Some 2.3 million UK households missed an essential payment last month, up from 1.9 million in December, figures suggest.
However the figure for January – when missed payments for mortgage, rent, loans, credit cards and other bills typically peak – is similar to those from the past two years, according to the Which? Consumer Insight Tracker.
The monthly poll of approximately 2,000 people found that six in 10 (59%) made at least one financial adjustment such as cutting back on essentials, selling items, or dipping into savings in the last month to cover essential spending – a significant increase on the 49% last January.
However it is lower than the peak of 65% who made adjustments in September.
The number of households cutting back on essentials such as utility bills, housing costs, groceries, school supplies and medicines has increased by 11 percentage points from three in 10 (27%) last January to four in 10 (38%) this January.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “With 2.3 million UK households missing payments in January and those on the lowest incomes being hit hardest, consumers will need more support than ever in 2023.
“As the cost-of-living crisis continues to bite into household finances, we are calling on businesses in essential sectors – like food, energy and broadband providers – to do more to help customers get a good deal and avoid unnecessary or unfair costs and charges.”
– The Consumer Insight Tracker is an online poll carried out monthly by Yonder on behalf of Which? with approximately 2,000 respondents per wave.