ONE in three Australian households is living pay cheque to pay cheque and many would not be able to cover a major emergency.
The BT Australian Financial Health Index, based on a survey of 5000 Australians, found 41 per cent could meet monthly expenses but a third worried about being able to do so, AdelaideNow reports.
The BT Index, one of the largest surveys of its kind, also found Australians have become more conservative than ever since the global financial crisis in their attitude towards credit card debt.
The survey, conducted by Ernst & Young, also found:
56 PER CENT of people say they are unable to save as much as they would like to
A THIRD do not believe they will have a financially secure retirement
48 PER CENT of respondents say they rarely or never make contributions to a super plan
ALMOST one in five would not be able to find between $500 and $1000 if they needed it in an emergency
35 PER CENT have developed a sound plan to help them achieve their goals.
BT general manager Deanne Stewart said the index revealed what drove financial success, but it painted a mixed picture of Australians' attitude to money management and planning.
"The results of this survey show very clearly that there are a large number of people struggling to cope financially day to day," Ms Stewart said.
"In many instances, people are living in the hope that they will achieve their goals rather than planning for a fulfilling and secure future.
"This has implications for their health and lifestyle, impacting on their levels of stress, and in the longer term influencing their enjoyment in the years after they finish work."
When it comes to household expenses, the survey revealed families with four or more children have the biggest monthly food bill, but spend less on housing and utilities than smaller families.
A family of four spends on average $1788 a month on housing, compared with a family of six or more, which spends $1367.
The monthly average utilities bill for a family of six or more is $875, compared with $883 for a family with three children. The survey found expenses were more or less standard across states.
Ms Stewart said people often put managing their finances in the "too-hard basket".
"There are simple steps everyone can take and over time these will make a huge difference to people's savings and peace of mind," she said.
"The quite high number of people who shop without purpose for things they don't need is just one example."
SINGLE mum Suzie Pavlovs, 36, works full-time at the Royal Adelaide Hospital as a registered nurse to meet the basic expenses of her family, made up of her two daughters Lily and Poppy.
Ms Pavlovs, of Mile End, is self-sufficient and targets a saving of at least about $250 a month after expenses.
"I try to stick to a budget," she said. "It's not always possible, but I try.
"Shopping is restricted to special occasions and I cook five to six nights a week."
The BT Australian Financial Health Index shows almost half of Australians with a regular savings plan save $200 or less a month, revealing a country under strain when it comes to saving for the future.
Ms Pavlovs said she was managing fine with her expenses, but only just and mostly because she worked full-time.
"It's hectic but I can afford basic things," Ms Pavlovs said.
Other financial planning strategies she followed included paying off her credit card in full every month and restricting food/supermarket spending to $200 a week.
THE BT Australian Financial Health Index found tradespeople spend $844 a month on food and $628 on family expenses such as medical bills, childcare and education.
Professionals dish out $831 a month on food and $594 on family expenses.
Plumber Daniel Morton isn't surprised with the result.
Every three months, he drives to an abattoir and spends $600 to buy 30kg of lamb.
He also spends an average $350 a month on other groceries.
"I see the guys (other tradies) that work with me generally getting a lot of takeaway," he said.
"I am a bit health conscious though, so it's a self-made sandwich, a bottle of water and fruits for me for lunch."
Daniel's average monthly food bill of $350 is a bit lower than the national average spend on food by tradies and also below the state's average monthly food bill of $666 - the lowest in the nation.
Read more at AdelaideNow.