Debts mount as eight in ten UK consumers break even or overspend each month

Press release

  • A third (33%) of UK consumers have skipped at least one bill in the last 12 months, with almost one in four (37%) feeling less guilt for missing their payment due date than in the past

  • More than three quarters (79%) are just breaking even or are over-spending each month, with the average over-spender exceeding their budget by £190

  • A quarter of UK consumers have no ‘cash buffer’ to fall back on in the event of difficulties

  • 74% say ‘greedflation’ would stop them spending money with a business

  • European consumers braced for inflation to last until early 2025

More than a quarter (26%) of UK consumers are spending more than they earn each month, according to early findings from the 2023 European Consumer Payment Report, conducted by credit management services provider Intrum.

Of those overspending, the average amount was £190 a month – adding up to £2,280 a year. Another 53% said they are only just breaking even, leaving them teetering on  the edge at a time when many are coming to the end of cheap rates on fixed-term mortgages.

The early findings lay bare the experiences of 20,000 consumers across 20 European countries. They paint a stark picture of wellbeing as households grapple with the impact of rising interest rates and high inflation.

Consumer savings depleted

Many consumers’ resilience is hanging by a thread because they lack any ‘cash buffer’ to cover unexpected costs. Worryingly, a quarter (24%) admit they have no savings to fall back on, and a further 17% have less than one month’s income saved.

“This level of overspending by a significant segment of the population is extremely worrying,” says Intrum UK’s Managing Director Eddie Nott. “Over time, relatively small amounts can easily mount into bigger debts. Many people have already gone through their savings during the last few difficult years and have no buffer to cope with the financial challenges they are facing.”

With their personal finances under pressure, a third (33%) of UK consumers admit they have failed to pay at least one bill on time in the last 12 months. This is the highest proportion in Intrum’s annual study since 2019.

The main reason for failing to pay bills is simply not having the money required to pay (55%). Yet more than a third of consumers (37%) say they feel less guilt about dodging their payment due date than in the past. The finding suggests people believe reneging on payments is a natural, and necessary, consequence of the more challenging economic environment.

‘Greedflation’ repels consumers

With greater pressure on their disposable incomes, consumers are also drawn towards brands and businesses that show they understand the changing landscape.

Half (49%) of UK consumers say they are more likely to spend money with businesses that offer flexible payment terms such as partial payments, multiple payment methods or flexible due dates. More (65%) believe that companies should offer flexible payment methods to consumers during difficult economic periods.

Meanwhile, three quarters (74%) of consumers say they would stop spending money with a business if they thought that it was guilty of ‘greedflation’ by raising its prices when costs go up, but choosing to not reduce them when costs fall.

“Businesses need to work sensitively with consumers to combat their debts,” says Nott. “Many customers simply cannot afford to pay their bills and taking an aggressive stance won’t make any difference. Instead, they need to look for sustainable payment plans and longer-term solutions.”

He adds: “With large numbers of people spending more than they can afford, businesses should prepare for increasing numbers of indebted customers needing support in the coming months and years.”

Consumers’ outlook on the future is also bleak, with just 44% expecting their financial situation to improve over the next 12 months, fuelling a wider sense of unease and discontent.

On average, people believe that high inflation will last until early 2025, while at the more pessimistic end of the scale, 16% believe high inflation will never end.

As a result, a third of UK consumers (33%) may demand a pay rise from their employer this year, while 20% anticipate taking on extra credit to make ends meet.

About The European Consumer Payment Report 2023

The European Consumer Payment Report 2023 is an instrument for gaining insight into European consumers’ everyday lives, their spending and ability to manage their household finances on a monthly basis. The report is based on an external survey conducted by Longitude across 20 countries in Europe. A total of 20,000 consumers participated in the 2023 edition of the survey. The fieldwork for the study was conducted between 19th July and the 1st September 2023.

For further information, please contact:

Scott Forster, Senior International Communications Manager

07716 227537

Intrum is the industry-leading provider of Credit Management Services with a presence in 20 markets in Europe.
By helping companies to get paid and support people with their late payments, Intrum leads the way to a sound economy and plays a critical role in society at large. Intrum has circa 10,000 dedicated professionals who serve around 80,000 companies across Europe. In 2022, revenues amounted to SEK 19.5 billion. Intrum is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden and publicly listed on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange. For more information, please visit