These days, it's hard to pick up a paper or turn on the news without being warned about the tough times we're facing, the challenges still ahead - and throughout it all, the need to save money and cut back on our spending. The question is: "How?"
With the best will in the world, thinking about saving money won't make much difference to the average family's monthly budget unless they change the way they actually treat their money. So some recent research makes interesting reading…
Since 2009, Standard Life tells us, we've become more careful with our money. Research published by the savings and investment company indicates that fully 91% of us are now 'actively adopting financially efficient habits'.
"The worse the economic news, the more important it is that people do what they can to make their money go further," commented Insolvency Practice Freeman Jones, author of this article. "As they say, a penny saved is a penny earned, so Standard Life's 'Financial Efficiency' research provides some comforting reading - and should give the average reader a few good ideas."
For example? 57% of the people asked said they simply 'Don't spend what they don't have'. Just three years ago, that figure was around 45%.
"It's about as basic as it gets, but this simple rule is at the heart of any successful budget," Freeman Jones continued. "One 'positive' effect of the economic crisis is the extra attention people are paying to their finances - this research indicates that 30% of people are setting a budget these days, as opposed to just 22% in 2009."
Other findings indicate that 50% are shopping around on a regular basis, while 49% regularly look for the best deals online.
What if it's not enough? Shopping around, sticking to a budget, turning down the heating, cutting back on food costs - what if all these things aren't enough to make the money stretch far enough?
"These days, falling behind on payments is far from unusual. People all over the UK are struggling to repay debts they ran up during 'the good times' - at the same time as coping with a cost of living that's rising faster than wages. What counts here is figuring out the right approach to take.
"The first step, for many, is getting some debt advice and finding out what kind of debt help might be able to help them tackle their debts. This can be a difficult step for someone to take, whether it's because they're reluctant to talk to a stranger about money or because they're worried about what they'll find out when they do face up to their debt problems.
"One common misunderstanding is that bankruptcy's the only 'way out' for someone who can't repay the money they owe. It's true that bankruptcy will be the best approach for some - but it's not the only form of personal insolvency. Figures from The Insolvency Service show that last year, more people in England and Wales entered an IVA [Individual Voluntary Arrangement] than bankruptcy.
"This was the first time this has ever happened on an annual basis. It's a reminder that there's more than one answer to debt - and that people in different situations will need to find different ways of tackling their debt problems."