The survey of 1,022 people by Mainstreet Insights shows a majority of Australians in the past year actively decided to spend less on 'stuff', and more money on family and experiences.

More than three quarters (77%) said they'd be happy to earn less if it meant spending more time with loved ones or pursuing hobbies. 

When broken down by generation, Gen Z was most likely (20% of sample size) to feel 'buyer's remorse' over items compared to their parents and grandparents (Gen X, 14%; and Baby Boomers, 7%). 

Mainstreet co-founder Mark McCrindle said this was a 'strange contradiction' of consumer culture.

"More than three in four Australians are willing to trade earnings for time which highlights how Covid has reset the national psyche from chasing accumulations to reprioritising life," Mr McCrindle said.

"It’s all the more remarkable that this is occurring amidst economic uncertainty."

Not much money in the bank despite saving more

In 2020, the household savings ratio skyrocketed to levels not seen in nearly 50 years, largely off the back of JobKeeper, JobSeeker, other stimulus programs, and lockdowns limiting opportunities to spend. 

AMP also found that average consumer incomes improved by $5,000 in as little as five months.

Despite this, however, Mainstreet's survey found more than half (53%) of respondents had less than $5,000 in their savings account, while just over one-fifth (22%) reported having less than $100 in the bank.

"This research highlights just how precarious household finances are, with just one in three Australians having enough money to support their family for a week if their income stops," Mainstreet co-founder Dr Lindsay McMillan said.

"It shows just how lifesaving COVID emergency payments continue to be."

Just over two-thirds (67%) also prefer to keep cash for emergencies, despite the total value of ATM withdrawals in Australia dwindling over the past few years, according to Reserve Bank data.

In May 2021 there was just over $8.8 billion in Australian ATM withdrawals, down from highs of nearly $13.6 billion in March 2009.

"Cash may no longer be king, but it is still something we like to carry, just in case," Mr McCrindle said.

"Indeed, just over half of the tech-savvy Generation Z (54%) still carry cash proving its universal appeal.

"Cash while declining in use, will survive this pandemic, but it is now more for backup than everyday use."

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash