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Would you struggle to pay an unexpected bill?

Research from YouGov has revealed a third of people wouldn't be able to pay an unplanned bill of £500, we look at the best ways to borrow if you're forced to pay a bill you can't afford

An unexpected bill of £500 would force 38% of people to borrow in order to pay it, a survey from pollsters YouGov and the Times has discovered.

Almost half of “working class voters” (defined in polling jargon as the “C2DE” category, comprising manual workers and the unemployed) would need to get into to debt afford the shock bill.

Even the relatively well-off would struggle, with 31% of “middle class voters” (the so called “ABC1” – or professional, junior managerial and administrative workers) saying they would need to borrow money in order to pay a £500 bill.

Most worryingly 14% of people said they wouldn’t even be able to pay a shock £100 bill.

Falling wages and rising cost of living

The YouGov report points towards relatively falling wages, rising rents and expensive homes as the potential cause of why even affluent people have money struggles.

They highlight that wages have fallen in real terms after the 2008 financial crash and have still not risen to pre-crash levels when inflation is taken into account.

average earnings

Best way to borrow to pay an unexpected bill

While borrowing to pay shock bills is less than ideal and not a long term solution to money troubles, sometimes there is no alternative.

So if you do find yourself forced to borrow to pay a bill make sure you don’t get caught out with expensive debt, damage your credit score or borrow more than you need to.

Interest free overdraft

Getting a bank account that offers an interest free overdraft is a good way of being prepared for unexpected bills.

You can effectively borrow for free, but you will need to apply for the authorised overdraft with your bank and if you go over your authorised interest free limit, fees and interest rate charges will be levied.

0% interest money transfer card

A money transfer card allows you to transfer credit into your current account, you can then withdraw this as cash to spend.

Many money transfer cards offer a 0% interest period as long as 40 months. However, an upfront fee will apply that will typically be 2-5% of the amount transferred.

Personal loan

A personal loan will allow you to borrow between £500 and £35,000 in cash, you will then need repay the loan with fixed monthly repayments over a term between 1 to 15 years.

Personal loans are unsecured meaning your credit score determines how much you are allowed to borrow and what the loan will cost you.


Remortgaging a bit of an extreme measure just to pay a bill and should be very carefully considered (it’s also likely to take as long as a few months to carry out).

But if you own a home that has risen in value, you could borrow against this increase in value by getting a new mortgage larger than you need to repay your existing mortgage. This is a way of ‘releasing’ some of the equity in your home to get a cash lump sum (note this is different to an ‘equity release scheme’).

If you’re consistently struggling to get by, this cash could give you some breathing space.

Struggling with money?

If you are struggling with debts or have general money worries our debt help guides could be useful, but there is also plenty of free independent financial advice you can seek out.