Household spending on housing, fuel and power has overtaken transport for the first time in recent years, figures show.
Households spent an average of £68 a week last year on the category, which includes rent, fuel, electricity and maintenance but excludes mortgages, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
The category required the highest spending by households, a rise likely to have been driven in part by increases in electricity and gas prices and an area where “there may be limited scope for many households to reduce consumption”, the ONS added.
The cold winters of 2011 and 2012 also contributed to essential spending on heating.
The proportion of households renting has also risen in recent years, from 29 per cent to 34 per cent.
The latest Family Spending data shows that UK households spent £489 on average per week in 2012.
Once inflation is taken into account, average spending has decreased since 2006 when households spent £526.40.
Transport has seen the biggest spending reduction taking inflation into account, falling from £87.10 per week in 2001/2002 to £64.10 in 2012 despite the price of petrol increasing substantially.
The ONS said it was likely that motorists had responded to fuel price increases by reducing journeys while noting that spending on petrol (£16.40) combined with diesel (£8.20) accounted for almost two fifths of the transport costs.