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How Australians are Responding to the Cost of Living Crisis

Published May 20, 2022

Sej Patel, Country Manager Australia New Zealand

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As global inflation continues to rear its ugly head, Australians are feeling the impact. In fact, over nine in ten (92%) Aussies say that they’re aware of the increased cost of living, and three in four (76%) say they’re at least moderately concerned about their personal financial security as a result.

To better understand the pain points of consumers—and how they might change their behaviors as a result—Toluna conducted a survey of 1,058 Australians ages 18+ between May 5 and May 7.

Australians are concerned about their personal finances

When asked how their personal finances compare to a year ago, half of Australians said they were worse off—as opposed to about one in five who feel their situation has improved. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that pessimists outweighed optimists when we asked respondents to project their personal financial situation three months into the future. Forty percent of Aussies say they will be worse off financially—double the amount that expect to be better off.

Accordingly, consumer confidence is extremely low. Just one in four respondents say they’re confident spending money in the coming months in light of the increased cost of living in Australia, whereas 44% have their doubts. For brands, this paints a clear picture. Australians are not only worse off than last year, but they’re not all that hopeful for the near future, either. Assuaging those concerns with cost-effective offerings is going to be key to winning consumers over.

Where Aussie wallets are feeling the biggest impact

Where are consumers feeling the impact the most? Above all else, consumers cite the grocery store as the biggest impact to their wallets. In fact, 81% of Aussies say they’re feeling at least some impact in the grocery store—and a third (34%) say the impact is large. The products that are causing the most pain? Over half of Australians (52%) say they’re seeing a lot of price changes for fresh foods like fruits and vegetables, and over a third (34%) say the same for chilled foods like dairy and meat.

As the cost-of-living crisis is expected to continue, we asked respondents how their grocery shopping might change in the coming months. In terms of specific behaviors, they said:

• 41% will change the amount of snacks they buy

• 37% will buy more own label products

• 31% will visit more stores in search of value

• 31% will change the brands they normally buy

• 26% will shop less often, but buy in bulk

Aussies aren’t just feeling the pain at grocery stores, either. They’re feeling the impact of the rising cost of living at restaurants and clothing stores, too. Fifty-eight percent say they’re feeling at least some impact when eating out, and the same amount feel at least some impact when buying clothing.

How Aussies are planning to adapt

In times of economic uncertainty, consumers are forced to consider their priorities and cut back on non-essential spending. So, we asked Aussies to assess the top three areas where they’ll look to reduce spending in the coming months. It’s easy to spot the theme:

• 45% will reduce spend on eating out

• 40% will reduce spend on takeaway food

• 38% will reduce spend at bars and pubs

• 33% will reduce spend on travel abroad

Out-of-home food and beverage purchases are some of the first expenses to go, but what about the expenses that Aussies are reluctant to let go of? Thirty-seven percent say they’re least likely to give up their TV subscriptions, while three in ten (30%) say they won’t give up at-home alcohol consumption. Much like during the height of the pandemic, consumers plan to eschew out-of-home leisure activities for at-home entertainment.

What are some of the other ways that Aussies will look to adjust?

• 58% are turning the lights off whenever possible to save on energy costs

• 44% are taking shorter showers to save water

• 26% say they will reduce their contributions to savings and investments to account for the increased cost of living

• 19% say they will withdraw money from long-term savings or investments to account for the increased cost of living

While these findings paint a concerning picture of the state of personal finances in Australia, there’s still an opportunity for brands to capture market share by demonstrating an understanding of consumers’ challenges—both through the products and services they offer, as well as how they price and market them.

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