Families have seen their finances improve over the last year which has helped them boost their savings despite the recession, according to a report.

They take home £2,150 a month on average after taxes and before paying bills, an above-inflation 4% rise on 12 months ago, Aviva's Family Finances Report says.

Key Points

  • Family savings up 6% over year, says new report
  • Debts owed have fallen
  • People 'getting to grips' with finances

This has helped families increase the amount they put away in savings each month to £45, a record high since the report began in January 2011 and 41% more than a year ago, taking typical savings pots to £1,228, a 6% year-on-year increase.

Families generally have also been using their extra cash to pay down their debts and typically owe £9,314, down from more than £10,000 in January, reflecting the mood of consumer caution amid the uncertain economy.

However, it's not all good news, as debt levels are still 58% higher than a year ago.

Families' take-home pay has grown at a higher rate than for people across the UK generally as family households are more likely to include people who are older and more financially established, the study says.

It also found there are more family homes with at least two people who are employed.

Family income

Households have been able to take advantage of a recent slowing in unemployment to bolster their incomes, with nearly three-quarters having a full-time "breadwinner" and more than a third having a spouse who earns a secondary income; both increases on the start of the year.

Much of the income boost was driven by families with two parents and children. Household units with two parents in a committed relationship with two or more kids saw an 8% annual rise in their monthly income to £2,327, while those with two parents in a relationship who had one child saw a 4% rise to £2,171.

These families were more likely to include a full-time earner as well as a spouse with a secondary job, the report found.

In sharp contrast, single parents' finances have plummeted by 8% over the last year to £805 and the report says government reforms to the benefits system could be partly behind these decreases in income.

Outgoings

Monthly outgoings of around £1,680 have remained unchanged over the last year, despite the consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation at 3% squeezing people's budgets, showing how people are making tough decisions about their spending and shopping around.

The share of outgoings families are spending on mortgages or rents each month has dropped from 22% a year ago to 19% which is probably due to people taking advantage of mortgage rates which are low by historic standards as well as a subdued housing market, the study says.

A string of lenders have recently increased their mortgage rates amid the weak economy, which could help to push the share back up again.

Food spending is the second-biggest outgoing and has increased its share of outgoings from 10% a year ago to 11%.

'Reassuring'

Richard Kelsall, head of savings for Aviva, says: "Many UK families have experienced tough times in recent years, so it's reassuring to see people are getting to grips with their finances to weather the storm.

"Incomes have risen and debts are falling which suggests that families are working hard to get on an even keel."

The report also showed how finely households are balancing budgets. A third of families said they could not afford to put any more money aside as every penny is already allocated, rising to 65% of single-parent families.

Of the two-thirds of households who could afford to save more, the typical amount they could afford would be £53 a month.

The most popular sacrifices families would make to boost their savings tended to be food-related, such as cutting back on take-aways or buying basic supermarket ranges.

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