Half of all adults in Britain are struggling to keep up with their bills and debt repayments, a survey published Friday said.
Of the 5,000 people questioned by the Money Advice Service, more than 52 percent said they were struggling, compared to 35 percent in a similar survey in 2006.
Most people are living for the "here and now" rather than planning for the future, according to the report, with one in five people saying they would rather have ??200 today than ??400 in a month's time.
The figures suggest that around nine million people are in need of urgent help managing money, while millions more are living "on the edge" the report said.
Two-fifths of those surveyed said were unsure whether they could cover an unexpected ??300 bill and a quarter said they prefer to live for today rather than plan for tomorrow.
"There is a general feeling that people worry about their ability to make their money last until payday," the Financial Capability Of The UK report said.
"And because of this, people are focussing more on the here and now than on planning for the future, including for unforeseen emergencies."
The advice service found that more people are developing positive money management habits as a result of the squeeze, including checking bank statements and sticking to a budget.
However it also identified major gaps in people's knowledge of financial matters, with 16 percent unable to identify their available balance on a bank statement.
Caroline Rookes, chief executive of the service, said: "In theory, money management is easy -- spend less than you earn and consider your future -- but the difficulty comes when applying this to the real world.
"This report reveals just how difficult it is at the moment for so many of us, but also highlights ways we are adapting to manage financially."
Income per hour has dropped by six percent in real terms since the 2006 research conducted by the now defunct Financial Services Authority.
The Treasury acknowledged that families have struggled during the economic downturn but insisted the British economy is "on the mend".
"The government has taken continued action to help households with the cost of living, including cutting tax for 25 million people by raising the personal allowance and freezing fuel duty," a spokesman said.
"This report shows that, despite these tough times, managing your everyday finances effectively can really help to make things a little easier, which is why the government continues to support efforts to boost people's financial skills," he added.
The report comes as new figures show that personal insolvencies in Britain edged up from a five-year low in the second quarter of this year.
The number of individual insolvencies rose three percent to 25,717 from the previous three months, although this is still six percent lower than the same period last year, the Insolvency Service said.