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Households spending more on basics, less on extras

Aussie households are spending more of the weekly budget on basics such as housing, food, energy, healthcare and transport, according to the latest ABS data.

$846 of the average $1,425 spent weekly by households is being spent on non-discretionary goods and services, or 59 per cent.

That’s up from 56 per cent in 1984, when the largest contributors to basics were food (20 per cent), transport (16 per cent) and then housing (13 per cent).

The latest result is the latest in a long-term decline in discretionary spend relative to basics, recorded by the ABS in the six-yearly Household Expenditure Survey (HES).

In 2015-16 housing was the largest contributor to basics spend (20 per cent), followed by food (17 per cent) and transport (15 per cent), the ABS said on Wednesday.

The ABS, which conducted the last survey in 2009-10, found that the largest increases in spending by households have been in education (44 per cent), household services and operations such as cleaning (30 per cent), energy (26 per cent), health care (26 per cent) and housing (25 per cent).

Spending on discretionary categories such as alcohol, tobacco, clothing and footwear, and household furnishings have not changed much in the last six years.

Spending on clothing and footwear continues to decline, falling from more than 7 per cent of weekly spending in 1984 to less than 4 per cent.

Household furnishings and equipment exhibits the same long-term behaviour, having fallen from more than 8 per cent of total weekly spend to less than 5 per cent.

There has been a significant increase in the proportion of households reporting no ‘financial stress’ markers, up to 59 per cent in 2015-16 from 54 per cent in 2009-10.

Indicators include: households being unable to raise $2000 in an emergency; spending more than they receive; being forced to pawn or sell items; skipping meals; being unable to afford a holiday for at least one week per year; or being unable to afford a night-out once a fortnight.
15 per cent of Australian households classified as in financial stress in 2015-16, relatively unchanged from the 16 per cent reporting financial stress six years ago.

Households in financial stress spent nearly half as much ($339) per week on discretionary items as those not in stress ($659).
Across the country greater capital cities spent far more on housing, food, recreation and miscellaneous good and services, spending more in all spending categories than their non-urban counterparts, except for tobacco.

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