One in four Brits live in fear of their bills
The spiralling cost of utility, credit and store card bills has led to increasing consumer fears over how they will pay them every month, giving rise to a new state of 'bill phobia' among UK adults.
Brits are so stretched financially that one in four, almost 13 million people, say they now instantly get stressed or worried whenever they receive a bill, according to a report from moneysupermarkt.com.
Of those that feel stressed and worried about opening their bills, over half said the biggest cause was the simple fact that bills just keep rising which means they struggle to know what they will be and how to deal with them. Nearly a third of those worried say they panic because they have more money going out of their current account than they have coming in every month. With inflation now at 4.5%, experts are predicting it could creep to over 5% in the next month, meaning an even greater stretch on finances.
The survey found that this rise in Bill Phobia is not just leading to over a quarter of UK adults becoming stressed and anxious over receiving a bill, it is also resulting in one in five delaying opening and paying their bills because they are too afraid to tackle them.
The rising cost of bills is also having such a big impact on consumers' finances that 21.3 million Brits (43%) say they have to cut back on buying other things every month so that they have enough money to pay them. Of those that have to cut back, nearly half say they have to cut back on basics such as food and drink, whilst more than half have to forfeit saving money to pay their bills. And three quarters say they have to cut back on socialising and going out.
Psychologist Donna Dawson said: "It is human nature to want to avoid bad news and this is why people will put off opening bills. However, this can set up a vicious downward spiral whereby delaying the opening of bills can lead to not opening them at all, or even to throwing them away. This whole cycle of behaviour is based on not feeling in control. The solution is to decide to take control right away and this includes a change in attitude in which you 'anticipate' what is coming, and 'work out' beforehand in your mind what you will do when it arrives.
"Viewing the bill as a slight challenge that has a practical solution which you are capable of finding can help to dampen down the anxiety and emotions that encourage mental paralysis and 'bill phobia'. Opening a bill with your partner is even more effective as the stronger partner can reassure the more anxious one."
Clare Francis, personal finance expert at MoneySupermarket.com, said: "The increase in the cost of living is something UK adults have had to bear the brunt of over the last 12 months. The recent rises in gas and electricity prices by an average of 17.4% and 10.08% respectively underlines the pressure households are under. So when consumers are battling with bill increases coupled with a fall in disposable income, it is understandable that a Bill Phobia has developed amongst almost 13 million UK adults who now dread their bills as a result.
"The worst thing people can do is bury their heads in the sand. There are very real practical steps that can be taken to lower the cost of bills, so the dreaded envelope that arrives each month doesn't have to be such a nightmare. Sitting down and looking at all of your outgoings, and shopping around or using a comparison website to make sure you are on the best product for your individual needs, is a great way of lowering your bills."
Taking other steps, such as switching to monthly direct debit payments can also help budget planning, as payments are usually split equally over twelve months, and many companies offer additional discounts for paying by this method.
Don't forget that there is help available. If you feel things have got too much and you can no longer cope financially, speak to one of the free-debt charities such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) or Citizens Advice. Bills have to be paid and debts won't go away so ignoring the problem and trying to act as though everything is fine is the worst thing you can do as it will just make the situation worse in the long term. The sooner you seek help, the better.