THE unrelenting pressure on household budgets has been highlighted by a survey that shows 1.8 million adults have €100 or less left each month after paying essential bills.
This is a rise of 35,000 on the previous figure tracked in research commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions.
Just weeks away from another tough Budget, some seven out of 10 people say they are unable to save money in a bank or credit union account, the highest number to date.
The survey figures show that:
• Four out of 10 consumers have had to borrow money to pay bills in the last 12 months, an increase on June figures.
• Utility bills are the second most expensive essential bill.
• 52pc of adults feel that the introduction of property tax is unfair since they already paid stamp duty.
And the vast majority of consumers are worried about the impact the 2013 Budget will have on their incomes.
A series of double-digit rises in electricity, gas and heating oil have left eight in 10 consumers worried that they won't be able to cope with energy costs this winter.
There has been an increase of 18,000 in the number of working adults with nothing left after bills are paid. Some 630,000 say they have no money left at the end of the month.
The survey, conducted by iReach Market Research, found that one in five adults will be seriously cutting back on spending this Christmas.
Only one in seven people think a tax on homes is a good idea.
Most homeowners believe there should be exemptions for pensioners, low earners and the unemployed.
The Government is considering a flat-rate of €100 for pensioners and low-income families.
Chief executive of the League of Credit Unions, Kieron Brennan, said the results of the latest 'What's Left' disposable income tracker were a matter of huge concern for the economy.
"For many, the challenge to simply survive continues. Disposable income continues to decrease with an increase of 35,000 in the numbers with just €100 or less at the end of the month."
Mr Brennan said that this indicated that half of adults are now living month-to-month, with only three in 10 able to save any money at the end of the month.
"This is the lowest level of those in a position to save since the tracker began in 2011."
He added: "The increased cost of energy has meant that household heating and electricity bills are on the rise and will hit people hard this winter and, of course, there is concern over what Budget 2013 will contain and how it will impact already stretched incomes."
He advised families to think long and hard about Christmas this year and whether they can afford to get caught in the buying frenzy that begins in earnest after the Halloween break.
The results of the new survey come less than two months ahead of what is expected to be a fifth punishing Budget for middle-income earners.
Households will be hit by motor tax rises, a cut in pensions tax relief, more excise duty on petrol, diesel and alcohol, and the new property tax which is expected to average €300 per home.
Also expected are moves to get people to pay more PRSI, with cuts in child benefit also on the cards.
There may also be measures to cut back on some of the allowances for pensioners.