Nearly 25% of Americans Making $50K or Less Can’t Afford Monthly Bills — 5 Ways They’re Trying To Make Ends Meet

Close up of a mother going through her financials.
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Fewer Americans were able to pay their monthly bills in October 2022 compared to the year prior, according to a new report from the U.S. Federal Reserve. In October 2022, 82% of adults said they expected to pay their bills in full, down from 86% in 2021.

However, lower-income adults are less likely to be able to afford bills, according to the report. The report shows that 33% of households making less than $25,000 are unable to pay all their bills, and 22% of households making between $25,000 and $50,000 are unable to pay all their bills.

Price increases on necessities like food, fuel and electricity have caused many Americans financial hardship over the year. Nearly all the adults polled said they had seen prices go up during 2022. It caused many to make changes in their budget to be able to afford the necessities.

Price increases affected 64% of Americans making between $25,000 and $50,000, but people felt the pinch across the board. Sixty percent of those making less than $25,000 said their budget had been affected “a lot” by price increases. Those making more also felt the difference, with 59% of families making more than $50,000 but less than $100,000 seeing the difference, and 41% of households making six figures needing to adjust their budget to accommodate higher prices.

Americans used five tactics to help make ends meet in the face of inflation.

Cutting Back on Products (By Using Less or Taking Them Out of the Budget Entirely)

Cutting back on specific products can help save money. Whether it’s using slightly less dish soap or shampoo, or cutting certain products out of your routine, every small change can help stretch your dollars. Sixty-six percent of Americans polled reduced their use of certain products or cut them out of their household budget altogether.

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A separate study from the University of Michigan showed that 19% of households cut back on groceries, while 12% cut back on purchasing household items, and 12% reduced dining and entertainment purchases.

Switching to Cheaper Products

Sixty-four percent of Americans said they switched to a cheaper version of products they buy regularly, according to Federal Reserve data.

Delaying a Major Purchase

Nearly half (49%) of Americans polled said they have delayed a major purchase. Amongst the purchases likely to be delayed were cars, refrigerators, exercise equipment and new homes, according to a survey last year from Money.com.

CNN Business noted that Americans aren’t replacing items purchased during the pandemic that are still in good condition, such as televisions and home appliances.

Reducing Savings (51%)

More than half (51%) reduced their rate of savings as a response to inflation in 2022. CNBC reported that Americans had an average of $9,000 less in their savings accounts in May 2022 than they did the year prior. According to Northwestern Mutual’s “Planning & Progress Study 2022,” 60% of U.S. adults said the pandemic was “highly disruptive” to their finances and based on the Federal Reserve report, many households still have not recovered.

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Borrowing Money (15%)

Once Americans had taken steps to make ends meet, roughly 15% said they still had to resort to borrowing money to pay their bills.

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Generating Additional Income (26%)

The gig economy continued to grow in 2022. As a response to higher prices, 18% of Americans said they got another job or side gig or asked for additional hours at their primary job. Another 8% asked their employer for a raise.

As inflation continues, it’s expected Americans will continue using these tactics through 2023 as a response to rising prices.

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