A decade of austerity and cuts to local services have had severe impacts on coastal towns in England, resulting in high levels of inequality and precarious employment prospects for many residents, including young men growing up in working class families. Forms of care typically provided by the family and the state are are becoming unavailable, and access to secure employment has become difficult, especially for men with few educational qualifications, skills or work experience in places where work in seasonal. In this article we explore the effects of austerity and precariousness on the daily lives of 30 young men living in coastal towns, focusing on the ways they have come to care for each other. We build on feminist efforts to ‘trouble’ care, highlighting unexpected caring practices, as well as the conflicts that shape barriers to care and the ways care itself may play out in careless ways, shaped by the austere contexts of its enactment. We pay attention to the significance of place and the everyday spaces in which care is practiced, as well as the ways in which friendship networks are paradoxically both caring and careless.