Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press
Shoppers walk in front of a store advertising a sale on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, in San Jose, Calif.

Although there are many voices decrying the lack of savings among Americans, a new poll by Gallup shows that when given the preference, people would rather save money than spend it.

But it wasn't always this way.

Before the 2008 financial crisis, Americans were pretty divided on the question of which they would enjoy more, saving money or spending it.

Back in 2005, for instance, 50 percent of Americans said they preferred saving money and 46 percent said spending money was better.

After 2008, a preference for savings went up and now sits at 62 percent versus 33 percent of those who say they would rather spend their money.

"Americans' newfound enjoyment of saving corresponds with a reduction in overall household debt," Gallup says. "In early 2009, even as the percentage who preferred saving money had risen to nearly six in 10, household debt as a percentage of GDP hovered around 98 percent. During the past five years, with the preference for saving continuing at this higher level, household debt has fallen to 81 percent, according to data from the Federal Reserve."

"Self-reported consumer spending is up overall this year," says Millionaire Corner's Donald Liebenson in a summary report of the survey, "but Americans don't necessarily perceive of themselves as spending more. Four in 10 said they are spending less in recent months than they used to, while 28 percent said they are spending more and 30 percent said they are spending the same amount."

But 40 percent say they are spending less in recent months, Gallup found. Of those 40 percent, 28 percent say they is a new normal pattern. Twelve percent say it is a temporary pattern to spend less.

Douglas McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street says the preference for savings may impact holiday shopping: "If thrift follows caution, the trend might be that Americans will look for value and discounts this year, because splurging has gone out of fashion."


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