Households remain “under real pressure”, with consumer spending on essentials growing at its highest rate in almost two years, a report warned today.
Consumers continued to be squeezed in February, with 46% of those surveyed putting at least three quarters of their income towards bills and essentials, the Lloyds TSB Spending Power report found.
Spending on essentials grew 6% year on year in February, the highest rate in almost two years, driven by high utility bills as water bills increased by 15.9% and gas and electricity spending went up 10.5% annually.
Car fuel spending also saw "strong growth", with an 8.9% year-on-year hike, while food and drink spending rose by 6.4%, the report found.
Despite the high living costs faced by households, the impact of easing inflation is beginning to filter through, the report said.
After inflation, incomes fell 0.5% year on year in February, an improvement on the 1.3% fall seen the previous month.
The proportion of people who said they felt concerned about inflation also dropped from 84% in January to 79%.
Patrick Foley, chief economist at Lloyds TSB, said: "Households remain under real pressure. Any improvement in this situation will depend on lower inflation on essentials as income growth is likely to remain weak in the short term.
"We would expect households to start seeing the benefit of lower inflation in the next few months, assuming oil prices don't continue to rise sharply, and with an improvement in consumer sentiment and spending."
The latest report found that households have the equivalent of £45 less a year to spend on non-essential items than they did last year.
Of the consumers who were considering borrowing cash, the highest proportion (30%) were those who said they did not have enough money to meet monthly outgoings.
A total of 2,499 consumers took part in the study last month.