One in five people have just €70 disposable income each month after monthly bills are paid, a survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions has found.
The survey found that 210,000 adults - six per cent of adults - do not have enough income to cover essential bills.
Another 245,000 Irish people have nothing left to live on after they have paid their bills each month, while 735,000 people have just €70 left each month.
1,000 people were surveyed in order to try to find out how much money people have left to spend or save after they have paid normal ordinary household bills, like mortgages, heating bills and car loans.
It found that 245,000 Irish people have nothing left to live on after they have paid their bills each month, while 735,000 people have just €70 left each month.
On the other end of the spectrum, the survey found one-in-five people have 20% or more of their income left over after bills.
People are also worried about how they will cope if they have unexpected medical expenses or other unforeseen bills.
45% of respondents said that they are unlikely to have money to save in the current economic climate.
Just 12% of those surveyed believe that what they have left over after they have paid for essentials has increased since this time last year, while 19% believe it has stayed the same.
30% believe that with any further changes to the minimum wage they would be better off not working.
428,000 people believe there is no future for their families in Ireland.
ILCU chief executive Kieron Brennan said more and more Irish families are seriously struggling in what are very difficult financial times.
"We have just seen an ECB rate increase last week which is likely to push families and individuals further into mortgage difficulties and arrears.
"In the meantime increasing mortgage rates combined with increasing fuel costs, the introduction of the universal social charge and cuts in social welfare means that 2011 will be one of the most difficult years for the Irish population in terms of money management," he said.
The survey is the first of its kind conducted by credit unions and comes as consumers are being hit by rising mortgage, food and petrol costs.