SOURCE: fluent


August 13, 2013 09:00 ET

New Fluent Survey Points to Increased Cost-Consciousness Among College Millennials for Back-to-School

More Expenses and Less Money Keep Students Focused on New Era Necessities

BOSTON, MA--(Marketwired - Aug 13, 2013) -  According to the results of a recent back-to-school survey among U.S. college students, the lessons of the "Great Recession" might be sinking in as a staggering nearly 80 percent of students described themselves as more cost-conscious this year than a year ago. More than half reported having to meet higher expenses this year with less money, and as the survey indicates, their spending habits prove their concerns. The survey of 1,000+ students was conducted July 29-August 6, 2013 by Fluent, a Boston-based College Millennial Consumer (CMC) marketing agency. (

"Students heading into their first year of college this fall were 8th Graders when Lehman Brothers collapsed, the bank bailout began and unemployment surged," said Michael Carey, EVP of Fluent, an agency that specializes in "translating" brands for the college world. "As a result, most young people are no strangers to budgeting and economizing. At the same time, they are willing to pick and choose a few luxuries and splurges to keep life fun. It's about maximum cost/benefit for them and the brands that understand this will do well with this demographic."

Highlights to the survey are provided in an infographic at, and in slide form at

Below are key details:

Working the Bottom Line

  • When asked if they would describe themselves as either MORE or LESS cost-conscious than last year, 79% of college students answered 'more,' while 21% answered 'less.'

  • 53% said they have to meet greater expenses this year with less money. 26% said they have less money this year to work with but their expenses stayed the same. Only 19% felt they had the money to meet expenses, while a meager 2% said they had significantly more money to spend this year than last.

  • In terms of summer job earnings, only 45% of students said they met or exceeded their earnings goal. 34% fell short of their goals, while the remaining 21% said they set no financial goals for the summer.

  • When it comes to meeting their expenses this year, CMCs reported relying on the following funding sources (respondents were asked to choose all that apply):
    • 54% rely on off-campus work during the school year
    • 52% rely on earnings from their summer jobs
    • 49% rely on gifts from family
    • 43% rely on student loans
    • 38% rely on work/study programs
    • Only 15% reported relying on credit cards

Where the Money Goes

  • According to the Fluent survey respondents, the five top "must haves" for CMCs this year are grounded in necessities, albeit with a few "New Era" necessities such as mobile technology (ordered according to ranking):
    • 1) Text books, 2) Transportation, 3) Clothing, 4) Mobile,
      5) Dorm/apartment furnishings.

  • When it comes to products they choose to splurge on, the top five categories selected by students were (ordered according to ranking):
    • 1) Clothing, 2) Computers, 3) Mobile, 4) Decorating, 5) Dorm/apartment furnishings.
    • In addition to these main categories, respondents wrote in additional items they splurge on such as brand name backpacks, shorts, designer agenda planners and make-up - far from major luxury purchases.

When Are They Spending

  • While not surprisingly many college students (37%) said they begin and end their back-to-school shopping in August, nearly an equal number (36%) said they have no fixed start or end date to their shopping, rather, they are "always stocking up."

Purchasing Influences that Matter, And Those that Don't

  • The top three purchasing influences college students rated as "very important" were:
    • 1) Friend's recommendations, one-to-one, 2) Coupons, both online and mobile and 3) In-store product test drives.

  • The three purchasing influences rated least important by college students were:
    • 1) Pinterest and other visual sharing social channels, 2) Online product demos and 3) Magazine articles and other editorial pieces.

About Fluent
Specializing in "translating brands for the college world," Fluent works with clients who want to understand and engage College Millennial Consumers (CMCs) nationwide, both on- and off-campus. Formerly known as Campus Entertainment, the firm's exclusive affiliation with the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) allows clients insider access to nearly 1,000 colleges and universities allowing unparalleled access and insights to help sharpen brand relevance through integrated marketing solutions that create brand loyalties. Fluent capabilities include: campus activities and programs, College Millennial Consumer insights, digital and social media strategy and activations, and experiential programs. Clients have included major brands such as Microsoft, Macy's, PacSun, Skype, Zipcar, Sun Drop, Kotex, Dove and L'Oreal.

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