Real Accounts: a long-term study of UK households’ financial lives

This innovative research project uses first hand stories and digital transaction tracking to build an in-depth, in-the-moment understanding of households’ income, spending and money management strategies over time.

Launched in spring 2023, the Real Accounts project is being led by Nest Insight in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University and the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University, with support from the Aviva Foundation.

At the moment, too little is known about how low- to moderate-income households across the country manage their money or the strategies they use to deal with changes to their income, the rising cost of living, and unexpected expenses that come up in day-to-day life. We’ll combine first-hand stories with real-time transaction information to build a long-term picture of households’ experiences, decision making and diverse financial approaches

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Research participants

Information for participants

Find out what you and your household can expect when taking part in our research study and how your participation could make a difference to others in the UK and beyond.

Programme partners

Work with us

By working together, there’s much more we can learn. We believe there are several ways to extend this project, broaden its reach and increase its impact.


News and blogs

Keep up to date with the latest news and blogs from the Real Accounts project.

What makes this work exciting?

Believed to be the first study if its kind in the UK, the Real Accounts project will gather research insights that look:

Beyond individuals

Most income and spending data follows individuals. This study focusses on households partners, siblings, friends and people’s social connections. We’re putting individuals back into their contexts to understand their financial decisions.

Beyond snapshots

We’ll capture the day-to-day, week-to-week ups and downs as they happen, and work with households to understand the dynamics that drive those changes.

Beyond averages

While we value data that allow us to identify trends and make generalisations, we also recognise that there are no ‘average’ circumstances or experiences. This research aims to recapture the variation within households.

Beyond single dimensions

Knowing how much money a household has and how much it owes gives us one insight into their financial wellbeing and resilience. But we also recognise that there are many relational, social, environmental, health and other factors that all come into play, and we want to hear about them from household members themselves.

What are people saying?

"In uncertain times, we need to better understand how people deal with fluctuations in their incomings and outgoings – and what kinds of financial support and services might enable them to build a buffer, and a plan, to deal with today’s pressures, as well as what tomorrow may bring."

Alex Christopoulos

Aviva Foundation Lead

"As the rising cost of living continues to impact households across the country, and levels of household debt climb, this research is more crucial than ever. The project aims to shine a light on exactly what it is like for households today managing volatile income and expenditure, sharing their first-hand stories."

Sope Otulana

Head of Research at Nest Insight

"This research is really timely given people are currently facing the very significant impact of the cost-of-living crisis and often enormous uncertainty about both their incomes and their expenditures. The outcomes of this work will generate deeper understanding of what it means to experience financial challenges in reality and over sustained periods of time. It will contribute to finding better ways to help people in their everyday lives."

Professor Andrew Lymer

at the Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing at Aston University

“Families on low to medium incomes are facing the impact of changes to their finances which are outside of their control, and that they have never seen before. Real Accounts will capture the lived experiences of these people and tell the human stories behind statistics over time, capturing events in each household’s financial calendar like back to school and planning for Christmas."

Michael Healey

Acting Head of Insight and Evaluation at the Money and Pensions Service

"The study of financial choices and coping strategies in challenging circumstances, such as the current cost-of-living crisis, will contribute to improved evidence-based policy and practice."

Olga Biosca

Professor of Economics at Glasgow Caledonian University

"We know from our own users the pressure that the current economic situation is placing on them, with many unable to save resorting to borrowing to get by each month. Having thorough data and insight will enable any solution to be highly personalised in its approach and have a much more positive impact on those that require it most."

Samantha Seaton

CEO of Moneyhub

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