Brits now spending less on essentials
Brits are growing more optimistic about their finances in the wake of easing inflation, according to new research.
The amount of money households had to spend on essentials – such as energy and food – in March rose by just under 1% in March - the lowest rate of growth for more than a year.
Spending growth on gas and electricity bills fell from around 5% in February to around 3% in March, figures from Lloyds Bank show.
Food spending also slowed from 1% to 0.5% over the two months, while fuel bills now cost 4% less than a year ago.
But while only a minority of British consumers think the economy is doing well, negativity is starting to lift.
The proportion of consumers who thought the UK's financial situation was 'not good or not good at all' was down from 90% in March 2013 to 71% in March 2014. And the number of people stating it is 'not good at all' fell by 25 percentage points over the same time period.
People in the North East of England were the most concerned about the UK's financial situation, with 80% saying it is 'not good or not good at all' in March, compared to 59% of people in Greater London.
Patrick Foley, chief economist at Lloyds, said: "The economic backdrop for consumers continues to improve, as ongoing growth in employment, and pay growth that finally begins to keep pace with inflation, feeds through to rising confidence.
"As pressure on consumer wallets from essential spending continues to ease, both the willingness and capacity to undertake discretionary spending is likely to rise in the months ahead."
In March, the official measure of inflation – the Consumer Prices Index – fell to 1.6% in March, down from 1.7% in February, according to the Office for National Statistics.
An increase in the general level of prices that persists over a period of time. The inflation rate is a measure of the average change over a period, usually 12 months. If inflation is up 4%, this means the price of products and services is 4% higher than a year earlier, requiring we spend and extra 4% to buy the same things we bought 12 months ago and that any savings and investments must generate 4% (after any taxes) to keep pace with inflation. Since 2003, the Bank of England has used the consumer prices index (CPI) as its official measure of inflation (see also retail prices index).