The Salvation Army says it is seeing an increase in the number of people unable to put food on the table, having spent all their money during Christmas.
"Christmas is a great time to celebrate but it's not a great time to go in debt and we've seen people who are coming in saying 'the family's been, we had a great time, but we've got no food'. They've put their priority of spending elsewhere, whether that's on family or presents," Christchurch Salvation Army Major Mike Allwright said.
In Christchurch, overspending was compounding the stresses already weighing on people after last year's massive earthquake, meaning it would be a difficult start to the year for many residents, he said.
Auckland and Northland Salvation Army Captain Gerry Walker said the reality of having all the family together at the same time could also prove a great strain for some people.
"Family tensions arise from time to time, on top of what has been for many a particularly difficult year financially. Of course, out of that comes other challenges and issues."
Capt Walker said there had been a steady increase in demand for the Salvation Army's services during the past 2-1/2 to three years, particularly from working families. Historically, most help was needed by people on benefits.
Many families would feel an added financial sting come February, he said.
"Hot on the heels of Christmas comes the extra expenses of school uniforms and stationary which, as anyone who has children appreciates, is just an added burden, particularly for people on low incomes."
Mr Allwright said it was important for people who were struggling at this time of year to ask for help.
"People can't be helped if they don't ask. There are people out here who are willing to help but if nothing is said then no one really knows what's going on. There's always hope and there's always help, the thing is you've got to ask for it."