‘There’s just no extra money now’: struggle to make ends meet


Jess Barnfather has always been a good budgeter. So much so that she had $120 allotted for groceries each week – but now that same store is costing her over $200.

She scours supermarket websites for sales and usually visits several different stores to find the best deals to keep costs down, but she always struggles to make ends meet.

“There’s just no more extra money for fun, extra stuff. It seems like every week you’re spending more and more.”

The single mother from Invercargill is among the Kiwis who are struggling to cope as the costs of essential goods rise. For the September quarter, annual inflation was 7.2% and vegetable prices rose 24%.

Three parents met by The New Zealand Herald in the midst of the cost of living crisis, say they are worried about how they will stretch their budgets each week to cover the essentials with often very little for the nice things to have.

A new Herald A poll has shown that the global cost of living crisis is by far the most important issue for New Zealanders at the moment – with 56% ranking the issue as the most important issue facing the country is facing – well above climate change (12%), crime (11%). ), the Covid-19 pandemic (8%) and social division (8%).

By gender, higher proportions of women (65%) said the cost of living was the most important issue facing the country than men (46%).

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said earlier in the month that measures had been taken to ease the pressures of life on New Zealanders, such as halving public transport costs and granting a temporary cost of living payment to eligible persons.

Barnfather said she typically spends around $120 a week on food for herself and her 14-month-old son, but that rose to around $170 to $180 at the start of the year and then over $200 over the course of the year. of last month. She receives an allowance and says she was shocked by the increase.

“I thought, ‘wait a minute, I just brought everything on the list.’ I had to pay because we needed it.”

The 26-year-old said the weekly prospect of making sure she could cover all her expenses, including petrol and childcare, was daunting. Before leaving home, she says she checks sales on supermarket websites and sometimes visits almost every major supermarket in town to find the best deals.

“Every week is a daunting measure. Will there be decent sales this week? Sometimes there are weeks where there are no sales at all and you have to pay full price for everything.

“At Invercargill we have two Countdowns, one Pak’nSave and two New Worlds, and Supervalue and Four Square, and some weeks I go to all of them. Each in town has different sales.”

“I can no longer afford like before”

Shontelle Helg, a learning coach at Ormiston Junior College in Auckland and president of the PPTA branch, said while costs had gone up her salary had not gone up, stretching her food budget for her and her daughter to its maximum.

“Your budget must be so tight. My salary is not going [up] with the prices of everything so just cut everything down because I can’t afford it like before.

“Once in a while you want to buy things like a pack of chocolate cookies. Well, I can’t buy those chocolate cookies anymore because I have to spend that money on healthy things that are good for you.”

Her daughter’s swimming lessons have gone from $100 per term to $300, she said, making them unaffordable, but she is able to dance and guide. Helg said that for her and her ex-husband, their daughter will always come first.

“As co-parents, we just make sure she has what she needs first. We’re both second.”

Michelle*, a Marlborough mum from a blended family with four children, says she and her partner often eat less so their children can have more food. Although her partner works full time, the family struggles to get by.

“It’s really hard trying to put food on the table right now. The money coming in is pretty much gone; most of it goes to rent and then every week it’s like what bills we’re going to have miss paying this week so we can try to get enough food to get through the week?

“We haven’t received a lot of money, but in recent months it has become increasingly difficult to get by.”

She said the family’s power would have been cut off if they hadn’t secured a loan from the non-profit organization Nga Tangata Microfinance, which usually gives one-time interest-free loans to people struggling with debt.

Ngā Tāngata Microfinance’s managing director, Natalie Vincent, said inquiries were up 37% in the quarter to September 30 compared to the same period last year. And for the first time, the number of applicants whose income was a salary or partially a salary was greater than the number of recipients.

“It used to be that 80% of the applications received were from people whose main source of income was a benefit. We’ve been seeing this change since about June. September would be the first time we’d see this ladder flip,” she says.

“It’s quite alarming.”

In September, the average income for salaried clients, or clients who earned a salary but also received extended benefits, was $59,500, Vincent said.

“What we’re seeing is more people who [are] wage earners, wage earners, they had a credit card, they had an overdraft, they had a personal loan with a bank, they had to buy now, pay later, but with the cost of living going up, they’re also employees they all still have a salary, they can no longer manage their debt.”

* The NZ Herald agreed not to use the woman’s real name.

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