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Strapped for staples: 3.8 million Australians don’t have funds at the checkout

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Australians are struggling to afford basic necessities, according to new research by Finder.

A new nationally representative survey of 1,001 Australians revealed almost 1 in 5 (19%) have had a transaction declined at the counter in the past 3 months.

That's equivalent to 3.8 million Australians who are struggling on empty bank accounts.

The research found 11% have had to abandon their purchase after coming up short at the till, while 8% have had to return items to the shelf in order to pay for their shop.

Sarah Megginson, senior editor of money at Finder, said Aussies are struggling as a result of the cost of living crisis.

"So many people are scraping the bottom of the barrel right now.

"It's really distressing to be in a position where you can't afford your groceries or fuel.

"Australians are being left embarrassed at the checkout as increases to household bills means there's just not much money left in the bank."

Grocery bill stress hit a record high in August, with 37% of Australians ranking groceries as 1 of their top 3 most stressful expenses. This is up from 28% in March.

Before 2022, the highest this figure had reached was 24% in June 2021.

Megginson said 2022 was the "perfect storm" for struggling finances.

"Soaring food costs, high energy bills and rising interest rates and rents are the 3 key areas that are hurting households the most right now."

Bill shock or an unexpected expense was the leading reason why more than 1 in 3 (35%) Aussies experience food insecurity, according to the Foodbank Hunger Report 2021.

Low income (30%), prioritising rent/mortgage payments (30%) and running out of savings (17%) were other leading reasons.

Megginson said households should do whatever they can to ease the financial strain.

"Consider switching utilities and refinancing your home loan to reduce your monthly expenses," she said.

"And if you're really struggling to make ends meet, contact your bill providers and ask them about their hardship policies or payment plans. They can work with you to alleviate some stress and get on the front foot.

"If you're looking for a free and easy way to track your expenses and your bills, the free Finder app allows you to see exactly where your money is going, so you can budget better," Megginson said.

Have you had a transaction declined due to insufficient funds at the checkout in the past 3 months? (e.g. at a supermarket, petrol station, restaurant etc)
Yes, I had to return some of the items8%
Yes, I abandoned my purchase11%
No, but I saw this happen to someone else13%
No, and I haven't seen this happen to anyone else68%
Source: Finder nationally representative survey of 1,001 Australians, June 2022

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