More wage earners join budget queues

By James Fuller

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The number of people seeking budget advice in Tauranga has risen 10 to 15 per cent compared to last year.

Diane Bruin, service co-ordinator at Tauranga Budget Advisory Service said the demographic of those seeking help was also changing.

"We are seeing more wage earners and not just those on benefits. This year has been much busier than last year, our numbers are up by 10 to 15 per cent."

Mrs Bruin said the rise in numbers was indicative of the economic climate.

"I think it's also a measure of people having increased their spending over Christmas and they're now thinking they've got to get a handle on it. It's back to reality."

The Tauranga budgeting service runs three-hour drop-in clinics five times a week in Tauranga - in Welcome Bay, Bayfair, Greerton and two in Merivale.

Mrs Bruin said often up to 10 people were turning up to the clinics "wanting to do something about their position". She said people having financial difficulties should contact the organisation.

"We often get people who haven't been paying a particular bill and the debt is mounting up on them. We can negotiate with the creditor, work out a better, more realistic payment schedule which will sometimes mean them waiving extra charges."

Mrs Bruin said New Year was a good time to get a handle on spending and savings goals.

"Start the new year by assessing what the household spends. Get your last three month's bank statements out and, with highlighters, go through the spending looking at where your money goes. When you have completed this prepare your budget and then a cash flow. Track your items weekly and check them against your monthly bank statement.

"Your essential items such as rent/mortgage/board, what does it cost? Are you getting the best deal from your bank? Book an appointment with your bank and discuss what it all costs. Are you paying too much in fees? Are you getting the best interest rate? Are there better options to managing your income?"

One person who has benefited from TBAS advice is Raewyn Long, who works for Intellectual Disability Empowerment Association (Idea). She said charting her cashflows had helped her see things "in black and white".

"We weren't in debt. I just knew we were going to have a few more outgoings having just sold our house and looking to buy a new one. It really helped with cashflow, charting incomes and outgoings. Having somebody list it out in black and white was great."

She said many people who got into trouble "choose not to see the warning signs". "They refuse to, it's that need for immediate gratification. I want that 48-inch plasma TV. People bury their heads in the sand about what it costs."

Shula Newland, at Full Balance Financial Coaching, said a few simple steps could save people hundreds of dollars a year.

"It's about getting into a saving mentality, stopping using credit cards and changing financial habits. It's easy to save people a few hundred dollars in a year."

However, she said, most people who went to her had debt issues and addressing them was key.

"The first priority is to make sure you've got a balancing budget and you can afford all your daily expenses. About 80 to 90 per cent of the people who come to me are in debt."

Many were earning an average wage but were unable to get ahead. They were working hard but didn't have money for holidays or to put the kids into extracurricular activities.

"Life can get pretty miserable if that's the case."

Ms Newland coaches in Tauranga and Auckland.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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