While New Zealanders continue to curtail spending and ramp up saving, almost a third are expecting to have trouble paying off debt in the next few months with financial strain hitting families the hardest, according to a survey released today by Dun & Bradstreet.
The credit reporting agency in the same survey found that half of New Zealanders are worried about their financial circumstances given economic instability domestically and internationally.
Dun & Bradstreet spokesperson John Scott said worries over the sovereign debt crisis in Europe on top of weak economic conditions at home were compounding financial struggles average New Zealanders were grappling with. He said a likely consequence was increased difficulties meeting credit obligations.
The survey, which examines expectations for savings, credit usage, spending and debt performance for the September quarter 2012, found that 56% of respondents with children were concerned about their current financial situation. That's seven per cent above the national average and 13 per cent above the figure for couples with no children.
In a sign of further difficulties facing consumers, D&B data shows that "the majority of New Zealanders are shying away from discretionary spending and loan applications." This includes credit cards, debit cards, personal loans, mobile phones and pay TV subscriptions.
Sixty-six per cent of respondents said they were less likely to spend on non-essential items such as entertainment or beauty treatments. Nearly 70 per cent of families fell into this category.
Despite a greater inclination to save, a third of consumers expect to rely on credit to cover unaffordable expenses in the coming quarter, with this figure rising to 36 per cent for families.
Scott said vulnerable New Zealanders were having to rely on credit cards to meet basic expenses putting them at risk accumulating "bad debt" that they would struggle to pay down.
Scott suggested this would be a good opportunity for New Zealanders to determine what information is on their credit reports so they could better manage their credit commitments.