New survey shows parents are cutting back spending, under considerable strain due to skyrocketing cost of living

A new survey is shining a light on the immense pressure Kiwi parents are under as the cost of living soars. 

The newly released survey of 1226 parents, step-parents and guardians by health insurer nib highlighted the impact high inflation and increasing costs is having. 

The respondents were asked about a range of things including the cost of living, health, well-being and the impact of technology on families. 

The majority said increasing prices are placing considerable strain on households and their health and wellbeing is suffering as a result.  

Costs have been steadily rising partly because of low unemployment and staffing shortages and partly because of high inflation. 

Annual inflation has skyrocketed over the past year from 4.9 percent in the September 2021 quarter compared to a whopping 7.2 percent in the same quarter this year. It comes after years of low inflation. 

And it's having an impact with 62 percent of the parents surveyed revealing rising costs are affecting their ability to raise their children. The survey also found 43 percent are cutting back on activities that cost money, and 39 percent are reducing non-essential spending, especially on items like toys and gifts. 

Meanwhile one in eight are experiencing more severe impacts, such as having to go without essentials or needing a secondary income.

Managing the family and household is the greatest source of stress (61 percent) for parents including navigating family relationships, the health of the household, behaviour issues and finding childcare.

More than half of parents surveyed (57 percent) worry about juggling work and family life or managing job security, while two in five (40 percent) are stressed about financial uncertainty (up from 35 percent in 2021) and 33 percent are worried about managing debt.

nib New Zealand CEO Rob Hennin said Kiwis are recovering from several years of COVID-19 disruptions with many now facing economic hardship. 

"Parents were just beginning to adjust to a 'new normal' in the wake of COVID-19 when cash rates began to rise and house prices plummeted, it's no wonder they are now feeling the pressure," Hennin said.

Hennin said the survey also showed a third of parents are worried about debt and mortgage repayments. 

"This is on top of the existing home life pressures such as navigating relationships (29 percent), health (27 percent) and even separation from loved ones overseas (13 percent)," he said.

While 91 percent said they were able to keep up their regular childcare services, the rising cost of living meant they were concerned for their child's future.

One anonymous respondent said their biggest concern for their child was "them not being able to buy their own home or survive comfortably even if they do make a good wage because everything is so expensive nowadays".

nib's resident parenting expert Nathan Wallis said the difference year on year from the 2021 survey is marked.

"Parents have never done it so hard. In these circumstances, focusing on wellbeing and finding ways to access support becomes really important," Wallis said.

"Self-calming strategies are helpful tools to manage stress, along with spending quality time with family, doing things that don't necessarily cost money. Parents can take advantage of the summer months by getting outside with their kids and can make the most of free activities like concerts and movies in the park. 

"And of course, don't go at it alone. There's no such thing as being too proud to accept help when it's offered.  Lean on your networks of friends and family who can ease the daily burden," Mr Wallis added.

Greater pressure on ethnic minorities

While six out of 10 parents said the rising cost of living has affected the way they raise their children, ethnic minorities are facing greater pressure with 73 percent of Asian parents, 72 percent of Māori and Pasifika families reporting feeling the crunch to a greater degree. Younger parents and women in those groups are finding it particularly hard as well. 

To make ends meet, many Māori, Pasifika and Asian families are having to make more sacrifices than their Pakeha counterparts. 

While around half of Māori and Pasifika families are reducing spending, parents from these groups are more often going without essentials like skipping meals and petrol (23 percent and 17 percent respectively) compared to Pakeha (11 percent). 

Meanwhile, more Pasifika (21 percent) and Asian (22 percent) parents report needing a secondary income compared to Pakeha (10 percent