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9 in 10 adults make stark spending decisions as cost of living anxiety runs high

  • 95% of UK adults are concerned about the rising cost of living, with households across the earnings spectrum worried – as much concern among those with six-figure incomes as lower-earners
  • Energy bills (92%), food shopping (87%) and cost hikes to phone and internet contracts (84%) are causing the most concern
  • Saving levels also likely to take a hit with half (48%) of full-time workers saying they’ll reduce or stop saving altogether
  • Worryingly, a fifth (21%) of people plan to borrow their way out of trouble, with 7% admitting they simply don’t know how they’ll cover increases and 5% saying they’re considering a short-term (payday) loan

The pressure of spiralling living costs is a major concern among UK households with the vast majority looking to make significant lifestyle changes in response to price rises. According to mutual insurer, Royal London, 95% of adults in the UK say they are worried about the anticipated rise in the cost of living in 2022. Women are the most worried, with a third (33%) mentioning they are extremely worried compared to a fifth (22%) of men.

Rise of energy bills is biggest concern

The expense most UK households are concerned about is the rise in energy bills (92%), with three in ten (29%) being extremely worried about this, followed by food shopping (87%). Cost hikes to phone and internet contracts, which typically increase by the more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate, concerns 84% of UK adults.

Difficult choices ahead

The level and speed of price rises, means nine out of 10 of us (89%) are looking to make changes to pay for the cost of living increases.

Worryingly, the option for a fifth (21%) of people is to borrow their way out of trouble, with 7% admitting they simply don’t know how they’ll cover increases and 5% of workers saying they are considering taking out a short-term (payday) loan.

Two-thirds (66%) of people say they will change their food shopping habits, with half of these saying they’ll reduce the amount of food they buy. Other solutions to cut back on costs include reaching for the thermostat and reducing the length of time the central heating is on (46%), turning off the heating in unoccupied rooms (36%) and nearly a fifth (17%) taking the drastic action of turning the heating off altogether.

As part of the cutting-back regime, half (48%) of full time workers feel they’ll be forced to reduce or stop saving altogether.

Further squeeze on the horizon

On top of rising costs, National Insurance contribution rates are also set to change from next month, just as energy bills rise more steeply, which will dramatically affect take home pay. For an individual on a salary of £50,000, that will mean an extra deduction of £464 a year, or £214 for someone earning £30,000. Worryingly a fifth of workers (20%) say they are not aware of these changes, and two fifths (43%) say whilst they are aware, they are not prepared for the changes to kick in.

Sarah Pennells, consumer finance specialist at Royal London, said:

“Just as families in the UK felt they’d seen the worst of the financial impact of Covid, they’re facing a dramatic rise in their household bills. People are having to make difficult choices in an attempt to reduce the impact of rising energy bills, higher inflation, tax hikes and potential interest rate increases. Understandably, this has made many people anxious about their finances, but it’s also testing their financial resilience.

“Household bills are rising steeply, with the cost of filling up the car at the pumps having reached eye-watering levels leaving families up and down the country worried about their ability to make ends meet. Concern is so widespread that families who, on the face of it, would be considered financially comfortable and even those with six-figure incomes are deeply worried.

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