More seek budgeting help

By Carmen Hall

Shula Newland.
Shula Newland.

A Bay couple lost their home after putting $54,000 on credit cards for renovations.

The anecdote has been revealed by a budget adviser as more Bay people seek help to manage their money.

Latest figures show New Zealanders owe $8 billion on credit cards and 41 per cent do not pay it off each month, incurring an average interest rate of 17.6 per cent.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service co-ordinator Diane Bruin told the Bay of Plenty Times she had worked with a couple who had clocked up $54,000 in credit card debt to remodel their home.

"Because the debt borrowing was already high, the credit cards were used to purchase items to go into the house, like showers, a bath and kitchen appliances. When the equity wasn't in the house, the clients could not borrow against a mortgage and after six months the house had to be sold as a mortgagee sale with debt."

Some people were using their credit cards to gamble online. But others were using them to buy groceries, make payments for insurance, rates, power and car registration.

It had become a trend, she said.

"There is an option to get your groceries at the supermarket on credit and then they don't have to pay straight away, so it's easy. But some people get into trouble because their income changes or something happens in the household and they can't afford to meet the payments.

"We are seeing people who can no longer manage all their commitments because of total debt impacting on their disposable income. A lot more people are seeking help."

Rising interest rates were also placing pressure on family budgets.

"We recommend clients talk to their bank to manage debt and ensure there is a mixture of fixed and floating mortgage rates."

The service was helping about 1700 clients a year. That was on par with previous numbers but more wage earners were seeking help, she said.

"The difference is we are dealing with more complex issues than two years ago."

Full Balance financial coaching manager Shula Newland wants the Government to subsidise its service.

The Tauranga-based business had been in discussions with the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income.

It helped working people with larger incomes who got into trouble that could be alleviated with a financial health check, she said.

About 80 per cent of its clients had credit card debt and she questioned checks undertaken before the cards were issued.

A job loss or redundancy could result in people living off credit cards but people got into difficulty when they did not have the money to pay it off, she said.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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