Millions of people are living on the edge, despite being in work and doing everything right. Frozen wages and rising living costs have conspired to squeeze incomes so tight that these people are now, literally, a single big bill away from disaster, according to research for the Guardian by Experian.
It is no longer just those in lower paid or unskilled jobs who are suffering either - teachers, nurses and white-collar workers are all feeling the pinch, and many of these people are so unused to needing to ask for help that they are reluctant to, or simply do not know how to.
So here are some suggestions on how you might be able to eek your wages out that bit further.
1. Check if you are entitled to benefits - you may assume you are not, but still check. The Government's website direct.gov.uk has a benefits calculator which will show you whether you are entitled to claim. Don't delay if you are, you can now only backdate them one month.
2. Address your problems early - speak to any creditors you have to explain that you are struggling with your payments. They are more likely to be sympathetic if you ask for help. If they are not, speak to Citizens Advice or the Consumer Credit Counselling Service who can act as an intermediary to help with your debts.
3. Reduce fuel costs where you can - petrol prices are taking a major chunk of our salaries now, with the average family car costing between £70-£100 to fill up. So if you can car share to work, or to the shops with your neighbour, then do so.
4. Cut your household bills - yes, most of us are doing this already, we appreciate that. But you should check you are not paying over the odds for your energy. The average person switching to their cheapest energy provider can save around £250 a year. It is well worth checking to see if you can reduce your bills. Sites such as moneysupermarket.co.uk, comparethemarket.com and our own energy switching service* will all help you find the best deal.
5. Use sites like Freecycle if you need to get anything new for the house. Here you can get items that other people no longer want for free. Far better than getting a loan to buy a new fridge or new sofa.
6. Try to raise money by selling items if you can - sites like eBay and Gumtree will give you access to a much wider market than the local bootsale, but you may have to pay higher fees.
7. You can also raise money by selling your old mobile phone through sites like Mazuma mobile. If you are not using it, get cash for it.
8. Talk to someone - there is so much pressure on you if you have debts, and trying to deal with it alone is not a good idea. You need to find someone, a friend, a partner, or a professional who can help you and give you some perspective on your position. It will make things easier.