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Cash-strapped Britain: One in five has to borrow money to buy food

One in four people used their savings to buy household essentials while one in five needed to borrow money to afford groceries Only 43 per cent feel they can afford to live on their salaries and 36 per cent admit to finding things difficult financially Money worries led to a third suffering from anxiety and a fifth admitted feeling depressed in the Which? survey

By Sean Poulter UPDATED: 01:52, 5 March 2012

Hard hit: One in five British people have been forced to borrow money just to buy groceries and household essentials

One in five Britons are borrowing money for groceries because of the soaring cost of living, research reveals. One in four said they have had to dip into their savings to buy food or other daily essentials, while 19 per cent have gone into debt to do this. Another 10 per cent said they could envisage borrowing money to buy food in the future. The survey by consumer group Which? found that only 43 per cent of consumers feel they can afford to live on their income, while 36 per cent admitted to finding things difficult twice the proportion who were struggling in 2006. A separate study by Scottish Widows found evidence of families subsidising less well-off members to the tune of almost 13,000 in recent years. The Which? Consumers 2012 report found that more people are socialising at home instead of going to the pub, with 38 per cent doing this as a result of the downturn.

Which? referred to the financial crisis as the 3D Squeeze because it has affected income, life events and spending habits. Executive director Richard Lloyd said: Over half of UK consumers are not coping on their current incomes. Worryingly, one in five people told us they had gone into debt just to buy food and other essential goods. We know consumers are worried about rising food and energy prices. Our research also highlights significant changes being made to other buying decisions.

Soaring food prices: Food costs have risen across Britain in the last year hitting struggling families hard

The Which? research surveyed 2,094 adults in November 2011 and also carried out in-depth interviews with 20 people. It found that the recession has prompted 29 per cent of people to look for bargains in second-hand shops or charity shops, and 29 per cent to forgo their annual holiday. And consumers are using the internet to find lower prices 37 per cent have started to look for deals online, while 35 per cent said they had recently started to shop around for groceries. Overall, the survey found that consumers were less satisfied with life. In 2007, some 77 per cent said they were satisfied with their lives overall, but by the end of 2011, this had fallen to 61 per cent.

Cutbacks: Across Briton, people are cutting back, with 29 per cent now forgoing their annual holiday while 38 per cent socialise at home rather than going out to pubs or restaurants to save money

The downturn has not just affected peoples bank balances, Which? said. Many have been forced to rethink their lifestyles, with some saying they now spend more time with their family. But the research also found people were worried about their future, with three in ten saying they were anxious about the next year. Scottish Widows said family members had given or loaned an average of 12,846 to loved ones since the financial crisis began in 2008.

Consumer group Which? graph comparing the percentages of people coping on their incomes today compares to 2011

The amount of people who felt they were 'coping' on an annual household income of

70,000 was only marginally more than those who felt the same on an annual income of 8,000, according to a Which? survey

There is a tradition of relatively well-off older generations supporting adult offspring and grandchildren, but the insurer said this was changing. Some 9 per cent of adults said they had given money to their parents in recent years to cover living expenses, with the average figure put at 5,900. Scottish Widows said the scale of financial help needed to support family members in trouble was affecting how much individuals could build up their own savings, leaving them vulnerable. A total of 5,086 people took part in the Scottish Widows study across the UK in January.

Which? found that significantly less people were satisfied with their standard of living in 2011 than they were four years ago