TWO-out-of-five adults here are having to cut back on food to pay energy bills.
Soaring gas, oil and electricity bills over the last year have hit families hard -- over 1.5 million people have €50 or less left over at the end of the month after their essential bills have been paid.
The downturn is putting huge pressure on household budgets, the latest results from the What's Left tracker series by the Irish League of Credit Unions have shown.
Four-out-of-10 people are now being forced to cut their energy consumption to save money on escalating bills costs, it said.
And close to half (46pc) are struggling to pay household bills on time. Up to 70pc are unable to save money and 40pc scrimp on other household items, mainly food, in order to pay energy bills, the survey found.
The prospect of property tax is adding to people's worries -- 40pc believe this will hit personal finances most severely.
The survey found:
•An estimated 1.6 million adults are left with just €50 or less to spend at the end of the month after all essential bills are paid, up from 1.36m in October -- among working adults the figure is up from 198,000 to
267,000, a 35pc increase.
•Of the three in 10 who are in a position to save money, 20pc save less than €50 a month.
•60pc say they have €100 or less left at the end of the month once essential bills are paid.
•A quarter of savers put away €301 plus per month, well above the €180 monthly average,
•Seven-out-of-10 adults are unable to save.
Car costs have also gone up for households, with petrol and diesel at record highs and insurance increasing for young women.
Changes in the PRSI threshold, increased car registration costs and the cut to child benefit are likely to hit hard.
Many families are simply continuing to struggle to survive on a daily basis.
Jim Walsh, spokesman for the Society of St Vincent de Paul, said his organisation was not surprised by the figures.
"Unfortunately, we expect things to get worse as people start to feel the full effects of the budget."
READ SINEAD RYAN, P16/17