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Covid-19 is impacting the savings, spending, and summer holidays of Europeans

A TFI survey of 5,000 people across five countries
Posted on June 24, 2020

The coronavirus has changed nearly every aspect of our daily lives. And our personal finances are no exception. During two weeks in mid-May, we ran a short tracker across five European countries (Germany, Romania, Poland, Spain, and Turkey) to learn more about how the pandemic has altered crucial factors that determine our spending and saving habits. We find that due to Covid-19, most households are seeing:

  1. a lasting drop in their savings,
  2. a change in their spending patterns across expense categories, and
  3. a big disruption to their summer holiday plans.


Total savings are falling for the majority of consumers

When we asked people whether they were already seeing or anticipating any change in their savings in the next three months, we found that not everyone has been affected in the same way. Even though 20% of people told us they are actually increasing their savings after Covid-19, there is a remarkable 46% of consumers seeing their nest egg shrinking. The net negative result (-26%) is telling us that for most European households savings are at risk and likely melting down.

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The situation differs significantly across countries: Romanian and Polish households are experiencing the worst impact, while in Germany the situation seems more or less stable. This relates to the fact that in the most impacted countries almost 40% of people stated that they have lost or are at risk of losing a part of their income, while, at the same time, 60% of consumers say they will need to tap into their savings because of the coronavirus crisis. The upside of all this might be that consumers have become more aware of the importance of having a rainy-day fund as almost half of our respondents mentioned that they will try to do more to build on their emergency savings for the future.


More money spent on essentials and discretionary expenses pulling back

The spending priorities of households have also been disrupted by the pandemic: money spent on essentials keeps its momentum whereas more discretionary expenses have reduced substantially in comparison to pre-Covid-19 levels. On the one hand, we observe people prioritising on expenses related to housing utilities, food and groceries as well as on digital consumption such as online subscriptions and at-home entertainment. On the other hand, we see the sharpest declines in consumer spending in the categories related to travel and eating out; this of course as a result of the lockdowns and the still low levels of consumer optimism regarding travelling and vacations.

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The question that remains is how long the impact of the pandemic on spending habits will last. This is acutely relevant in the shift we’ve seen towards online shopping, which could be the force accelerating e-commerce innovation across multiple industries. We’ll be exploring more deeply these trends in online consumption patterns in our next survey.


Summer holidays and travelling abroad cancelled for most

Consumers didn’t wait too long to adjust their expectations and summer holiday plans for this year as a results of the Covid-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions. Our survey shows that most people are still feeling quite pessimistic about travelling abroad: almost 40% told us they had arranged a summer vacation abroad but cancelled their plans as a result of the pandemic. Another 23% say they didn’t have holiday plans outside the country yet and don’t expect to make any, as travelling abroad seems very unlikely. However, the opportunity arising from this holiday-abroad-gloom is that consumers in general are becoming more open to spending summer holidays in their home country. Now, as travel restrictions in Europe start to lift, we expect some optimism for tourism to come back. We’ll be exploring the holiday plans and changes in consumer attitudes for the this year’s summer in our next survey as well. Stay tuned.

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A more extensive version of this article was published by ING THINK here. This article is a contribution to the Think Forward Initiative by Maria Ferreira, Economist at ING.