Indebted to budgeting service

By Joseph Aldridge

Single mother Christina Shearer used to lie awake at night trying to figure out how she was going to pay her debts and still afford to feed her kids.

With two young children and one on the way, Ms Shearer moved to Tauranga five years ago for a fresh start but found herself in debt.

The relentless pressure of trying to juggle too many balls eventually wore her down and she accepted a friend's suggestion that she seek help.

"You'd like to think that you can deal with it but then you realise you're not sleeping at night because all you can think about is all the bills adding up in your head and how you're going to feed your kids," she said.

"You've got to swallow [your pride] a bit and do something for your family because you want the best out of life that you can."

That first meeting with a budget adviser marked a turning point.

"They were really good, they weren't judgmental, they were friendly, they were supportive and they started an action plan for me and brought in other support services, like the foodbank.

"They helped with the basics, getting through the next few days' needs and then they did a lot of ringing around to agencies that I owed money to.

"When they they did a budget, I was in deficit $1900 a week and that was before food. That was really scary."

Debt-free four years later, Ms Shearer has put the advice she received into practice.

"I've got all my bills that go out before I get my money, so I know everyone's been paid. And I never tick anything up. If I want something, I'll save for it and pay for it," said Ms Shearer.

Making a positive difference in other people's lives was the motivating force for budget advisers, Tauranga Budget Advisory Service (TBAS) president Jo Gravit said.

"It's just often knowing the steps to take and being able to work with that person, because its a partnership all the way."

At an event celebrating TBAS' 40th birthday on Friday, Ms Gravit said the basics of the service had not changed.

"It's actually interesting how much the world has changed but in actual fact the work of the budget supervisor really has not changed.

"It's still making people balance their budget, it's still trying to stretch the dollar to make sure they can pay for the essentials. You need to work out what their needs and wants and priorities are," said Ms Gravit.

"The only difference from 40 years ago is credit, hire purchase, credit cards, shopping trucks and all these things that are trying to run up the debts. The basic problem of trying to cover their rent and their power, all those things are the same.

"It's really more discretionary spending and the noughts are getting so much higher and the expectations also of the children and the pressure on them to have the latest cellphone."

Also present at the TBAS function was Minister of Consumer Affairs and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges.

He said today's world was a complex place, with endless options to waste money: "We do have in this complex world a real issue with financial literacy."

Top 10 tips for getting out of debt

  • Get out of debt fast. The longer you take to pay off debt, the more it will cost.

  • Don't take advice from the person lending you money. They want you to borrow because they make money from the interest you'll pay.

  • Check your budget to see if you can increase your debt repayments.

  • If you have several debts, pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, such as credit cards or hire purchase.

  • Make a list of all your debts and the interest rate you're paying on each one.

  • Identify which debt charges the highest interest and see if you can make bigger repayments to pay off this debt faster.

  • When this is paid off, start paying more off the debt with the next highest interest rate.

  • If you have several different high-interest loans, talk to your bank about combining them into one lower-interest loan.

  • If you're having trouble paying back your debts, talk to the organisation that lent you the money as soon as possible.

  • Free advice is available from a trained budget adviser from the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services at 0508 BUDGET (0508 283 438).


- Bay of Plenty Times

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