Money Wellness
Image of a man looking pensively out the window with bills and a calculator set out in front of him
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calendar icon04 Dec 2023

2.8 million households missed an essential payment last month

One in ten households said they’d missed or defaulted on an essential bill in the month to 10 November, according to Which?’s latest Consumer Insight Tracker.

This equates to 2.8 million households struggling to keep up with payments on loans, credit cards or household bills, which is the highest level recorded since April 2020.

Many households also reported having to make financial adjustments to stay afloat – with one in six (57%) having made changes such as cutting back, dipping into savings, selling possessions or borrowing.

Worryingly, one in six (16%) have also skipped meals due to high food costs, with one in 10 (8%) prioritising meals for other family members and a quarter having gone without some foods.

Households are becoming increasingly worried about rising prices with nine in 10 (85%) concerned about energy prices and around eight in 10 anxious about food and fuel costs.

As a result, confidence in households finances and the outlook for the UK economy also fell for the second month in a row, with more than half (53%) saying they think things will get worse over the next year – a 10 point drop compared to two months ago.

Which? says these figures paint a bleak picture in the run up to Christmas and it is using them to call on businesses to do more to ease the pressure on struggling household finances.

The consumer champion believes supermarkets need to make sure affordable, healthy food options – like budget ranges –are more widely available. While energy firms need to make sure their customer service departments are fully staffed to support struggling customers and that those who are eligible are made aware of social tariffs and how they can help them.

If you’re struggling to afford essential payments such as energy, credit card or mortgage payments you should speak to their provider immediately for help.

If you’re finding yourself consistently living in a budget deficit – where your outgoings exceed your income – you should seek free debt help.

And you won’t be alone – 69% of the people we helped last month were living with a negative income, while a further 14% have less than £100 each month after bills are paid.

In the past three months we’ve seen a rise in the number of people seeking debt help with priority bills (77%), with households most commonly falling behind with council tax and utility bills.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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