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Families are struggling to keep up with bill payments as everyday expenses continue to rise, a budgeting service says.
A Statistics New Zealand survey shows average weekly household spending has increased by more than $90 over the past three years, to $1111.
That's been driven by significant increases in the cost of food, transport, housing and household utilities like gas and electricity.
Aucklanders are spending the most, an average of $1253 a week, and spend significantly more on housing, transport and food than residents elsewhere in the country.
The Household Economic Survey showed housing costs and utilities were the biggest household costs at $272, making up about a quarter of household bills on average.
Food costs made up one-fifth of expenses, costing $192 a week on average, up from $177 three years ago.
Darryl Evans, CEO of the Mangere Budgeting Service, said clients were spending a large portion of their income on rent, with very little left for food.
About three-quarters of clients in private rentals were paying 60 to 65 per cent of their income on housing, he said.
Among the service's clients, the average spend on food for a family of four was just $83.
"Which is why a large number of our families are trying to survive on two-minute noodles, and trying to bulk it up with frozen peas and corn," he said.
"The fact is a lot of families are absolutely struggling."
Many were under extra pressure at Christmas, with clients already ringing to ask whether toys and food parcels would be available over the holidays.
Some were buying second-hand toys from op shops for their children as presents, Mr Evans said.
The Household Economic Survey, which polled 3000 New Zealand households on their income and spending habits, showed spending was up 9.1 per cent on three years ago, while incomes were up by 11.5 per cent over the same period.
But other Statistics New Zealand data also released yesterday, based on a broader range of sources, showed incomes had not kept pace with spending in the past year.
In the year to March 2013, national accounts statistics showed spending was up by 2.6 per cent, while incomes had risen by just 1.8 per cent.
FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid said the figures showed families were just keeping their heads above water.
"The increased spending on food, petrol and other items reflects what we hear day to day from members of our union in low-paid jobs," Mr Reid said.
"Many families do not feel they are getting ahead, let alone the many households where one or more of their workers have lost jobs in recent times."