5 million households need credit or savings to pay for food

The latest data from the Which? Consumer Insight Tracker reveals how consumers are faring in the current economic squeeze and shows families struggling to pay for essentials like food.

The latest monthly tracker data shows 1 in 5 households (5 million) used credit or their savings to pay for food in April, with people finding they are caught short of cash and unable to manage on their monthly income.

This group is largely made up of low income families, with 4 in 10 of these households (43%) headed by people aged 30-49 years of which (63%) have children.  Nearly half of these families (45%) are on the lowest incomes, earning £21,000 or less per year.

The Tracker also reveals of those who are using savings or credit to pay for food:

  • 8 in 10 (82%) are worried about food prices;
  • More than half (55%) say they are likely to cut back their spending on food in the coming months;
  • Nearly 6 in 10 (57%) say they find it difficult to cope on their current income;
  • A third (32%) borrowed money from family or friends in the last month, compared to just 1 in 7 (13%) of all people;
  • Two thirds (65%) are worried about their level of debt, compared to 46% of all people;
  • 1 in 10 (12%) defaulted on a bill last month, compared to 5% of all people;
  • Two thirds (65%) are worried about their level of savings; and
  • Three quarters (74%) describe the economy as poor.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: 

“Our tracker shows that many households are stretched to their financial breaking point, with rising food prices one of the top worries for squeezed consumers. It’s simply shocking that so many people need to use savings or credit to pay for essentials like food.”

Other findings from this month’s tracker data include:

  • Only a quarter (25%) of people say they are living comfortably on their incomes with around a third (36%) of people feeling the squeeze – see more on the Which? Squeezometer;
  • More than half (53%) of people are worried about their level of savings and two thirds (66%) worried about interest rates on their savings;
  • 3 in 10 (31%) cut back spending on essentials last month, these people are more likely to be female and aged 30-49 years; and
  • More than two thirds (68%) of people still describe the state of the economy as poor, with only 9% describing it as good.


Notes for editors:

1. Primary Research Methodology: Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2,099 UK adults online between 26th and 28th April 2013.  Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.  Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

2. The Which? Consumer Insight tracker: An online resource, including the Which? Squeezometer, provides a uniquely detailed picture of today’s consumers. The tracker, updated monthly, has data on consumer spending, attitudes and behaviour, and can be filtered by age, income, gender, region or political affiliation.  Please note the tracker will be updated on Tuesday 7th May, which is when this the latest data, will appear.

3. The infographic for the latest Squeezometer data can be found here

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