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More than 84% of Australians have had to cut back to afford bills

4 min read
25 Aug 2023
woman shopping for cheap groceries in Australia

Australian households have so far weathered the storm of rapid rate rises and the increased cost of living, but to prepare for a possible recession, many are cutting back costs in any way they can.

According to a recent Compare the Market survey, eating out, grocery shopping, holidays and family entertainment are just a few of the ways families are clawing back cash.*

One of the top ways Aussies are saving money is by ordering fewer takeaway meals and not going out as much (62.5%).

Skipping holidays is second on the list, with 46% making cutbacks to the travel savings account. Meanwhile, over 2 in 5 Australians are cutting back on groceries (42%) and family entertainment (43.5%).

Other savings methods include dialling back on clothes shopping (39%), beauty treatments (30%), home improvements (29%), and streaming services (26%).

Despite a pause in the cash rate hikes, Compare the Market’s Phillip Portman said people are still scouring for savings.

“Family budgets have definitely taken a hit, after a record run of rate rises and increased costs – it makes sense that people are trying to save in every way they can,” Mr Portman said.

“Some economists have predicted a recession is still on the Australian economy’s bingo card, so many households are trying to squirrel away as much money as they can in case the worst happens.”

What Aussies have had to cut back on to afford bills within the past three months

 Item/activityGen ZMillennialsGen XBoomersTotal
Grocery shopping51.80%43.90%48.70%31.10%42.20%
Eating out/takeaway meals55.30%68.30%66.50%55.30%62.50%
Entertainment/family activities40.40%45.10%49.40%37.70%43.50%
Streaming services33.30%28.50%27.10%18.20%25.60%
Home improvements14.90%30.10%31.60%29.80%28.70%
Beauty treatments32.50%28.20%32.70%29.80%30.40%
Clothes/shoe shopping38.60%41.70%41.60%34.10%39.00%
Cultural activities (museums, theatre)17.50%14.70%18.60%22.80%18.50%
Health appointments21.90%21.00%27.10%16.20%21.30%
Car servicing18.40%14.40%22.70%15.60%17.40%
Gym memberships14.00%18.20%16.70%21.20%18.20%
No, I haven’t cut back10.50%9.40%12.60%27.50%15.80%

Unsurprisingly, more than a quarter of Boomers haven’t had to cut back on anything.

Meanwhile, Gen Z are cutting back the most on their grocery shopping (52%) and streaming services (33%).

Millennials are scaling back their beauty treatments (68%) and clothes shopping (42%).

Gen X have a big budget hit list, cutting back on holidays (51%), entertainment (49%), beauty treatments (33%), health appointments (27%) and car servicing (23%).

Whereas Boomers are the most likely to cut back on trips to the museum and the gym.

Mr Portman said it was concerning to see that 21% of Australians are cutting back on their health appointments.

“Health is one area that you shouldn’t have to compromise on,” Mr Portman said.

“There are plenty of other ways we can claw back cash.”

1. Put your bills under the microscope
Rather than giving up or cutting back on important health appointments, see if there are other ways to claw back cash in your bills. For example, if it’s been more than six months since you’ve switched energy retailers, see if there’s a better deal available so you’re not paying more than you need to for gas and electricity. Similarly, when your insurance renewals come through, put them under the microscope and see if you can sniff out a better deal with another provider. A number of comparison websites take all the heavy lifting out of doing your own research and can help you save a tonne of money.

2. Utilise reward programs
Many insurance providers, energy retailers, takeaway outlets, telcos and supermarkets offer reward programs, where you can earn points to exchange for cheaper goods or access discounts. You may be able to slash the price of movie tickets, entertainment, dining experiences and more by making the most of these programs.

3. Opt for pick-up rather than delivery
If you plan on ordering takeaway food, consider picking up your order rather than having it delivered. Some apps charge a fee for delivery, service, or require you to spend a certain amount for the fee to be waived. Similarly, check the apps before making an order, as specials or discounts may be available.

4. Break up with your streaming service
You don’t need to be paying for too many streaming service, so break up with the ones you use the least. Rather than paying monthly fees for each service, only pay for what you’re going to consume. If you simply can’t go without, consider annual subscriptions, which can work out cheaper than monthly plans. Also consider downloading the apps available from TV networks that allow you to stream for free.

*Survey of 1,004 Australian adults, conducted in July 2023.

For more information, please contact:  

Natasha Innes | 0416 705 514 | [email protected]

Compare the Market is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We make it Simples for Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy insurance, energy, travel and personal finance products from a range of providers. Our easy-to-use comparison tool helps you look for a range of products that may suit your needs and benefit your back pocket.

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avatar of author: Natasha Innes

Written by Natasha Innes

Natasha Innes is a Media and Communications Advisor at Compare The Market. Natasha joins us after working as a journalist at the Courier Mail and Seven News. She graduated from Queensland University of Technology with a dual degree in Business and Journalism majoring in Public Relations.

[email protected]

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