The wallet-freezing effects of the global financial crisis, finance company collapses and prolonged local recession have had one good outcome.
New Zealand households saved $200 million more than they earned in the year to March.
Statistics New Zealand released the latest institutional sector accounts this morning, showing households recording their first year of net savings since the turn of the century, in 2000.
By comparison, in the year to March 2010, households spent $1.6 billion more than they received in income.
While the latest savings total equates to just 0.2 per cent of net disposable household income, the switch in behaviour is significant.
The imbalance between household spending and income peaked in the year to March 2006, when households spent $6.85 billion more than they earned.
While lower spending and higher savings help explain sluggish domestic retail sales, the figures will be seen as a sign that the extended period of debt-loading through the mid-2000s is, for now, over.
"Household sector saving is positive for the first time in more than a decade, after borrowing first began to decline several years ago," Statistics NZ's Vannessa Turner said in a statement.
However, the impact of the recession on tax revenue and the one-off hit from the Christchurch earthquakes has been severe for the central and local government sector's savings figures.
In 2007, at the height of the debt boom and when the government was running large budget surpluses, government sector saving peaked at $11.8 billion. In the year to March 2011 the government sector spent $2.4 billion more than it earned.
Overall, New Zealand's national saving was $1.2 billion in the year ended March 2011, compared with $2.0 billion the previous year.