Unexpected bills costing Britons average of £330 per year, poll finds

One-third of participants say they have taken out a credit card to deal with unforeseen costs

Alice Hughes
Tuesday 29 October 2019 15:24
Unforeseen bills often left participants struggling to afford necessities such as electricity and heat
Unforeseen bills often left participants struggling to afford necessities such as electricity and heat

A new poll suggests that unexpected payments are costing Britons at least £17bn each year.

The poll, which had 2,000 respondents, suggests an average of £328 is spent on unforeseen bills each year.

Having to replace a broken mobile phone and paying costly vet bills were among the most common.

One-third of people have also had to pay for work on their car, while one in 10 said they had faced a large bill to fix their computer. One-sixth had to pay out on dental surgery.

The poll also suggests that one in five were left in debt after an unexpected bill, with one-tenth aving to move back in with their parents because they could not afford to pay for their home.

John Pears, UK managing director of debt collecting company Lowell, which commissioned the research, said: “The danger of not planning for a ‘rainy day’ is that it can lead to extra costs, and potentially get out of control, making the situation worse.

"Based on the research, the average savings needed to cover unexpected bills works out at less than £1 per day across the year.”

He added: “What we also see from our work, and the research of others, is that some people who live payday to payday and do not track what’s coming in or going out may not even realise they actually have some spare cash they could put aside to cover those nasty surprises.”

The study also suggests some unexpected payments could rise as high as £924, but that three in 10 people do not have savings put aside for such events.

For 45 per cent, this is because they do not having enough income to save anything while an eighth admitted they live in a so-called "pay-cheque to pay-cheque" fashion, so this is not possible.

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute calls for end to intimidating debt letters

The poll also claims that about three in 10 Britons have had to fund an unexpected payment by taking out a credit card, while more than one-sixth said they have taken out a loan or overdraft to see them through.

It also emerged unforeseen bills have left almost one-third struggling for necessities such as power and food, while 56 per cent of people have had to forego holidays and purchases for their children.

Those polled also predicted if they had to stop working now for any reason they would not be able to keep up with current outgoings for nine months.

If an unanticipated bill came through now 41 per cent said they would be able to pay it but would worry, while more than one-eighth said they would have to ask a relative or friend for help.

Similarly, one in five of those polled said they would turn to their partner or parents first, while 13 per cent would go straight to the bank for assistance.

And almost two-thirds agreed lenders and creditors should offer free budgeting advice to anyone who is dealing with debts in order to manage their money and avoid future issues.


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