More than 15 million Australians are living under lockdown conditions, and while many are saving money by staying home, for others, the cost of living is only creeping higher.
New analysis by Finder has revealed 27 per cent of Australian households have seen their quarterly energy bills increase since lockdown began, with the average quarterly energy bill now $344.
And with people spending more time at home in winter, the cost of running heaters or air conditioning for an average four hours per day is expected to cost households at least another $233 over winter - on top of their quarterly bill.
“It seems like it is easier to save money in lockdown when you aren’t spending on travel, transport or dining out, but other expenses can easily creep up if you aren’t careful,” Finder personal expert Kate Browne said.
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“If you want to cut costs in lockdown keep a close eye on your spending online, make sure you don’t have heaters and lights on all day if they don't need to be, and be mindful that streaming content all day can drive up your internet bill if you don't have an unlimited plan.”
She also suggested Australians shop around for a better energy deal if they can.
Additionally, the research found 15 per cent of Australians are spending more on food delivery in lockdown, with younger people and those in NSW the most likely to head online for food delivery. However, a similar proportion say they’re spending less on food delivery.
A slightly smaller proportion (13 per cent) say their internet bill has gone up compared to two months ago, while 7 per cent have seen their bills reduce.
NSW residents are the most likely to have seen their internet bills increase.
Many Australians (26 per cent) have also seen their spending on online shopping excluding food delivery increase, with more than a third of Millennials and Gen Z Australians increasing their online spending.
The same trend is occurring for NSW residents, with 32 per cent admitting they’re spending more online.
“Online shopping is convenient – but can be too convenient when you’ve been cooped up in the house for too long,” Browne said.
“It can be easy to fall into the habit of online shopping for entertainment when you are bored at home.”
Wages slow, cost of living increases
Finder’s analysis comes as Australia records sluggish wage growth, with the latest 0.4 per cent growth coming as a disappointment to economists.
“The June quarter saw the rate of growth in hourly earnings ease to 0.4 per cent, following two quarters of 0.6 per cent wage growth,” Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) head of prices statistics Michelle Marquardt said on Wednesday.
This growth marks one of the lowest rates the series has ever recorded.
At the same time, the consumer price index (CPI) has risen at its fastest annual rate in nearly 13 years, led mainly by a 6.5 per cent petrol price hike.
The CPI is now 3.8 per cent higher than it was in 2020.
"The annual CPI movement was significantly influenced by COVID-19 related price changes from this time last year,” Marquadt said.
“Key drivers included the full unwinding of the Federal Government's free childcare package implemented in the June quarter last year, as well as a full return from the drop in fuel prices seen in the same quarter.
“These 'base effects' led to a sharp increase in the annual CPI movement".
Fruit and vegetable prices increased 4.7 per cent and 5.5 per cent respectively in the June 2021 quarter, while beef prices increased 3.6 per cent as a picker shortage and lower beef supply drove up prices.