Australians have defied rising utility prices to go on a coffee, cake and takeaway food binge.
New figures compiled by CommSec show that average household spending is growing at its long-term average of 4 per cent - but what families are spending their cash on is rapidly changing.
The average household spent $72.55 a week on electricity, gas, water and sewerage services through 2011-12, an increase of $7.70 a week over the previous financial year.
The increase was almost solely driven by State and local government price rises.
But households lifted their spending on cafes, restaurants and takeaway foods by $8.78 a week over the same period.
The increase was driven partly by an increase in prices, but most of it was because people were eating and drinking out more often.
Households now spend almost $107 a week on dining out. That's on top of the $200.57 a week spent on food for the pantry and fridge.
So-called catering services are now the fourth biggest weekly spend for households - behind rent or mortgages ($379.89 a week), food and insurance and other financial services ($168.64 a week).
Charlotte Jones, 22, from Darlington, said she bought coffee and lunch from cafes nearly every day because it was convenient and social, but admitted she chose to avoid thinking about how much she was spending.
"It's something you do with your friends and it is a lot more interesting than sitting at home," she said.
Viv Paver, 22, from North Perth, who was on a date with Ms Jones at Siena's in Leederville yesterday, said he rarely went out for breakfast or dinner but would often pick up lunch, snacks and coffee from cafes and restaurants.
He estimated he spent about $100 a week at cafes, saying it was worth it because it was a good way to socialise.
"I like meeting lots of different people from different backgrounds and I find it pretty easy to meet up with someone over a coffee," Mr Paver said.
CommSec chief economist Craig James said the figures also suggested people were being forced into making more choices when it came to their expenditure.
"Bigger outlays on utilities, education and petrol have caused consumers to be more selective," he said."Aussies are checking prices more often and buying goods only when they are on sale."
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