Kiwis are keeping their credit cards safely tucked away and thinking twice before taking on debt, new research shows, Lydia Anderson reports



The effects of the global financial crisis are still being felt. Many New Zealanders are waiting for a more positive economic climate to splash out on a spending spree.



But are we managing to put anything aside for a rainy day? What does the research show? Kiwis have a disastrous track record when it comes to saving money. But new research suggests we're trying harder to squirrel our pennies away.



It shows 39 per cent of Kiwis plan to save more in the next three months, compared to the same time last year.

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A further 28 per cent are less likely and 32 per cent are just as likely to save, according to Dun & Bradstreet's Consumer Credit Expectations quarterly survey.



The survey also shows people are reluctant to take on credit or get further into debt.



New Zealanders' focus on financial stability appears unlikely to shift in the short term, says Dun & Bradstreet New Zealand's general manager Lance Crook. "Despite the positive conditions and low interest rates, consumers appear reluctant to increase their use of credit and are instead maintaining the recent trend of saving money."



A growing number of Kiwis expect to have a lower level of household debt in the coming months, at 29 per cent - up from 23 per cent a year ago.



Economic adviser to Dun & Bradstreet Stephen Koukoulas says the recovery in New Zealand is different this time. Many consumers have learned from the global financial crisis. "The cautious approach to debt from consumers is a welcome development as it points to a long-awaited and much needed change in attitudes to savings."



Does the research stack up? Budgeting services have noticed the change in attitude to savings but warn there are areas where Kiwis come "unstuck".



More people are starting to "think twice and do without" big-ticket hire-purchase items, says Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox. "They're thinking about the long-term implications of credit."



But many people are resorting to "problematic" cash loans such as payday loans, which have to be paid back in about 30 days.

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She also questions whether Kiwis are able to save any more, due to rising living costs. "When those basic costs go up ... and people's incomes don't go up, it really squeezes your ability to do anything."



Meanwhile, although more people on lower incomes are entering the national KiwiSaver scheme, many are starting to withdraw funds under a hardship clause.



"It has increased over the last year or two quite a lot. For the first couple of years people didn't have a lot of savings but now that it's been five years there's more money there, it's enough to bail you out of a situation."