Most plan to cut spending in 2014

Father paying bills with family behind him
More than half of UK adults say they will have to cut their spending to cope with rising household bills over the next year, Citizens Advice has warned.

Three in five people (58%) are worried about the effect that higher bills will have on their finances and 53% - or 27 million - will have to cut spending to cope, according to a study by the consumer body.

It is launching the Big Energy Saving Week today, backed by Government, charities and the energy industry, to help consumers take practical steps to make cuts to their bills.

A survey found that of those who plan on cutting their spending, 59% say they will have to reduce the amount they spend on food, 37% will look for ways to reduce their energy bills, 8% will consider moving to a cheaper home and 66% say they will have less to spend on time out with family and friends.

It found 20% of British households are struggling or falling behind with their bills while a further 32% said they are keeping up with costs but it is a struggle from time to time.

Of those concerned about paying their fuel bill, 55% have cut down the amount of energy they use, 36% have spent less on food, 34% have sacrificed leisure activities or spending time with family and friends, 15% have gone into their overdraft to pay their energy bills and 11% have borrowed money from family and friends.

The poll also found that less than a third of people (28%) have spoken to their energy supplier to check that they are on the best tariff, 19% have insulated their home and just one in 10 (12%) have switched to a cheaper way to pay.

Instead, householders are far more likely to try and cut their energy costs by turning down the heating (52%) or using less electricity (51%).

Some 16% have stopped using rooms in their home in a bid to cut their bills.

Citizens Advice said 200,000 people sought online advice about energy bills last year, with its bureaux dealing with 85,000 fuel debt problems between October 2012 and September.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: "The soaring cost of living will force millions of people to cut back on basic necessities like travel, energy, housing and food.

"With our research finding that the household budgets of half of the UK are under serious scrutiny to try to find savings, we're keen to help as many people as possible make sure they are not taking drastic action or paying a penny more than they have to for a warm home or to keep the lights on.

"Through Big Energy Saving Week Citizens Advice is helping consumers to check, switch and insulate. Citizens Advice bureaux up and down the country will be out and about to help consumers find better deals, make the most of extra help available and vote with their feet if they can get a better deal."

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: "The recent recession was the deepest in our peacetime history and many people have less money in their pockets as a result.

"That's why helping people who are struggling to pay their energy bills is a top priority for this Government. We've been working tirelessly to reform the energy market, almost doubling the number of suppliers since 2010 and making it easier to switch supplier, which people are doing in droves. And there is targeted help with bills for the most vulnerable.

"There are more opportunities than ever before for individual householders and communities groups alike to take control of their energy. From community energy projects to the Green Deal and renewable heating schemes, I want to make sure people are aware of how they can make their homes warmer and reduce their energy use."

Angela Knight, the chief executive of trade association Energy UK, said: "Energy companies know the cost of living can be a real concern so it is important customers get a good deal on their energy. It's easy and quick to switch between suppliers so consumers should shop around to see if there's another deal that better suits their needs.

"Customers can also help themselves by making sure they are energy savvy and making the best use of the energy they use. There are many ways to cut your energy use from fitting new boilers, double glazing or improving your insulation and to smaller things like closing the curtains when it gets dark and not leaving the telly or other electrical appliances on standby.

"Big Energy Saving Week is an example of the energy industry and its many partners working together to help our customers make the most of their energy use, take control of their bills and access all the help available to them if times get tough."

:: YouGov surveyed 2,530 adults online between December 18 and 20.

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