One in five people have missed an essential bill payment in the last year and one in 10 have been served with a county court judgment (CCJ) as a result, according to a survey.
Britons have missed 15 million bill payments worth a total of £882 million in the last 12 months as the national price tag to run a UK home escalates to £405 billion due to rising living costs, according to the Moneysupermarket.com "bill barometer".
Households are spending an average of £1,360 each month on essential bills, with a quarter of those polled paying more than £500 a month on mortgage or rent payments.
The poll found 8% of those who pay rent or mortgage have missed at least one payment in the last year, as have 8% of those who pay water and council tax bills.
Some 19% have missed an essential bill payment in the last 12 months.
Of those, 27% said they had been "hounded" for payment, 43% had incurred extra charges and interest penalties, 18% said their credit rating had dropped as a result and 8% had been served with a CCJ.
The most common bills to be missed were credit card and loan repayments (15%), closely followed by childcare fees (12%).
Moneysupermarket.com editor in chief Clare Francis said: "Many households are precariously juggling their bill payments, choosing which to pay and which to ignore.
"It's a balancing act that can't continue long-term without significant implications.
"Worryingly, one in five people say outgoings would only have to go up by £50 a month for them to struggle even more.
"Given interest rates are likely to start rising next year, leading to increases in the cost of borrowing, it is a real concern that many people won't be able to cope.
"It's when times are tight that we need to be the most open and honest about paying bills, and absolutely not retreat into denial.
"Working out monthly outgoings and budgeting is crucial, as is getting the best deal on all essential household bills and not paying out more than is necessary.
"No-one wants to be hounded for outstanding payments, or have vast penalties added to an already unaffordable situation so always be upfront with your provider and seek help where necessary."
:: Opinium Research surveyed 2,004 UK adults online between February 18 and 21.