Living costs continue to squeeze households pressuring working families

30th April 2024

Working families remain under significant financial pressure as they struggle to cover their most essential living costs, with family members of all ages increasingly aware of these challenges.

UK families continue to grapple with balancing the books as living costs increase. These increases ever more frequently offset any rises in regular pay, rates for which were 6% higher in December 2023-February 2024 than in the same period in 2022/23. One recent report cited that, in order to cope with these difficulties, 38% of parents and carers had used credit cards to alleviate their household’s financial situations. Meanwhile 48% of UK households say they have no savings, or savings less than £1,500, to help them in these situations.

Just affording a place to live stretches many people’s budgets, with rental prices in the UK having gone up by 9.2% in the year to March 2024, with the median rent in England £1,246, rising to £2,055 in London. In March 2023, Citizens Advice Bureaux reported supporting 1,716 private renters with homelessness issues, a 77% increase overall since March 2019.

For those owning their home, despite mortgage lending falling overall in Q4 2023 (13% lower than Q4 2022), mortgages remain a considerable item of household expenditure, with 60% of lending for three or more times the borrower’s income. First-time buyers particularly face strain in this housing market, with the average deposit, as of December 2023, now £45,154, 19% of the typical purchase cost and equivalent to 130.6% of the average UK salary. First-time buyers report that they are increasingly reliant on gifts from friends, family or inheritances to fund deposits, with 39% reporting having done this, 16% higher than in March 2003.

Housing costs aside, integral spending such as childcare remains high and rising, with the average cost for a nursery place for an under-two £157.86 per week, a 7.4% increase on 2023 and a considerable burden for working parents. Children themselves are also keenly aware of these family issues, with 52% surveyed reporting that they ‘sometimes’ worry about how much money their family has, with a further 20% ‘often’ or ‘always’ worrying. The latest edition of CPAG’s “The Cost of a Child in 2023” report notes that a couple family spends a total of £166,218 on raising a child to the age of 18, rising to £220,354 for a single parent.

Recent months and even years have been incredibly tough on the budgets of countless UK households and even with some signs of positivity, what has come before is quickly negating these improvements, for now. We will need to see many more lasting and sustained areas of encouragement across the board before we start to see the UK’s financial picture evening out.

With prices still increasing and pay rates not yet strong enough to regain lost ground, it’s really hard to hear of the struggle for so many, especially the youngest members of our families. But that’s why we remain completely committed to our mission of seeing the UK increase its Financial Wellbeing, working everyday with people of all ages through our Financial Wellbeing and Financial Education sessions to engage them with how to better face life’s financial challenges.

Michelle Highman, Chief Executive at The Money Charity