Official figures show housing costs, including council tax, now account for an average 18% of expenditure for UK households – double the rate of 60 years ago.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), total average weekly household spending recovered to pre-financial crisis levels for the first time in the 12 months to the end of March 2017.
The research, carried out using information from 375,000 households since 1957, showed weekly expenditure at £554.20.
It represented a rise of £21.20 – or 4% – on the previous financial year, the ONS said, and was mainly driven by a surge in spending on transport costs – up £5.40 per week on average when adjusted for inflation.
Image: Ford sells the most popular vehicle in the UK’s new car market
The period covers only the start of the surge in living costs witnessed since early last year as Brexit-linked inflation began to outstrip wage growth – damaging spending power.
Nevertheless, the Resolution Foundation think tank said the ONS figures showed families were living beyond their means given that wages grew by 2.3% over the period on average.
The ONS said all transport categories – public transport, vehicle ownership and vehicle maintenance – contributed to the average weekly spend of £79.70 per household on travel.
The study pointed to the greatest contributions coming from the sale of cars as both new and second-hand sales hit record levels in the 2016-17 period.
Image: Six per cent of average household spending went on tobacco in 1957 – down to 1% in 2017
There were four points highlighted by the ONS, comparing family priorities and spending habits with those in 1957.
In addition to the leap in expenditure on housing costs – not covering the price of a property but net rents and outgoings such as maintenance – it said the proportion of total spending on food had halved – from 33% to 16% – during the period.
It said the percentage of spending on clothing had also halved to 5%.
The ONS said those falls may be attributable to improved choice and competition and the fact the number of people per household is now, on average, lower.
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Image: The proportion spent on alcohol in 1957 is said to be the same as today
Two interesting social comparisons showed that spending on tobacco accounted for 6% of weekly expenditure 60 years ago – now down to an average 1%.
It said the figure for alcohol was the same, at 3%, despite fluctuations over the study’s lifetime.