Two thirds of Australians are concerned about their current financial situation and one in three would be unable to survive for up to one month without a steady income, research suggests.
Dun & Bradstreet's latest Consumer Credit Expectations Survey indicates that consumers are worried about their financial position.
Adam Siddique, director of Dun & Bradstreet, said consumer confidence is down in the wake of the global financial crisis.
"For certain demographics it reflects the reality that households are living hand-to-mouth; with very little savings buffer should unforeseen circumstances occur," he said.
"So while national household savings levels are at a 20-year high, it is clear that not all consumers are in a position to put money aside."
As a result of tough economic conditions more Australians are cutting spending on non-essentials such as entertainment compared to last year, while around 40 percent of consumers say they are less likely to use credit or apply for a home loan.
"Ten to 15 years ago consumers were more comfortable living with a lower savings-to-debt ratio. However, continued global economic uncertainty is weighing on Australian households and dissuading discretionary spending, credit usage and significant investments such as buying a property," said Siddique.
Meanwhile, around 40 percent of low-income households expect to rely on existing credit sources to cover costs, and the same demographic also anticipates to struggle to meet repayments on outstanding debt.
In support of this, the most recent federal State of the Australian Cities report suggests that housing affordability appears to be keeping young people in the family home for longer.
The study revealed that living affordability has declined in parts of Australia's major cities over the past decade because a growing number of households are experiencing financial stress related to rising housing and living costs.
Michelle Hutchison, spokeswoman for RateCity, said in tough times following simple truths about financial management will serve you best.
"None of these are particularly sexy or ground-breaking, but that's the point," she said.
First, increasing repayments — on a credit card, a personal loan, or a loan for your own home – above the minimum is always a good strategy, according to Hutchison.
"Paying more than the minimum you are required to pay does two things; it eats into your principal faster, so the amount on which you are being charged interest. Paying down principal – just like having a bigger deposit to begin with – also makes you less vulnerable to interest rate rises," she said.
Second, measured use of credit cards always makes sense, she said.
"Using cards sensibly means, for example, paying them off in full, and never, ever using them for cash advances. There's no interest-free period for cash advances, so you'll pay interest on day one, and usually a fee as well."