Cost of Living Spending Cuts - What Are People Spending Less On?

The cost of living crisis has led to the British public reducing the amount they spend, but what have they actually cut back on?

A picture of somebody holding a selection of coins in their hand.
(Image credit: Getty)

The headline figures of the cost of living crisis are startling. Food costs are at a 45-year high with prices not seen since 1977 with the price of basic foodstuffs rising by up to 80% according to James Sillars and Niamh Lynch over at Sky News. 

This is on top of incredibly high energy prices, increases in both mortgage rates for homeowners and rents for renters, and a high rate of general inflation off the back of the pandemic. It’s not a pleasant picture whichever way you look at it.

Despite Michael Race at the BBC writing that wages have grown at the fastest rate in over 20 years, money is not going as far as it once did. As reported by Olivia Marshall at The Sun, this has led to real-term wages in the UK falling by 2.4%. With this fall in income, British households have had to cut their spending to ensure they get through the months.

Are Consumers Planning Any Spending Cuts?

Yes, data from the Heart Of Britain showed that 56% of people have recently or would consider cutting back on buying themselves non-essential treats in order to save. They also reported that 61% felt ready for the cost of living crisis despite any financial worries or spending cuts they’ll have to make.

So Has the Cost of Living Crisis Actually Led to Reduced Spending?

Long story short, yes. Valentina Romei at the Financial Times reported that their analysis ranked Britain as 41st out of 43 nations. Research of the Heart Of Britain audience shows that 80% of respondents had made financial cutbacks, with 32% making significant financial cutbacks and 48% making slight cuts to spending. 

So what have British consumers been cutting back on with their spending?

Close up of a British one pound coin on British banknotes.

(Image credit: Getty)

What Are The General Headline Figures?

Research carried out by KPMG has found that 55% of UK consumers have cut down their spending on non-essentials. Dining out was particularly singled out with 63% saying they had cut back in this area. 36% of consumers had changed to shopping at more affordable retailers and 37% had started buying more value and own-brand products in supermarkets. 33% were buying fewer items altogether and 11% revealed they were using credit more.

34% suggested that they were using savings to help cover their essentials for the month. 41% hadn’t purchased any expensive big-ticket items and 34% said they weren’t planning on doing so for the rest of the year. Despite these other answers, the general feeling of financial security remained relatively stable. 29% of respondents said that they felt less secure, 45% felt the same as they did last year whilst 25% felt more secure than they did at the start of the year.

Food

Barclays found that 68% of UK consumers were looking at ways to reduce the cost of their weekly shopping. With 49% of people deciding against getting themselves one-off treats and luxuries, 48% of shoppers are opting for value ranges and 46% are making a shopping list and only buying what they need.

Jasper Jolly at The Guardian also reported that shoppers were also putting frozen foods in their baskets over fresh foods as a way to save. 30% of shoppers were also more frequently shopping in reduced sections at the supermarket and 21% were buying less meat and fish.

A man shopping in a supermarket whilst looking at his phone walking down the frozen aisle in front of a row of freezers.

(Image credit: Getty)

Streaming Services

Away from necessary items, one of the easiest things for UK consumers to cut has been streaming services. Mark Sweney at The Guardian reported that almost 170,000 streaming subscriptions were cancelled by UK households in the first quarter of 2023 with Netflix being the biggest streaming service hit. Netflix even attempted to counter this by introducing a tier of memberships priced at just £4.99 a month, but this wasn’t enough to stop people from deciding that it was a cost they can live without each month.

Discretionary Spending

Other areas of discretionary spending that saw hits were clothing and makeup and beauty products. Barclays also found that consumers were swapping name brands for more affordable versions of expensive items, also known as ‘dupes’. 68% of shoppers were reported to be doing this with food and drink products, 28% with clothing, and 23% with makeup and beauty products.

Is There Any Hope in Sight?

Despite the doom and gloom so far in the article, yes there actually is. Wholesale energy prices have actually fallen from their high points. Because of the complicated nature of the global energy market and how energy companies buy it in advance, there is a lag time between lower wholesale prices and cheaper prices for consumers.

The UK government expects energy prices to fall below the Energy Price Guarantee level so household energy bills will luckily come down at some point! But even with this forecasted drop, it’s expected bills will still be higher than they were in winter 2022/2023.

With high energy bills being one of many people’s main concerns this should helpfully alleviate the worries of many. Ultimately leading to more money in people’s pockets to spend and save a bit more to their heart’s content.

What About Christmas?

No matter how hard the year, everyone always looks forward to a good Christmas. Does the British public think Christmas will be affected? The Heart Of Britain found that only 1 in 4 people that responded were planning on scaling back their spending this Christmas, with families putting aside money to splash the cash for the festivities. 

So from the data it’s clear to see that the UK public has been hit by the cost of living crisis and that there has been a conscious reduction in spending amongst UK consumers. How long this lasts, how much reduced energy bills will help alleviate concerns and whether big events like Black Friday and Christmas will be affected is yet to be seen.

Jordan Alexander
Food & Drink Editor

I’m Jordan and I’ve been working at MyVoucherCodes since the summer of 2021. Outside of money-saving, I’m a keen musician and guitar player and can regularly be found in a dingy venue somewhere in Bristol or perched in front of my laptop recording. When I’m not doing this you’ll find me exploring the city, watching cult B movies, reading a Stephen King or Murakami novel, or guiding the mighty Bath City to Champions League glory on Football Manager. All the cliches, I know.