A third of people who shop at Morrisons supermarkets have run out of money by the end of the month. Of course it's something we all do every once in a while, but the supermarket company says things have become far more serious than that: its research reveals that running on empty is a basic reality every month for one in three people.
So what has happened, and what can we do about it?
When announcing the company's results, Chief Executive Dalton Philips said: "It's tough out there and one third of our customers have no disposable income left at the end of the month." The company was researching spending patterns, and when it should be offering particular promotions and discovered the stark reality for a significant proportion of its customers.
Why we're short
This is not a result of profligacy. The old cliche of women blowing the budget on shoes and having nothing left to buy dinner with is now being revealed as utter hogwash. Philips said: "Customers continue to check prices in store, particularly on fresh and staple products: fruit, vegetables, fish, dairy and bread. It's a source of pride that they know the exact price of products, and they like to tell their friends about deals."
In reality we are being pushed into spending everything we have long before the end of the month by alarming price rises. When the cost of energy, telephone bills, water, groceries, petrol and tax goes through the roof it means many people are struggling to afford the basic necessities of life.
So what can we do about it?
There are five basic habits that will cut the cost of everything you buy. If you don't already have these habits they are well worth adopting.
1) Know the price of everything you buy.
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.
2) Shop around.
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.
3) Trade down.
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.
5) Think creatively.
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.