Over six in ten Irish consumers forced to borrow or raid savings to cover cost of essential household bills
- Cash-strapped: over six in ten consumers (62%) can’t cover the cost of essential household bills with their regular income
- People are turning to credit cards, overdrafts and/or loans (43%), as well as dipping into savings (35%) to make ends meet
- Motor insurance is still the most common cause for financial pressure, followed by rent and mortgage payments, motor tax, health insurance, energy and broadband bills
- One-fifth (17%) of consumers say they’re in debt and worried about it
- Switcher.ie urges consumers to take control of their household budgets in a bid to reduce the reliance on debt.
New research published today by independent price comparison and switching site Switcher.ie suggests that Irish consumers are struggling to make ends meet, with the majority forced to borrow or dip into their savings to meet the cost of essential household bills.
The findings show that in the last year, over six in ten of us (62%) were forced to resort to using credit or our hard-earned savings to pay basic household bills. Less than four in ten (38%) were able to cover the cost of essential household bills, such as rent or mortgage, insurance, energy and broadband, through their regular income alone.
This suggests that the cost of living is not only a significant challenge for Irish consumers, but could also be a significant factor in the levels of household debt. Last year, in order to make ends meet, one in four (26%) used a credit card, while 16% used an overdraft, 12% borrowed money from family and friends, and 8% used a bank loan.
Other options people turned to included pawning or selling belongings (4%), and using doorstep lenders/payday loans (2%). While using credit can be a helpful short-term fix, it can become a problem for some. According to the survey, a fifth of Irish consumers (17%) are worried about the debt they’ve found themselves in as a result of paying day-to-day living costs and household bills.
And on top of getting into debt, people are also resorting to dipping into their savings to cover the cost of essentials like their rent/mortgage, insurance costs, energy and broadband bills, with over a third (35%) admitting to doing this over the past year. While savings are there to help on a rainy day, the danger is that they could be eaten away if regularly relied upon to pay basic bills in this way.
Aside from the impact on debt and household savings, the constant juggling of money is also taking an emotional toll, with many day-to-day expenses putting householders under pressure. While the CSO recently reported that premiums are going down, motor insurance is still the biggest cause of worry, with almost half (49%) saying this bill puts them under pressure.
However it’s not the only cause for concern, with more than four in ten (43%) saying their rent or mortgage payments cause them financial stress, closely followed by motor tax (40%) and health insurance (36%). The energy price hikes we saw over the past few months are also having an impact, with one-third of people (34%) saying paying their electricity bills puts them under pressure.
Meanwhile, other household essentials, such as broadband/internet (32%), property tax (32%) and paid TV services (31%) are also putting a strain on household finances.
And, with the latest Consumer Price Index showing a year-on-year increase, sadly the signs suggest that there will be little or no respite for cash-strapped consumers anytime soon.
Eoin Clarke, Managing Director of Switcher.ie, said: “As our research sadly shows, juggling bills, scraping together money and stressing about living costs are a daily fact of life for many of us today. Relying on borrowing or savings to see each month through might seem like an easy or quick fix, but it can bring long-term pain and – if at all possible – should always be the last resort.
“It’s true that we may not be able to control our income level or the cost of living, but we can all take steps to control our spending – firstly by creating a weekly or monthly budget and sticking to it where possible and secondly by taking control of our essential household bills. The fact is that many of us stick with the same providers for years and years, automatically renewing our policies and contracts. As a result, we often end up paying far more than we need to for these essentials.
“Some of the biggest financial headaches – such as motor and health insurance, energy bills, and broadband and TV costs – could be easily reduced if you’re willing to set aside an hour or two to shop around for better deals. In fact, switching energy, broadband and mobile plan alone could save you well over €1,000, which could go a long way towards clearing some residual debt, or bulking up your savings.”
For more information, visit Switcher.ie
For further information please contact:
Maeve McLaughlin, Switcher.ie on 01 517 5922/087 133 2526 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Images for use are available on Flickr here.
Notes to editors
Research was carried out for Switcher.ie by iReach Insights, involving 1,001 online interviews with Irish adults aged 18+years. The total sample is representative of the national population in Ireland.
 In response to the question: “Apart from your regular income (salary, pension or benefits) which of the following have you used to meet the cost of essential bills last year? Please select all that apply. Dipped into savings, Overdraft, Credit card, Bank loan, Money loaned from family and friends, Money given by family and friends, Doorstep lenders/ payday loan, Pawned or sold my belongings, None, I covered the cost of all essential bills with my regular income, Other (please specify).”
 In response to the question: “Thinking of your household bills in general, please state if each of the following bills puts you under any financial pressure when it comes to paying. Electricity, Gas, Home insurance, Motor insurance, Health insurance, Bank account fees, Fixed line phone, Mobile phone, Broadband/ internet, TV licence , Paid television service, Streaming service, Motor tax, Property tax, Bins/ recycling, Rent/ mortgage payments, Repaying other loans or hire purchase, School or college fees/expenses, Clothes, Food/groceries.”
 In response to the question: “Thinking about your day to day living costs such as essential bills, which of the following best describes your situation? I am in debt and I’m worried about it, I am in debt but not too concerned about it, I am not in debt, Prefer not to say.”
 Source – CSO: Consumer Price Index, February 2018
 The average gas and electricity customer can currently save €342 by switching from standard tariffs to the cheapest deals on the market. The biggest saving that can be made on a broadband, TV and phone plan at the moment is on eir’s Vision TV Essential & Broadband + eir Sport plan, which has a discount of €522. If you currently pay €45 for your mobile plan, and you switch to Virgin Mobile’s Unlimited SIM-only plan (with unlimited calls, texts and data), you could save over €300 in a year. Total: €1,164.
Switcher.ie launched in January 2013, with the aim of offering consumers free, independent and impartial price comparison and switching services for gas, electricity, home broadband and digital television. Switcher.ie aims to make it easier for Irish households to compare prices, save money on their regular bills, get the best deals on offer and make their hard-earned money go that bit further. Switcher.ie is accredited by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities as an impartial, accurate and independent supplier of domestic energy price comparisons and is a member of Guaranteed Irish.
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