Our financial pain on par with nation

THE North West and New England regions were experiencing the same financial pain as the rest of the nation, a Salvation Army spokesman has said.

The first national Consumer Pulse Report, released by CHOICE on Friday, revealed an anxious picture of Australia’s households.

The national consumer survey found that in the face of rising bills during the past year, 46 per cent of Australians reported cutting back on essential spending and 62 per cent on non-essentials. 

More than half of those surveyed put clothing and entertainment (both 57 per cent) at the top of the list of household cuts.

“Almost one in three respondents told us they find it difficult to get by on their current income, with one-in-five saying they have scraped through to payday by living off credit or borrowing from friends or family,” CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland said.

“This reveals some striking concerns with cost-of-living, which is perhaps not surprising at a time when inflation is outstripping sluggish wages growth, retail sales are fragile and the political debate remains focused on household expenses,” Mr Kirkland says.

Salvation Army PR director, northern NSW Dale Murray said the report’s figures were consistent with this area’s research, too.

“There are people experiencing financial difficulty, so (the figures are) no surprise to us. That’s what we’re finding day in and day out – that people are struggling to make ends meet,” Mr Murray said.

“Our Salvation Army personnel are meeting people like this every day.”

The report shows the squeeze is hardest on low-income households, renters and parents with school-aged children. 

Electricity tops the list of household expense concerns at 84 per cent, with fuel (81 per cent) and food and groceries (77 per cent) close behind.

The survey was undertaken just before the repeal of the carbon tax – and the high concern over electricity is consistent with national trends during the past three years.

Mr Murray said it was a “recurring theme that people are challenged with their utilities and gas” and that there were increased living costs across the board.

He urged people to use the Salvos’ Moneycare Centre (call 6762 3930, Monday to Friday 9.30am-3pm) before bills spiralled out of control. Go to www.choice.com.au/consumerpulse

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