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Being able to put food on the table and having a job are the key concerns of Australian consumers heading into 2021 after a year dominated by the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual Consumer Pulse Report conducted by financial comparison site Canstar found for the first time in four years that being able to pay electricity and gas bills has slipped from the top worry to third.

The cost of groceries and job security were the joint top concerns among the 2000 Australians surveyed, both at 12 per cent compared with 10 per cent in 2019.

The cost of electricity and gas scored nine per cent versus 14 per cent last year, while the state of international political affairs rose to seven per cent from four per cent and the cost of rent also increased to seven per cent from one per cent.

“Australians are in survival mode,” Canstar’s group executive for financial services Steve Mickenbecker said.

“Current financial concerns highlight peoples’ focus on sticking to the basics of putting food on the table and keeping a steady job in the year ahead.”

However, just over half of Australians said they were debt-free, excluding a mortgage, compared to 37 per cent in 2019.

Concerningly, more than one in five respondents were unsure if they had any debt.

While 30 per cent of those surveyed have dipped into their savings and 11 per cent have taken on more debt in the past year, 46 per cent said they saved the same or more and 15 per cent have reduced their debts.

The impact of the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions this year has, for the first time in the survey’s history, seen saving for a holiday bumped from the main expense people are saving for.

“The number one expense Australian savers are working towards currently is living costs, which was third in the priority list last year and shows many Australians are saving to get by right now,” Mr Mickenbecker said.