A mother-of-two said she had resorted to using baby banks to avoid building up more credit card debt as she struggled to pay for food and fuel.
More than 12 million people across the UK are now borrowing money to cover essentials including energy bills, according to a survey by the Money and Pensions Service.
Summer Howell and her husband work full time while caring for their two children who are both under four.
The family, from Cambridgeshire, are using credit cards to pay for food, fuel and energy bills.
"It's scary to think that we are working-class people and we still can't afford the essentials," said the 23-year-old.
While the family is coping with the monthly payments at the moment, it is becoming more difficult and Mrs Howell worries what will happen when interest is added.
The mother-of-two uses baby banks in Ely - where struggling families can get donations of essential baby items for free - to avoid putting more purchases on her credit card.
"If I had to buy everything that was [at the baby bank], it would all go on the credit card on top of all the bills that already go on it and that would just mount up and be quite a stress," she said.
"It's just all mounting up and it's a worry if something happens like the car breaks down or when the heating oil goes up."
Half of people who are borrowing for essentials are doing so for the first time according to the survey by the Money and Pensions Service.
Caroline Siarkiewicz, chief executive, said: "Relying on credit or the generosity of family and friends to put food on the table, heat your home and keep a roof over your head can be a constant source of stress.
"For millions of UK households, it's also a daily reality."
The survey also found one in five think they will need to turn to credit for essentials in the next few months as the cost of living squeeze continues to bite.
It has launched the Money Helper Cost of Living Campaign to raise awareness of the help and guidance available to make more informed financial decisions.
Financial adviser Emmanual Asuquo said: "The big risk is that you're going to continue to build up debt."
"What starts as a one-off item on a credit card soon builds up, and once you are no longer able to make the minimum problem the debt increases even more rapidly."
With increasing interesting rates, Mr Asuquo said people were at risk of entering "a big debt spiral".
Mrs Howell said she had hopes of buying their first family home in the future, but believed in her current situation it was a long way from becoming reality.
"It's kind of scary because we both work full time and we are struggling," she said. "It's scary to think that people around us who maybe can't work full time, or work part time will be in the same boat."
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