European Vs American Buying Habits


The US and much of Northern Europe are both lucky to be in relatively financially strong positions. These are very much Western cultures that enjoy things to excess. Even in the financial hard times we’ve suffered recently, few of us really ‘want’ for anything in a meaningful way and we will still spend a good chunk of our salaries on toys, gadgets and lavish holidays.

That said though, there are certainly differences in the ways that we spend money in the US and over in Europe and those buying habits can provide an interesting reflection on the greater cultural differences between Americans and Europeans. Here, we will look at how those in the US and those in Europe tend to spend money differently.

The Similarities

First, let’s start with the similarities. Why? Because there are still more similarities in the US and Europe than there are differences. Both regions are largely capitalist and will purchase a lot of things they don’t need. Neither are particularly ‘minimalist’ and will tend to ‘treat’ themselves to unnecessary gadgets, DVDs and holidays. Culture has brought us up to ‘spend now’ and worry later. After all, ‘you can’t take it with you’ as the saying goes. It should perhaps come as no surprise then, that both the average European and the average American will be somewhat in debt.

At the same time though, we do all have some sense of duty when it comes to providing financial security for ourselves and our families. Most American and European households then will also aim to save some cash for a rainy day/Gwyneth’s college fund, even though they won’t always succeed in this goal.

The Differences

At the same time though, there are some differences between the ways that Americans and Europeans spend their money. The first is that Europeans are more effective at saving their cash. In one survey it was found that 12 Euro-zone countries surveyed saved on average 10.5% of their disposable income in comparison with 0.8% for Americans. The UK fall somewhere in the middle but still save more than their US counterparts.

Another interesting difference, which may contribute in part to the statistic above, is that Europeans are less likely to buy on credit. In European culture debt is more heavily discouraged. The average American will spend over $5,500 each year using their credit cards, while in Germany and France this is $64 and $30 respectively. In Eastern Europe there is generally a much thriftier attitude to money still. Poland is well known for being particularly hard working and of course most of that hard earned cash does not go on new computer games and suits.

There are also some interesting differences in the US and Europe when it comes to properties and differences between European countries. In Germany for instance it is much more common to rent a property rather than buying – even among the very wealthy (though there is growing interest in buying properties). In the US buying a home is much more of a priority with the rest of Europe falling somewhere in between often.

Is this all this saving a good thing? Well, yes and no. While saving money to one side is of course a good idea, particularly in an unstable economy, politicians and businesses in Europe are trying to encourage Europeans to spend more in order to help give the economy more growth and improve various industries. Ultimately though, it really comes down to what makes you happy. If you’re in a lot of debt and feeling stressed, then perhaps you should have made more like a European. If you’re currently enjoying your brand new toys and looking forward to an amazing holiday, then maybe not.

Europeans in the US

With Europeans in the US however you might see a different story, with many sporting expensive Armani tops despite still living at home with their parents. Why are their spending habits so different when they’re in the US?

There are many factors here to consider, but one is simply the fact that many Europeans living in the US will be relatively wealthy to have been able to immigrate in the first place. Another point is that they may have moved to the US in order to enjoy the trappings of an American lifestyle – what we’re seeing may just be evidence of them really making the most of that.