ALMOST two million Irish people are surviving on €100 a month or less after bills are paid, according to new research from credit unions.
And consumers are now faced with tough decisions as they have little money left for visits to the doctor.
The Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) survey found that one in 10 consumers have been forced to resort to moneylenders as a huge chunk admitted they needed to borrow to pay their household bills.
"This leaves people with no capacity to save for a future event," Mandy Johnston from the ILCU said.
"There is very little opportunity for them to deal with unforeseen circumstances such as a car breaking down or a visit to the doctor are becoming impossible and pushing people into a difficult area."
The research from the ILCU survey found that a quarter of credit card holders are relying on their plastic to get them through the end of the month.
Rising electricity and oil costs are pushing household spending up, but the majority of Irish people surveyed said they would not be able to cope if costs keep rising.
The 'What's Left' tracker from the ILCU in April revealed that 560,000 adults, or 16pc, said they had absolutely no disposable income left at the end of the month after bills were paid. This has now risen to 602,000 of adults or 17pc.
Half of those polled said that paying all bills on time was a struggle and more than 80pc said they are concerned about potential changes to social welfare or income tax rates.
Mortgages and rent top the list of the most costly bills. The next most expensive items were groceries, followed by utility bills, transport and car-related costs.
A total of 79pc of those surveyed claimed their electricity bills have risen by an average of €39 in the past 12 months, while 75pc said their gas bill had risen by an average of €40.
The research unveils deep confusion about the various bank charges - 54pc of current account holders said they had no idea what they pay, or would pay, in charges if their account was overdrawn.
And consumer sentiment has plummeted as 61pc said they were living to work as opposed to working to live, up from 57pc three months ago.
"People are not better off, but they are getting better organised," Ms Johnston said.
"They are coping a bit better, they are prioritising the things they need to."
Kieron Brennan, chief executive of the ILCU, said personal debt is a growing concern, particularly as 40pc admitted to borrowing to pay household bills.
"The issue of personal debt is something we are hearing more and more about and the issue is a growing concern, particularly for those who are relying on their credit card to make ends meet every month," he said.