The finances of just under 40 per cent of Irish people have worsened over the last 12 months with large numbers feeling increasingly gloomy about their prospects despite some positive top-line economic news, according to research published on Monday.
The annual Pulse of the Nation research from Amárach identifies what it calls a “vibecession”, which notes that people’s feelings about the economy dip even when economic circumstances appear to be improving.
Some 39 per cent of respondents feel their financial situation is worse now than it was this time last year, with one in four of the view that things are going to get worse in 2024, according to the online survey of a representative sample of 1,200 adults carried out in conjunction with retailer Penneys.
The research also shows that 61 per cent of parents say their wages just about cover monthly expenses such as rent and mortgage, utilities, groceries and childcare costs, with little or nothing left over for leisure activities.
Despite a stronger economic forecast and slowing inflation, the cost-of-living crisis continues to weigh heavily on the public mood with consumers remaining very cautious with their money. Some 84 per cent of adults continue to shop around to find the best value.
Almost 90 per cent of those polled said they took steps to manage their energy bills last year, including shopping around and wearing warmer clothes.
Some 71 per cent said they had reduced the number of times they ate out or ordered takeaways. Almost half of households have cancelled at least one entertainment subscription while 62 per cent said they had switched to a cheaper grocery retailer.
A further 68 per cent said they were treating themselves less, with a similar percentage socialising less often in a bid to better manage their household finances.
“While the macroeconomic picture has improved and the Irish public has benefited from a range of direct supports to offset increasing household costs, the latest Penneys Pulse of the Nation Index has revealed that Ireland appears to be experiencing an interesting trend akin to what the United States has gone through — a ‘vibecession’ — whereby the public mood remains downbeat despite the positive economic indicators,” noted Amárach chairman Gerard O’Neill
“While our research has found that the majority of people are relatively happy with their quality of life, a person’s financial situation is still having a disproportionate effect on their overall state of mind, with women, families, renters and low-income households being hit the hardest.”
Alongside the research, Penneys has outlined customer spending insights suggesting that its shoppers have been buying warmer clothes to save on energy bills. Sales of its fleece-lined leggings for example jumped by 39 per cent a year prompting it to expand its ranges and include long johns for men.