About 2.3 million households missed an essential payment in January – an increase of 400,000 on the month before, but similar to previous years.
Essential payments – which include mortgages, rent, loans and credit cards – often peak in January, according to Which?’s consumer insight tracker.
The monthly poll of approximately 2,000 people discovered that almost 59% made at least one financial adjustment, such as selling items, dipping into savings or cutting back on essentials, to cover their spending.
However, that’s lower than the peak of 65% in September.
There has also been an increase of 11 percentage points on last year in the number of households cutting back on bills, housing costs, medicine and groceries, from 27% to 38%.
Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: “With 2.3 million UK households missing payments in January and those on the lowest incomes being hit hardest, consumers will need more support than ever in 2023.
“As the cost of living crisis continues to bite into household finances, we are calling on businesses in essential sectors – like food, energy and broadband providers – to do more to help customers get a good deal and avoid unnecessary or unfair costs and charges.”
Further pressure could come in the form of increased water bills, after industry body Water UK said prices would rise by 7.5% this year – taking the cost of an average day’s water consumption to £1.23.
However, the body argues the price is still cheaper in real terms than it was a decade ago.
The findings come a day after one of the biggest days of industrial action for years, with teachers, NHS workers, railway staff and civil servants all walking out over pay negotiations as the cost of living continues to bite.