The first quarter of 2012 saw American consumers’ confidence in their personal finances beginning to return, according to Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group’s most recent MarketPulse survey. It specified that 19 percent of consumers feel their financial position has improved during the last year, 40 percent feel it has remained unchanged, and 41 percent feel it has deteriorated. Although these are not glowing statistics, it is the most optimistic outlook seen since the first quarter of 2011, SymphonyIRI notes. Still, consumers remain cautious about their financial future and will continue to ramp up and/or maintain their conservative shopping behaviors this year, the survey reports.

“Americans have certainly been on an economic rollercoaster ride for the past few years, so it is no surprise to anyone that they will not forgo their frugal ways even though they may feel a bit more confident about their bank accounts,” said Susan Viamari, editor of SymphonyIRI’s Times & Trends, in a statement. “They are opening their wallets a bit more these days, but they are still making lists and clipping coupons, so the key for [consumer packaged goods (CPG)] marketers is to demonstrate the value of their products to consumers.”

According to the survey, in the first quarter of 2012, 71 percent of shoppers made shopping lists at home versus 67 percent in the first quarter of 2011; 56 percent of shoppers chose stores based on lower prices versus 52 percent in the first quarter of 2011; and 62 percent of shoppers looked at store circulars before entering the store versus 56 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

Furthermore, in the first quarter of 2012, 7 percent of shoppers used retailer websites to make lists, 9 percent of shoppers used the Internet to make lists, 42 percent of shoppers made lists based on coupons, and 49 percent of shoppers made lists based on circulars.

In addition, the survey uncovered that 85 million mothers have a more optimistic outlook on the future compared to the general U.S. population. Overall, the general population is less optimistic about their personal finance expectations for the coming year compared to one year ago, it noted.

Furthermore, mothers over-index by a wide margin versus the general population across many social media activities. They are two-and-a-half times more likely than the general population to take recommendations orinformation from social networking sites or blogs; they are more than twice as likely to engage with smartphone applications; and they are twice as likely to react to mobile advertising.

“As the pool of tech-savvy moms continues to grow, the opportunity for CPG marketers and retailers that can connect with them across these various media will grow exponentially, too,” Viamari said in a statement.