New research published today by independent price comparison and switching site Switcher.ie has revealed the worrying extent to which our nation relies on credit and savings to cover the cost of essential household bills.

The research shows that dipping into savings is the most common method people use when trying to cover essential bills, with 38% admitting to doing so last year[1]. Consumers have also admitted to using short-term fixes such as credits cards (26%) and borrowing money from family/friends or the bank (21%) to cover the cost of household bills[1]. Others say they have used money given to them by family and friends (11%) while some (4%) have resorted to pawning or selling their belongings to make ends meet[1].

This reliance on accessing savings, using credit and borrowing money to cover essential utilities reflects the pressure put on Irish households when it comes to keeping up with the expensive cost of living. It therefore comes as no surprise that almost four in ten (37%) consumers say they are in some kind of debt[3]. Of those who have some form of debt, over one in ten (14%) admit that they worry about it[3].

The research also shines a light on the household bills that cause financial pressure for households - with motor insurance coming out on top (44%) followed closely by rent and mortgage repayments (43%)[2]. Other household essentials, such as property tax (33%), electricity (29%), broadband/internet (26%) and paid TV services (26%) are also identified as expenses that put a strain on family finances[2].

These pressures not only take a toll on consumers financial footing, but it can also have a knock-on effect when it comes to their mental and physical well-being. Research from Switcher.ie in December last year revealed that 54% of people believe their financial worries have an impact on their mental health and 44% on their physical health[4].

And, with the latest AA cost of running a home analysis showing a year-on-year increase in the costs of up-keeping a household in Ireland[5], it looks as though these financial pressures and concerns will not be letting up anytime soon for already cash-strapped consumers.

Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of Switcher.ie, said: “With costly everyday expenses always knocking at the door, for many consumers it can be a constant battle to comfortably cover these household necessities with their regular income. Sadly this research reveals that our efforts to scrape together cash are solving the immediate issue, but are also leaving no space for future savings. Moreover, relying on credit and borrowing money is only a quick fix to a problem that can easily snowball out of control. It should only be used as a last resort, otherwise you run the risk of piling up your debts rather than paying them off.

“However, there are ways to stay on top of our household finances by keeping a closer eye on our spending. Setting a weekly or monthly budget is a good place to start so that you can track your incomings and outgoings. This will help you work out how much you need to cover essentials each month and how much you’ll have left over after paying off these bills.

“If you’re still struggling after making a budget then there are ways you can save and put a bit of extra money back in your pocket to help ease the strain. Reviewing your monthly payments to make sure you’re not forking out for services you don’t use can also really help save you money. For example, if you predominantly use streaming services to watch television you should consider opting out of your paid TV package if you rarely use it. While switching your household energy, broadband and mobile plans can also significantly reduce your monthly bills  - especially if you haven’t switched in a while. Right now by switching your gas and electricity alone you could save up to €396[6] which you could put towards paying off some of your existing debts or put away into savings.”

For more information, visit Switcher.ie

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