Rising costs hitting hard

The CHOICE Consumer Pulse Cost of Living Report states that many Australians are finding it difficult to make ends meet, with fuel, electricity, food and health topping their list of concerns.

Of the 1000 respondents surveyed across all demographics, 48 per cent reported that their bills had increased considerably over the last 12 months, 41 per cent had noticed that their bills had increased a little, while eight per cent had not noticed any increase.

Spending on holidays, big-ticket items and entertainment was being cut by 62 per cent of those surveyed, but a whopping 31 per cent of respondents claimed they were finding it increasingly difficult to get by on their current salary. However, not everyone is struggling with rising costs. While 44 per cent indicated they were managing to make ends meet, 18 per cent actually reported they were living comfortably and five per cent claimed to be living very comfortably.

Electricity prices are a cause of concern for 52 per cent of respondents and even fuel prices were noted as concerning for 50 per cent of those surveyed.

The cost of pharmaceuticals and GP visits were other areas of concern, with 68 per cent and 65 per cent respectively, citing these costs as worrying.

CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland noted that 20 per cent of respondents were relying on credit to make it through to pay day. “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,” he said.

Inflation and poor wage growth were noted as contributing factors. “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,” said Mr Kirkland.

And if you’re a renter with less than $50,000 in household income, as many people living on a fixed income, such as a pension, are, you will be feeling the pinch the most, with 72 per cent of respondents meeting this criteria having to cut back on essentials in the last 12 months.

Read more at CHOICE.com.au

Opinion: How many on a slippery slope?

The news that many Australians are finding cost-of-living pressures increasing is not surprising, but that 20 per cent rely on credit or family and friends to make it through shouldn’t be ignored. For those who don’t rely on credit or turn to friends, the actual situation isn’t much better, with ‘getting by’ actually meaning dipping into savings for 35 per cent. And in what is often the first sign that finances are well and truly stretched, 22 per cent claim to have missed or delayed paying a bill due to simply not having enough money.

Household bills can’t be avoided, but there is at least some scope to cut back and shop around. Switching electricity providers, using shopper dockets to reduce the cost of fuel and careful shopping on grocery day are all strategies which many households put in place to cut costs. But when it comes to healthcare, where can costs be reduced – quite simply, you’re either sick or you’re not. Sure, there are some people who visit their GP more often than they visit own family, but this isn’t the norm and it’s certainly not the case for those who have to pay for visits and associated pharmaceutical costs.

The increase in health and pharmaceutical costs may put strain on already tight household budgets, but given that they are also compounded with a reduction in government support and an uncertainty about future costs and funding, it’s hardly surprising that 46 per cent of respondents to the CHOICE survey had to cut back on essentials in the last year. Neither is it surprising that 37 per cent of those surveyed reported that they were “very worried” about the government’s diminishing commitments.

Whether it’s skipping bills, borrowing money, or more seriously still, avoiding doctors’ appointments or filling expensive prescriptions, the financial outlook for many Australians isn’t looking too bright.

Does the CHOICE survey highlight anything new, or is it simply reporting what you already knew? Have you ever delayed a doctor’s appointment due to worrying about the cost, or the cost of associated treatment and medication? Does the government’s diminishing commitment to health and social services give you cause for concern?

Written by Debbie McTaggart