Research on the real life impact of financial stress

5 February 2024

Over 40 low to middle-income people across Victoria were interviewed as part of the research, with participants then completing detailed financial diaries over a ten-week period.

In February, our SPARC team released their latest research report, Making ends meet: fostering security and dignity in tough times , which examines how the cost-of-living crisis, coupled with the lingering effects of the pandemic, has impacted lower-income households and their economic security. 

Income, credit and debt, day to day money management and subjective feelings of financial wellbeing were analysed, with the research finding that people trapped in poverty and insecurity are unable to budget their way out of financial crisis, despite their best efforts.

“Not enough groceries at home, freezer is empty. I have asked my landlord if I can pay rent late. I’m tired and feeling anxious about finding full-time work,” is how one participant described their current living situation, while another said of the welfare system: “I hate living on the system. I hate doing it, but I’ve got too many mouths to feed to lose my Centrelink … And I can’t do that when it’s the same vicious cycle every day.”

Housing insecurity was a common theme among participants, with some living in fear of losing their homes and others having to live in unsuitable accommodation at a significant emotional and physical cost. Low and uncertain incomes, resulting from low wages, unpredictable work hours, unreliable child support and inadequate social security also created significant stress for participants, leaving families struggling to make ends meet. 

Dr Dina Bowman, lead author of the Making ends meet report, said: “The cost-of-living crisis coupled with the aftershocks of the pandemic has caused a financial disaster for our most vulnerable that has been years in the making. Now is the time for bold and urgent policy reform to ensure support and change for the people who need it most. 

BSL will continue to call for meaningful policy changes to ensure that the foundations of economic security – affordable housing, decent work, and a fair and adequate social safety net – enable all people in Australia to live with security and dignity.

Read the full report for details of how poverty is affecting people and their choices on a day-to-day basis here .