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A quarter of UK consumers have no ‘rainy day’ savings

25 September 2014

Brits estimate that they should have £1,200 put aside for emergencies but 59% have less than £1,000 saved up

UK consumers estimate that they should have £1,200 put aside for a ‘rainy day’ but nearly three fifths (59%) have less than £1,000 saved up for emergencies, and a quarter (25%) have no rainy day savings at all. A third (33%) of consumers said that they use credit cards to cover emergencies if they don’t have the money set aside.

The survey, commissioned by Gocompare.com Savings and carried out amongst over 2,000 UK adults, found that 47% of consumers felt that it was a good idea to have £1,000 or more to deal with expenses like unexpected home and car repairs or even for paying a large energy bill. More than a fifth (28%) of respondents felt that £2,000 or more was a suitable financial safety net.

Half (50%) of the over 65s in the survey said that they had over £2,000 put aside for emergencies, making them the age group best prepared to deal with some of life’s financial surprises. However, 35 to 44 year olds were generally the least prepared with nearly a third (31%) having nothing put aside, and just 24% having £2,000 or more they could easily access.

In the past a typical ‘rainy day’ expense might have been having to fix the boiler or pay for a large and unexpected car repair, but today for many people even regular spending like doing the shopping, paying a car insurance premium or paying the rent or mortgage can be something for which savings must be dipped into.

What makes a ‘rainy day’?

  • An unexpected repair/replacement of a home appliance - 56%
  • A car repair bill - 51%
  • A home repair bill such as fixing a roof leak - 50%
  • Replacing or repairing a central heating boiler - 49%
  • Replacing a laptop - 26%
  • Paying a larger than usual energy bill - 25%
  • Replacing a TV/DVD/Sky box etc - 23%
  • Paying for a holiday - 21%
  • Replacing a smart phone or tablet computer - 21%
  • Paying a larger than usual shopping bill - 14%
  • Paying the mortgage or rent - 12%
  • Paying the annual car insurance premium - 11%
  • Paying a credit card bill - 11%

A third (33%) of consumers said they use a credit card to cover their ‘rainy days’ if they don’t have sufficient funds put aside, whilst 18% borrow the money from friends and family. A fifth (21%) said that they sell or pawn something to raise the cash, and 5% resort to taking out a payday loan. Almost half (45%) of consumers said that if they couldn’t afford to pay for an emergency expense they’d just wait until they’ve saved up the money.

Matt Sanders, banking spokesperson at Gocompare.com, said: “It’s worrying to see how many consumers have absolutely nothing saved up for a rainy day. The old rule of thumb was that you should aim to have at least three months’ salary set aside for emergencies, but nowadays it seems most people are struggling to save three weeks’ wages, let alone three months.*

“Some of the events which now constitute a rainy day for many people are surprising. Paying a large shopping bill, car insurance premium or energy bill, for instance, aren’t things that come out of the blue, so although they can sometimes be higher than expected good budgeting should prevent these sorts of expenses putting a strain on your finances.

“Many consumers are still feeling the pinch and whilst you should prioritise paying off your debts before trying to amass lots of savings, it’s still a good idea to try to build up a reasonable emergency fund in an easy access savings account. Compare what rates of interest are available for the sort of sum you’re looking to build up and start paying in a regular amount, even if it’s just a few pounds a week. You’ll be surprised how quickly you forget about the money coming out of your account and going into your savings pot. When choosing a savings account, check that there are no penalties for withdrawing your money at short notice. There’s little point in having emergency money in a 90 day notice account.

“If you have no savings at all and you need to pay a bill for an emergency, credit cards are a good alternative; but only if you pay off the balance soon afterwards. With many credit cards, even those without a special ‘interest free’ period for purchases, you will have up to 56 days to repay the balance and not incur interest. The actual interest free period depends on your own statement date and when you make the purchase but you shouldn’t rack up interest until you’ve received your next statement and had the opportunity to repay any spending in full by your set payment date.

“The same does not apply to cash withdrawals though. You’ll usually start paying interest on those as soon as you withdraw the money. Look at your own card’s terms and conditions to check, but using a credit card to cover a short term emergency will almost certainly be cheaper than taking out a payday loan or going to a pawnbroker.”


Notes to editors:

*On 18 July 2014, an online survey was conducted among 2,005 randomly selected British adults age 18+ who are also Springboard United Kingdom Community members. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current data on age, gender, region, and education from the most recent census data, to ensure the sample is representative of the entire adult population of the UK. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

*UK average weekly wage in March 2014 according to ONS is £474. Average rainy day savings is £1054.