Nearly a quarter of above-average income earners in their 40s and 50s have been forced to switch to buying value or own-label brands to make ends meet, a study has suggested.
The Axa quarterly Big Money Index found the squeeze on consumer spending has filtered through to those who are considered to have higher disposable incomes, faced by high bills and little real return on their savings.
Some 24% of those in the "successful security" consumer bracket - which includes people in their 40s and 50s, who tend to be married, have higher incomes than average and often have second homes - said they have had to buy more own-label or value brands over the past three months.
Almost one in five (17%) in this group said they had cut back use of oil, gas and electricity during this period.
Meanwhile, 13% of people in the "exclusive lifestyles" category, who are typically aged in their mid-50s to 60s, married with grown-up children, mortgage-free, and have a high disposable income and large assets also said they have switched to buying own-label or value brands.
Axa UK's director of customer partnerships Nick Turner said a clear pattern was emerging with even the groups with a greater disposable income making more cutbacks.
Save money on shopping
Better-off switch to value brands
This takes time, but once you know the cost of a phone call, putting the dryer on, or a bag of potatoes, it enables you to judge far better how much you can afford to consume.
Once you know the base price, you are in a position to keep your eyes open for a better offer. If you see a discount you can judge for yourself whether it actually constitutes a bargain. For bigger things like utilities it enables you to do a proper price comparison and see if you can cut your bills.
Don't just assume that the premium range is better, try the every-day brand, or even the basic version and see if you spot the difference. Likewise, consider trading down your supermarket from one of the big players to local markets or discounters like Aldi.
If you plan what you buy to match what you actually cook and eat then not only will you be able to budget far more effectively, but you'll also waste much less and find your money goes further without you having to try.
If you can't think of a way to get your meat for less, consider a vegetarian day once a week. If you can't find petrol any cheaper, then work on making your driving as efficient as possible. The more you can think of clever alternatives the less you will have to make painful cuts to make ends meet.
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He said: "Tighter purse strings are evident, with many restricting not only the nicer things in life, but also making changes to their food shopping and fuel consumption to a degree that paints a disheartening picture.
"However, we are encouraged by the fact that increasing numbers are at least trying to manage their finances more pro-actively."
Just under three in 10 (29%) of those in the successful security bracket and almost one in five (18%) of those in the exclusive lifestyles category said they are likely to or have already switched to a cheaper supermarket for their basic food shopping.
The index regularly interviews between 1,500 and 2,500 people for each wave of research.