Nearly half of New Zealanders are living pay day to pay day without a nest egg to fall back on in case of emergencies.
A survey into our banking habits showed younger people at the beginning of their careers, women and those from Waikato and Otago were more likely to be unable to put money away for a rainy day. Forty-four per cent of Kiwis hang out for pay day every week, with women the highest at 48 per cent.
Fifty-six per cent of those aged between 18 and 29 fell into this category, those aged between 30 and 44 were at 50 per cent. People of 45 and over too had concerns (36 per cent).
Waikato residents had the hardest time, at 50 per cent, compared with 42 per cent of Aucklanders. Canstar Blue, which compares data from New Zealand banks, interviewed 2240 people around the country who had one or more bank accounts.
Dealing with money was stressful and overwhelming for 34 per cent of people, while thinking about the long-term financial future also made 43 per cent feel uncomfortable.
Again, younger people, women and Waikato and Otago residents were the highest-represented in each category. But the budgeting ethic was strong across all age groups with 65 per cent saying they stuck to a budget.
North Shore Budgeting Service's Brian Pethybridge said the GST rate rise from 12.5 per cent to 15 per cent in 2010 and Kiwisaver contributions rising from 2 per cent to 3 per cent had taken a toll on family budgets, as did petrol and housing costs.
Most people only require about three changes to balance a budget, Mr Pethybridge said. "It can be something like smokes, alcohol, Sky TV, or little things that add up. People realise that things are not going round, but they haven't taken steps to see what changes need to be made. Invariably people just leave it."
A lot of struggling New Zealanders did not realise that they were eligible for financial help, including a Work and Income accommodation supplement which started at $80 a week.
"It's not only for beneficiaries, it's for people that board, it's for people with mortgages," Mr Pethybridge said.
The survey also asked respondents to rate their bank across eight categories. TSB came out on top for overall satisfaction with five out of five points, followed by The Co-operative Bank, KiwiBank, ASB and BNZ, which scored four points.
Westpac and ANZ scored three.
Trainee pilot forgoes the high life
Wayne Merriman has learned to budget for pay day every week.
The 25-year-old is studying towards his commercial pilot's licence and is unable to pick up too many part-time jobs as he needs to keep time free for flying sessions - which are often having to be cancelled or rescheduled depending on the weather.
He works about twice a month at the Hampton Downs racetrack helping out with supercar events, earning $15 an hour, and about once a fortnight mowing laws and doing other odd jobs for an elderly couple in Whitford, earning $14 an hour.
His student allowance of $244 comes every Wednesday.
But after paying $165 in rent for a room in his One Tree Hill flat, Mr Merriman is left with between $80-$100 a week for food and petrol.
"It's not enough," he said.
"I put $40 gas in my car, which is less then half a tank, and the remaining $40 on food doesn't go that far - it just gets me some mince and some bread."
He hopes to graduate in six months and will look at jobs flying twin-engine planes overseas.
How we're banking
• 44% live pay day to pay day
• 43% say thinking too much about their long-term financial future makes them uncomfortable
• 34% think dealing with money is stressful and overwhelming
• 65% stick to a budget
• 34% seek financial advice from their bank
• 53% no longer have a cheque book
• 46% a lot of banking on the go
• 65% rarely go to a bank branch
• 13% have threatened to switch providers and successfully negotiated lower fees or interest.