to-school shopping, just before the major holiday push.

New home appliances are released during the fall, which has retailers eager to move the old stuff off the showroom floor. Promotional sales are common, and you have more legroom to negotiate.

Gardening and outdoor necessities are on sale for the same reason camping gear is discounted: they're out of season. Head to any retailer that sells grills, plants, gardening supplies, lawn equipment, patio furniture and the like, and you're likely to find sweet deals.
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