The Tauranga Budget Advisory Service has seen a 25 per cent upsurge in wage earners seeking help.
Manager Diane Bruin said the spike was due to an increase in living costs, such as power and petrol as well as redundancies and credit card debt.
It was tough out there for wage earners and those families that lost an income were showing up in greater numbers, she said. "The husband could have been laid off or someone has had an accident so their income's dropped but their debt is built into that and they get into trouble. They don't have health insurance so they can't meet their commitments.
"We are all different and some people should never have a credit card ... "
This year 27 volunteer budget advisors had worked with more than 1900 clients in the city.
The largest debt it had to deal with was a couple seeking help after accumulating $80,000 on credit cards while others were using their plastic for food or power.
Most problems could be solved if people set goals and stuck to a financial plan, she said. "Half of it is, not acknowledging the debt and letting it go on and on. If you do the planning the rest is easy."
Mrs Bruin said the service wanted to shake off the image that it only looked after beneficiaries. "We look after everyone ... I think the worse stigma is a lot of people think budget is a dirty word."
Now the service is promoting financial literacy messages that accentuate the positives of being savvy with money.
Next month it is kick-starting a new campaign "Make a Date with your Money" which is being run in conjunction with Money Week an initiative facilitated by the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income. "We are trying to get people to make a date with their money and commit to it," said Mrs Bruin.
Latest Reserve Bank figures show New Zealanders collectively owed $3.65 billion at the end of June compared to $3.32 billion over the same period in 2012.
Everyone had a personality when it came to money and that included the achiever, hoarder, entrepreneur and thrill seeker.
Money Week education manager Robyn Scott said it wanted to encourage New Zealanders to think more about their money and how to improve their financial situation.
Money week starts on September 1.