Households with children and pets are feeling particularly tightly squeezed by rising living costs, research suggests.
On average, people were paying £441 a month extra on household bills in the 12 months to February, according to a survey commissioned by mutual insurance and pensions provider, Royal London.
Those with children and pets have seen their total monthly bills soaring by £497 a month typically, the findings indicate.
Mortgage payments, energy bills and groceries were among the rising costs that people were grappling with.
Nearly a third (31%) of people surveyed generally said they were either overdrawn on their accounts at the end of the month or had to borrow money to make ends meet.
Just over a fifth (21%) had used some or all of their savings to cover cost-of-living expenses.
The research was released by Royal London ahead of new Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation figures being published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Wednesday.
The most recent figures show that CPI inflation rose by 10.4% in the 12 months to February 2023, accelerating from 10.1% in January.
Many economists had been expecting CPI to slow in February, but the surprise jump came after food and non-alcoholic drinks prices rose by 18% year-on-year.
This month has been dubbed “awful April” due to a string of bill hikes, due to households grappling with rising bills, including broadband, mobile, water and council tax.
To help households deal with the impact of rising living costs, many benefits and the state pension have been uprated by 10.1%, alongside a 9.7% rise in the national living wage.
Millions of households receiving means-tested benefits will also benefit from enhanced cost-of-living payments across 2023-24, as part of the support available to households on lower incomes.
Sarah Pennells, consumer finance specialist at Royal London, said: “Rocketing prices have caused hardship for millions of people across the UK, but it’s been an especially bumpy ride for people with childcare and pet costs.”
She added: “Unsurprisingly, rainy day funds have been depleted and households now face a deft balancing act as they try and make the money they have coming in stretch as far as possible.
“It’s worrying that one in three people are going into the red at the end of the month or borrowing to make ends meet.
“In these difficult times, it’s important to revisit the family budget regularly and see if there are any further savings you can make on your day-to-day spending. But it’s also important to seek help, whether that’s from your energy supplier or bank, or from a debt advice charity, if you need it. Most organisations would rather you contact them if you’re in difficulty, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Royal London commissioned a survey by Opinium among 4,000 UK adults in February and March.
Here are some general tips from Royal London for people struggling with household bills:
1. Find out where your money is going
Start by finding out where your money is being spent. Get your last three bank statements and credit card bills or check online and highlight any areas where you may be spending money unnecessarily or spending too much. This could be on anything from a top-of-the-range broadband package that is not really needed to a mobile phone contract including data going unused.
2. Do not bury your head in the sand
If you are finding it hard to pay your energy bills, contact your energy provider to discuss ways you can pay them. They should agree a payment plan with you, which takes into account your current income and what you owe. Contact Citizens Advice if you cannot agree a plan.
3. See if you can reduce your council tax bill
Depending on where someone lives and their circumstances, they may qualify for a council tax discount, for example if they are an adult living on their own.
4. Make sure you are claiming any benefits you are entitled to
Charity Turn2us has a benefits calculator on its website at benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk. It also has a grant search tool at grants-search.turn2us.org.uk.
5. Get help with unmanageable debts
If you are struggling to pay for the essentials, organisations such as StepChange or the National Debtline will be able to give you help with your debts, free of charge.
6. Reduce your food bills, if you can
Consider planning meals a few days in advance and writing down a shopping list to avoid buying unnecessary items. Swapping to different brands can also help with making supermarket savings.