Living in a cost crunch, it can be difficult to gauge how hard things are, and how much harder they may get, while simply dealing with day-to-day needs.
Items may seem more expensive at the checkout, and the price creep of the overall bill seems to be accelerating. But how hard-pressed are we really? And how much restraint do we need to apply to our spending?
Annual inflation today sits at 7.2 per cent and is one clear measure of the country’s economy but there are more relevant government datasets to the experiences of New Zealanders. Data from the Food Price Index and Household Living-costs Price indexes (HLPI), as examples, also add depth to the view.
For this reason, the Herald has developed a “price tracker” to look at the variations in costs for different items and the average living costs of different households in New Zealand.
We can see for instance that in the past year, food prices have increased by 12 per cent. But in Auckland, prices increased by 11.3 per cent while in Hamilton they increased by 13.2 per cent. That percentage adds up in a weekly or fortnightly grocery shop.
For the year to December, the average household cost increase was 8.2 per cent - a whole percentage point higher than the official inflation figure. The highest-spending households, often those with big mortgages, had a price increase of 9.4 per cent.
Overall, government agencies collect and publish a lot of data on the costs New Zealanders are facing - the Herald price tracker will make this data accessible to our readers and, alongside our wider coverage of the cost of living in Aotearoa. In that way, it should help guide and inform New Zealanders to navigate these tougher times.
Along with the price checker, the Herald has this week boosted coverage of the cost-of-living crisis impacting all New Zealanders. We’ll present personal stories of how people are struggling, and managing, to get by.
Hopefully, by making it easier to understand where your household sits in these pressed times, you may also gain the time to look at the wider picture. There are those who are doing it tougher.
There is also the global perspective of a planet suffering an existential crisis.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has declared priority number one to be the cost of living and, in doing so, has sacrificed some climate change mitigation efforts at the altar.
In an unfortunate coincidence of timing and circumstance, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also this week issued its latest report, full of urgent warnings of fast-closing windows.
By all means, we should check our daily overheads and work out how to live within our means. At the same time, we need to get our heads around what is happening to the world. Understanding the wider situation is the first step to making the changes needed to live responsibly.
Coping with the cost of living should not have to mean planet Earth pays the ultimate price.