Even though the last few months have been awash with positive reports about the state of the economy and the UK coming out of recession, it seems that it hasn't translated into extra cash in people's pockets. In fact, research from energyhelpline.com has found that a majority of respondents are still financially stretched, indicating that the financial feel good factor has so far failed to return.
The nationwide study highlighted the continuing issues people are facing when it comes to balancing the books, with 51% feeling worse off than they did four years ago and just 19% reporting that they're better off. It's the slightly older age groups that are the most pessimistic too, with 59% of those aged 45-54 feeling that they're in a worse financial state since the last general election.
It's a worrying figure, particularly with the economy starting to rebound and the likes of wage growth starting to pick up, showing that the rising cost of living is still taking its toll on the majority of people's pockets. However, that doesn't mean they're willing to sit back and accept their financial state – the figures also revealed that many are planning on making cutbacks and saving more to improve their situation.
According to the report, the top financial priority for 2014 is saving money each month (45%) while 41% want to make cost-efficiencies to lower their bills, while a particularly proactive 27% are aiming to get out of debt this year. Just 19% would be prepared to cut down on luxury items and outgoings, however, perhaps indicating that people don't want – or need – to sacrifice their standard of living to improve their finances.
If you're one of the many who are struggling, there are still things you can do to improve your financial situation. Why not follow in the footsteps of the 45% who are planning to save? Setting up an ISA should be first on the list. A fixed rate version would be perfect for those looking to secure the best rate, or if you might need to get your hands on your cash then an instant access version would be ideal.
Ideally, make sure to pay off your debts before you start saving – the interest you'll be spending on the likes of credit card repayments (unless you've got a 0% deal) will far outweigh any you'll earn on cash savings, and make sure to compare all of your utility and service providers to see if you can lower your bills.
You might not have to make significant cutbacks to improve your situation, but even simple things could help. That morning Starbucks? Swap it for an instant cup of coffee at work and put the cash you would have spent in your savings pot. It could all add up, and pretty soon you could be well on your way to enjoying the financial feel good factor once again.
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Disclaimer: Information is correct as of the date of publication (shown at the top of this article). Any products featured may be withdrawn by their provider or changed at any time.
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