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Data from Barclaycard, which sees nearly half of the nation’s credit and debit card transactions, reveals that spending on essentials (3.8%) outstripped discretionary spend growth (2.8%) last month – the return of a trend seen over the second quarter of 2017.

Expenditure on ‘must-haves’ was driven by increased spending at the pump (5.4%) and in the supermarket (3.7%), as higher prices on petrol and everyday groceries helped push inflation to its joint-highest rate in more than five years (2.9%).

Shoppers reined in their spending on entertainment (8.2%), reflected in slower growth in restaurants (11.4%) and pubs (7.7%) – down from 12.4% and 9.2% respectively in August. Last month’s figure was the smallest increase in pub expenditure since March 2015, suggesting the arrival of unpredictable, autumnal weather may have kept Brits away from beer gardens.

The absence of any major ticket releases or blockbusters in September saw spending on cinemas and event tickets fall 5% to enter negative territory for only the second time this year.

Balancing the books remains a top priority for Brits as they continue to make minor adjustments in spending to offset rising prices and stagnating wage growth. Six in 10 (62%) now feel they get less for their money compared with three months ago – the highest figure since Barclaycard first started asking this question in 2014.

Months of ‘feeling the squeeze’ appear to be taking their toll, with consumers growing increasingly concerned about future economic shocks. More than four in 10 (42%) believe they would have to make spending cutbacks if interest rates rise in the future, while a similar proportion (40%) are putting major household purchases – such as a new car – on hold amidst economic and political uncertainty.

This cautious outlook appears to have dampened any sense of early festive cheer with many consumers planning a more modest Christmas this year, four in 10 (41 per cent) saying they intend to spend less than they did in 2016.

Paul Lockstone, Managing Director at Barclaycard, said, “Household expenditure was largely flat in September after accounting for the effect of inflation. Rising prices are undoubtedly having an impact on shoppers’ spending priorities, with more of the budget devoted to everyday essentials. As a result, consumers are having to work increasingly hard to stretch their monthly budget and the ‘nice to haves’, such as time at the pub and eating out, have clearly taken a knock.

“Looking ahead, consumers are protecting their purse strings against potential rate rises and other economic and political uncertainties. Many are planning a more frugal Christmas and will be taking advantage of peak sales periods such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday to make their money go further. As we head towards the festive season it will be interesting to see whether their spending intentions translate into reality.”

(source: Barclaycard)