THE downturn is putting huge pressure on household budgets, with a new survey showing that more than 1.6 million people have €50 or less to live on every month after paying essential bills.
And the majority of people believe their financial situation will worsen this year, blaming the latest Budget for putting a new squeeze on incomes.
Property tax and the budgetary change to pay related social insurance ( PRSI) have been named as pressure points on family spending, a new survey commissioned by the Irish League of Credit Unions indicates.
Two-fifths of adults have had to sacrifice spending on other household items such as food and entertainment to pay energy bills.
Working adults have emerged as among those most financially put-upon, according to the survey that was conducted by iReach among 1,000 adults in December.
There has been a big rise in the number of workers who say they have €50 or less to live on after paying essential bills.
Close to 700,000 people with jobs had just €50 or less a month to survive on in December after covering their main bills. This is up 69,000 from October last year. When homemakers and the unemployed are included, the number risees to 1.6 million. Last month's savage Budget had a negative impact on nine out of 10 people.
One of the rare pieces of good news is that there has been a slight fall in the number of households struggling to pay bills on time.
But 46pc of households still find bill paying a huge issue, down from 50pc last October.
The survey also found that seven out of 10 adults are unable to save.
This is far higher than the findings of a Nationwide (UK) Ireland survey that found half were unable to save.
Yesterday the Irish League of Credit Unions said the average amount being saved every month was down €20 to €180.
Car-related costs have gone up for householders, with petrol and diesel at record highs and insurance increasing for young women.
Two-fifths believe that the property tax will have the most significant impact on them.
Other areas that are also likely to have a marked impact this year include changes in the PRSI threshold, increased car registration costs and the cut to child benefit.
Large numbers report that at some point in 2012 they had to sacrifice spending on other household items to pay their energy bills.
Chief executive of the Irish League of Credit Unions Kieron Brennan said: "Disposable income overall continues to decrease with 72pc stating that they have less disposable income in December than they did in December 2011."
He said many are simply continuing to struggle to survive on a daily basis.
Many individuals and families are sacrificing spending on other household items including food so that they can keep on top of their bills, he added.