As November 24 nears, retailers and shoppers around the country - and the world - are hitting peak Black Friday frenzy.
The phenomenon, imported to these shores from the US early this century, has turned into one of the staples of the sales calendar.
According to some surveys, more than 9 million Australians have, or plan to, take advantage of Black Friday offers this year.
It is a big deal. The Australian Retailers' Association reckons shoppers will spend $6.36 billion during the sales period, up $188 million (around 3 per cent) from last year.
But hang on. How can this be when millions of families are under enormous financial pressure?
With inflation running above 5 per cent, interest rates high, real wages going backwards and rents, utility bills, petrol and health costs all climbing fast, many households are finding their budgets under major strain.
Mortgage payments as a proportion of disposable income, to name just one metric, are at record high levels, and almost half of low-income renters devote more than 30 per cent of their gross income to housing.
These pressures are showing up in spending data.
The Commonwealth Bank's household spending index, which which tracks the expenditure of around 7 million customers, fell 1 per cent in October as people cut down on discretionary spending like eating out, airfares, concert tickets and the like.
Retailers themselves report people are putting less in their shopping baskets and switching to no-name brands.
So what to make of the Black Friday spending splurge?
Economists reckon these sorts of sales are really just shifting the timing of when people spend, not how much.
If last year is any guide, a flurry of bargain hunting late this month will be followed by a subdued December for retailers.
As Reserve Bank of Australia governor Michele Bullock acknowledged last week, these are lean times for many households, particularly those on low incomes or who have recently bought into the property market.
Monthly repayments on a $700,000 mortgage have jumped $1814 since the RBA began hiking rates in May last year and many tenants have faced just as crippling increases in their rent.
But rising interest rates have been a boon for a different group of households who derive much of their income from interest-bearing deposits and other investments.
This group tends to be older, to have accumulated assets like superannuation and to have higher rates of home ownership.
This means that in addition to higher rates on their deposits and other investments, they also enjoy the wealth effect from increasing property prices.
When the Reserve Bank talks about households that still have substantial savings buffers to draw upon to sustain their spending, these are who they primarily mean.
Manipulating interest rates is the central bank's sole tool to fight inflation. It is powerful, but also exceedingly blunt.
So, while a lot of households are being crunched by the combined effects of high inflation and tight monetary policy, many others are taking it in their stride.
The disparity has added more fuel to the debate about the way the tax system exacerbates intergenerational inequality and needs to be reformed to ensure the sustainability of government spending as the population ages.
The Albanese government has so far shown little appetite to open up this discussion.
The storm that erupted when it made a small tweak to the superannuation system to cut the tax break for those with very large super balances has made it leery of more far-reaching changes.
But, as the Intergenerational Report made clear, we are staring down the barrel of decades of deficits unless changes are made to broaden the tax base away from its heavy reliance on wage-earners and pare back the incentives that have distorted the housing market to the extent millions are effectively locked out of home ownership.
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