We're ditching the fun things in life to pay for the basics - and new research shows the problem is forcing many people to change their lifestyles.
Research carried out for APN shows people are putting aside more money than a year ago for power, insurance, rates and petrol - and ditching the dining out, takeaways, pay TV subscriptions and the booze.
It's almost certainly the reason Statistics New Zealand figures out last week for the March quarter showed retail sales fell 2.5 per cent - the largest decrease since those records started being collected in 1995.
With petrol back near its historic highs, insurance premiums surging more than 10 per cent in some cases in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, rates rises continuing unchecked despite the Supercity merger (Kaipara is planning 31 per cent rises this year), and power continuing to consume more of the family budget before winter has even begun, there is little hope of a bounceback any time soon.
And people will be anxiously awaiting Thursday's Budget from Finance Minister Bill English to see if they will be hit further in the pocket. The online survey of 3000 APN readers contained some stunning figures.
Nearly 75 per cent of respondents said they were spending more on power than last year, 68.7 per cent had more set aside for rates, 66.6 per cent had noticed increases in insurance, and 44.5 per cent said petrol was a major increased cost worry.
It meant they were spending less at restaurants (43.4 per cent were spending less), on takeaways (39.5 per cent), alcohol (32.7 per cent) and movies and concerts 35 per cent).
Hospitality Association of New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said 64 of his members had gone out of business since August and the figures were no surprise. "The last three years have been pretty challenging and the consumers are looking for deals and bargains," Robertson said.
He said the downturn was leading some small businesses to take drastic action.
A members' survey showed 28 per cent of bosses were actually paying themselves less than the minimum wage.
"I think the last three years are certainly among the toughest the industry can remember."
Despite the pressure, many who replied said the adjustments were all about good planning, and that they were still having fun, just cheaper fun.
Auckland psychologist Ian Lambie said the changes were unlikely to lead to long-term unhappiness. In fact, careful management of finances was likely to have a positive effect, Dr Lambie said.