Spending habits – why won’t older Aussies change theirs?

people shopping in the mall

It seems that the over-50s, and that includes me, are not overly keen on change, even if it would mean saving money. That’s one of the takeaways from a new survey on the spending habits of Australians.

The survey, commissioned by delivery company CouriersPlease, reveals that most Aussies have committed to changing their spending habits this year.

Richard Thame, CEO of CouriersPlease, said the survey highlights the cost-of-living pressures most Australians are experiencing. “The results of this survey are an important indicator of the changing mood and spending habits of Australians,” he said.

Mr Thame said this in turn showed a need for retailers to reshape their business models.

“As consumers become more value conscious, it is essential for retailers to adapt their pricing and promotional strategies,” he said. Retailers should also “diversify product offerings, and consider expanding their delivery options”.

The devil in the detail of our spending habits

The survey entailed asking a series of questions of more than 1000 Australians. All of them had made at least three purchases in the previous three months. They were asked which (if any) of the following money-saving tactics they would adopt:

  • buying from generic or cheaper brands
  • buying items more often during sales periods, such as Black Friday
  • waiting for ad hoc discounts before purchasing (e.g. 10 per cent off an entire website)
  • researching more and comparing prices before purchasing to find the best-value items
  • buying some second-hand or recycled items
  • using buy now, pay later payment services more to help stretch out cash flow
  • buying items on credit more often
  • switching to a zero interest or low interest credit card.

Ignoring gender and age, the two tactics mostly likely to be adopted were price comparison and waiting until sale periods. More than half of respondents (55 per cent) committed to researching and comparing prices. Nearly as many (54 per cent) said they would do more of their buying during sale periods.

Switching to generic brands (48 per cent) and ad hoc discounts (41 per cent) such as 24-hour markdowns also scored well.

What about the over-50s?

It seems that us older folk are the least likely to take on board a change in spending habits.

As well as the eight options mentioned, survey respondents could also provide two other answers – ‘Other changes, not listed above’ and ‘I won’t make any changes to my spending habits this year’.

Overall only 9 per cent said they would make no changes at all. But for the over-50 age group that figure rose to 13 per cent. By comparison, only 5 per cent aged 18-30 and 6 per cent of 31-50-year-olds would make no change.

The one category in which the over-50s ‘win’

Over-50s were more willing to embrace just one of the eight money-saving tactics when compared to the younger age groups. As many as 58 per cent of us are happy to start researching more and comparing prices before purchasing. That puts over-50s ahead of the 31-50-year-olds (54 per cent) and the 18-30-year-olds (50 per cent).

Of course, not all change is good change, which is perhaps why some of us aged over 50 are hesitant to alter our spending habits. But if we can save money by doing so, it might be time for us to become a bit more open to the concept. Especially in the face of the current cost-of-living challenges.

Have you changed your spending habits in response to the cost-of-living increases? Are there any you would recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: How to save on winter energy bills as power prices and cost-of-living surge

Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


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  1. I’ve embraced a few of the points. I research well, thank heavens for the internet. I have NO credit card; I use a debit card instead. I have embraced buy-now-pay-later, especially for essential medical items, e,g, CPAP equipment. But if you do it for too many, they keep crunching every pension day for a while! In one aspect I’m limited; with no car, I can’t travel to places to look at cheaper items, e.g. white goods, furniture, mobility items. Although some places deliver. Unfortunately, re grocery, cheaper supermarkets like ALDI don’t do deliveries, so I’m confined to the big two. The most useful strategy for ongoing costs, is to call electrical provider, insurance, etc yearly to ask if there’s cheaper rates; am I on the best plan.

  2. I decided to cut up my credit card once I went on the age pension, and I will never use ‘buy now now, pay later’ but I have used all the other strategies for years as have never really had cash to splash. One big change for me on the pension, however, is to do with wasting less food. I am much more organised about using up what is in the cupboard and no matter how boring or challenging it is to turn odds and ends into something nice, freezing, and stocking up basics in advance eg flour, ice, eggs, bread, tea. I also value and play with herbs and spices, explore new recipes, and watch cooking shows religiously. I’m much more cost efficient foodwise than I was before. I also have a set list of regular payments I must make (house and water rates, rego, RACV Assist, telstra, power, cat license, ambulance subscription and others) based on how much each cost on average for a year, divided by the 24 pension payments and put that total each fortnight into a seperate account. It removes a LOT of stress. I also add a bit more so when something not regular but still unavoidable (sick cat, car hiccup, medical, family gifts, child needing help etc) happens, I raid that account and pay it back. The mix of ‘I know I’ve got it’ and ‘I can take it from the rates etc account but must pay it back’ has worked well. Its like I am my own personal bank, I am able to stay on top of bills, I never have to stress about unavoidable essentials, and I still have around half the pension remaining to accommodate the unexpected, and other basic needs. My ultimate aim is to save money to survive and stay out of debt. Not to save just so it can sit there. Maybe I could if I had less coffee with friends, or no occasional op shop binge, or no gifts, and got rid of Sam (cat) but $’s are tools for living, not an end in themselves.

  3. I’d probably be in the ‘make no change’ category. I already do whatever I can to not waste money. When examining my ‘budget’ against my limited income I don’t think I can really make any further changes without seriously detrimental consequences.

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