Hard Times: How Poor Families Make Ends Meet


While better-off families use credit to spread the cost of buying consumer goods, those living on low incomes often borrow to pay bills or to meet daily living costs. Borrowing is, however, only one of a number of strategies that might be used for these purposes. This study was commissioned and designed to explore the range of strategies that such families use to meeet their immediate needs and the factors that determine the use of one strategy rather than another. It explores in detail the financial circumstances and household budgeting of 74 low-income families. It was clear that for many of them, making ends meet was a constant preoccupation.

The book is clearly divided into four parts, covering:

  • the ways in which low-income families try to maximise their incomes;
  • day-to-day budgeting, bill-paying and meeting one-off expenditures;
  • patterns of informal lending between family members and neighbours; and
  • use of all types of credit, from credit cards and bank loans to moneylenders, pawnbrokers and the social fund.

Key point findings for each section ensure that the information is as accessible and easy to use as possible.