Business

Families borrowed to spend more in 2018

Family in supermarket Image copyright Getty Images

The amount households spent each week in 2018 climbed to £572.60, the highest level since 2005, according to the latest Family Spending Survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But families had to borrow, or use up savings, to fund their spending and investment activities.

Transport was the biggest weekly spend, averaging £80.80, 14% of the total.

Families also spent £76.10 on housing, fuel and power each week and £74.60 on recreation and culture.

Spending insight

The ONS report, in its 61st year, provides an insight into family spending habits and how it differs across the country and across age groups.

For instance, households headed by someone aged 30 or under spent 60% of their housing expenditure costs on rent.

But for households aged 50 to 74 years, the highest proportion - at almost a quarter - of their housing expenditure costs went on alterations and improvements.

Borrowing to spend

The headline figure in the report was £572.60 - the average weekly household spending in the UK in 2018.

It is the highest level of household spending, after adjusting for inflation, since the previous peak in 2005, and a figure that has been climbing steadily upwards since hitting a low point in 2012, at the height of austerity.

But the households' saving ratio fell to 3.9%, the lowest seen since records of that measure began in 1963.

For all quarters in 2018, households were net borrowers, meaning that they had to borrow or draw on their savings to fund their spending and investment activities.

Emma-Lou Montgomery, associate director for Fidelity International said: "Household debt in the UK has been rising steadily over the last few years, largely due to cuts to benefit and limited wage growth affecting incomes.

"This has left some households relying on loans to cover basic, everyday living expenses."

Analysis by Dharshini David, economics correspondent

The Family Expenditure Survey is the statistician's equivalent of having a nose around the basket of the person ahead of you in the checkout queue.

It gives an interesting insight into how households spend, although not the timely record of how much they're spending (for that we have the GDP figures).

Transport remained the biggest category, taking up 14% of spending in the year to last March. But perhaps more fascinating is how our spending patterns have changed over time.

In the survey's 61-year history, the proportion of our budget that has gone on housing has risen - while that spent on clothing and food has more than halved.

The latter is largely a reflection of globalisation and the lowering of trade barriers. But the ongoing trade war between the US and China and the risk of a no-deal Brexit could pose a risk to that trend.

Last month, the governor of the Bank of England warned that food prices could rise by as much as 10% in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

This survey throws up some colourful detail.

Under 30s spent the most on takeaways, £7.60 per week. But before we despair of the nation's health, the amount we spend on alcohol has fallen over the last decade, once the cost of living is allowed for.

Sobering news

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There was sobering news in the report for pubs and restaurants.

Households' average weekly spend on booze was less in 2018 - at £8 - compared with 10 years ago, when it stood at £10.90, after adjusting for inflation.

When it comes to buying takeaways, there's a marked difference according to family wealth and age.

Households with the lowest disposable income spent proportionally more on takeaway meals eaten at home, with the poorest 10% spending 19% of their catering services expenditure and the second-poorest spending 22%.

By contrast the richest spent just 8% of their catering services expenditure on takeaways, the lowest proportion across all income groups.

Households in the under-30 age group spent the most on takeaway meals eaten at home at an average £7.80 a week, 19% of their spending on catering services.

Meanwhile households in the over-75 age group spent the most on restaurants and café meals at £11.40 on average per week - 68% of their catering expenditure.

Regional variations

Average weekly household spending was the highest in London and the South East last year, while spending in the North East was the lowest.

In London, households spent an average of £658.30 a week, while in the South East, the figure was £657.50; that was more than £85 a week more than those in the next highest spending region, the South West.

In the North East, the weekly household spending figure was just £457.50, more than £200 less than families spent in the capital.

Scottish households spent an average of £492.20 a week, in Northern Ireland the figure was £488.50, while in Wales it was just £470.40.

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