NATIONAL -- The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way the world shops, perhaps forever in some respects. Consumers are spending more money even while social distancing, according to personal finance website WalletHub’s new Coronavirus Shopping Survey.

During social distancing, about 58 million Americans are spending more than normal, which is a cause for concern, considering the dire state the economy is in at the moment. Many people use shopping to ease stress, as 43% of Americans have participated in "comfort buying" due to social isolation.

While some overspending may be attributed to stockpiling essentials, other Americans may be spending beyond their means due to stress or simply boredom.

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“Considering the dire state of the economy, and the negative projections, spending more than normal is definitely not a good idea right now,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst. “The main piece of advice is to make a budget, stick to it, and make sure you don't spend beyond your means. It's also important to keep putting money aside, whether it's for an emergency fund, or longer-term goals such as retirement."

This nationally representative survey asked a range of questions, from whether Americans’ spending has increased to what types of non-essential items they are purchasing most and whether they have concerns about deliveries of packages and food. 

Comfort Buying

Comfort buying to relieve the stress of social distancing is fairly common, with 43% of Americans saying they have done it. Of those who have engaged in comfort buying, 63% are keeping their purchases below the $150 mark,” Gonzalez said. “It’s interesting that comfort buying behaviors vary by age. Around 60% of people aged 30 to 44 report comfort buying, compared to just 32% of people over age 59.”

What are people buying?

“The most common type of non-essential purchase people make is entertainment, closely followed by alcohol, which might make sense since both are ways to take people’s minds off of the crisis,” said Gonzalez. “Despite social distancing protocols, the surge in video conferencing has led people to keep up with their physical appearance more than you might think, as some of the most popular spending categories are clothing and beauty products.”

  • Entertainment: 29%
  • Alcohol: 23%
  • Clothing: 15%
  • Beauty Products: 13%
  • Electronics: 12%
  • Toys: 5%
  • Exercise Equipment: 3%

Worries about packages being contaminated by coronavirus

“Around 57% of Americans worry about the safety of packages they order during the pandemic, and around half care about the state or country from which a package is being shipped,” said Jill Gonzalez, WalletHub analyst.

Gonzalez added that nearly 60% of Americans worry about contamination in food deliveries during the pandemic. Even though delivery and takeout orders are readily available, some people may be too apprehensive to order.

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