Consumer confidence picked up slightly in August, but higher household costs and rising interest rates mean less people are feeling better off than they were a year ago.

Confidence improved 0.7 points to 116.3 in August, bucking the decline of the previous two months, but falling within the usually monthly volatility, the latest ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence survey shows.

The current conditions index was flat at 103.7 from 104, while the future conditions rose to 124.7 from 123.4.

Consumer sentiment was at its highest in Auckland (up five points) and Wellington (up four points).

ANZ head of market economics and strategy Khoon Goh said the overall message remained one of caution.

"Less people are feeling financially better off compared to a year ago - perhaps a sign of higher household running costs starting to bite."

Goh suggested this may weigh on spending decisions in the near-term.

While the proportion of people who think now is a good time to purchase a major household item is up, the survey results suggested there was a limit to the extent in which consumers would be able to "front-load" major purchases.

The current reading on major household purchase intentions pointed towards modest retail sales, despite a expected pick-up in pre-GST hike activity, the survey says.

Still, people are upbeat about the outlook with a net 7 per cent expecting better times in the next year, up from a net 3 per cent in the previous month's survey.