Almost one in seven across all groups cannot see a time when their income will cover their outgoings, rising to one in five among the most stretched, the bi-annual Axa Big Money Index finds.
Consumers remained pessimistic about their situation in the six months to June and just 16% say their financial situation will improve in the long term.
The widespread pessimism sees 28% cutting back on food spending and almost one in four forced to spend less on gas, oil and electricity.
Even wealthier groups continue to switch to using cheaper supermarkets for basic food shopping.
This applies to one-third (32%) of people in their 50s and 60s who are mortgage-free and have a high disposable income, described as the "exclusive lifestyles" group, and 25% of those in their 40s and 50s who have an above-average income, named the "successful security" group.
Around one-third (31%) of the exclusive lifestyles group have used savings to make ends meet, with 13% not opening bills until the final demand arrives.
One in five people (20%) have stopped putting money into savings.
Axa UK marketing director Cheryl Toner said: "It's alarming to see that even those deemed untouchable, the more comfortable sectors, are now feeling the pinch. Severe cutbacks are evident almost regardless of affluence levels.
"However, it is encouraging to note that the younger population feels quietly confident, and that there is growing sentiment that better financial education and more personal responsibility is needed to take control of financial concerns."