Spending by wage-earning households fell an inflation-adjusted 0.4 percent in May from a year earlier, down for the first time in two months, the government said Friday.

Average monthly spending by these households came to 313,762 yen, according to the Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry.

The average monthly income of the households decreased 0.2 percent in real terms to 441,284 yen. Disposable income was up a real 0.1 percent to 341,102 yen.

Household spending has been fluctuating recently. The 0.4 percent fall in May follows a 0.9 percent gain in April, which was the first increase in three months.

In terms of expense items in the reporting month, wage earners tightened their purse strings with children living away from home while attending school, said Masato Aida, director of the ministry’s consumer statistics division.

Such spending dropped 22.3 percent in nominal terms from a year earlier “in a possible reflection of the severe economy,” he said.

Other retrenchments were mostly mild, with energy bills falling 3.6 percent in real terms and transportation and communication costs declining a real 0.8 percent.

Aida said the decline in energy costs was mostly due to a fall in gas fees, as the warm weather of the past winter reduced heating costs compared with a year earlier.

Among expenses that posted gains, cultural and entertainment outlays were up a real 5.4 percent, rising for the first time in three months, due chiefly to a 78.6 percent surge in spending on TV sets.

Aida said consumers apparently rushed to purchase TVs to watch the World Cup soccer games, which began May 31.

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