Monthly disposable income increased by €50 in December

Credit unions’ survey finds 500,000 still have nothing left after paying bills

Irish consumers’ disposable income climbed by almost €50 in December when compared with 12 months earlier, the latest income-tracking survey from the Irish League of Credit Unions (ILCU) has indicated.

However, almost half a million adults still have nothing left once all essential bills are paid, the survey shows.

The league said its research showed consumers were increasingly upbeat in the second half of last year and appeared better able to manage their money, although it said hundreds of thousands of people were still living a hand-to-mouth existence.

Unsurprisingly, working adults fared best in 2013, seeing their monthly disposable income climbing by €56 when compared with December 2012.

Across the whole population the increase was put at €49.

The impact of the local property tax is being felt, with 40 per cent of homeowners saying they had to sacrifice spending in other areas to cover the cost of this year’s tax.

The latest research said property tax was most likely to hit spending on clothes and shoes, as well as credit card and personal loan repayments.

Net income
The average net income for Irish households last month was €2,707, up from €2,604 in September 2013.

Some 1.6 million people said they had €100 or less left at the end of the month once all bills were paid, a decrease of 131,000 on the September 2013 figure.

Just under 1.1 million told researchers they had €50 or less left at the end of the month, while 480,000 said they had nothing left, a decline of 38,000 since last September.

The ILCU said its latest figures show more people were moving out of the lower disposable income categories, indicating a gradual recovery in family finances.

The survey recorded a number of changes in the monthly essential-bill categories between September and December last year.

Household and utility bills increased from an average of €719 in September to €740 in December 2013.

Rent bills saw the biggest increase, going up by an average of €67 in just three months.

Monthly health insurance payments climbed by an average of €31, groceries went up by €17, childcare costs increased by €64, and public transport costs climbed by €11 a month.

"We can see that disposable income is continuing the creep upwards and more people now find themselves in a position where they are able to put a small bit away in savings every month, and this certainly correlates to what we are seeing across the credit union movement and what our credit unions are telling us," said ILCU chief executive Kieron Brennan.

Household bills
"However, despite this, people continue to struggle, and a significant proportion of the population are struggling to pay household bills on time every month."

He said many were struggling with credit card debt.

"With average credit card debt in Ireland currently standing at approximately €2,400, the research shows us that more and more people are relying on their credit card to make ends meet every month."