Times are tough in the wake of Covid-19. NZME, publisher of the Bay of Plenty Times, is launching a finance series where our local experts share their top money-saving tips and advice.
Job losses and a drop in incomes due to the fallout of Covid-19 has seen demand for food parcels skyrocket with the local community foodbank experiencing its "busiest day ever".
Foreign nationals unable to return home due to travel restrictions and closed borders were some of the reasons for the spike in people seeking help and the foodbank is expecting the demand to continue.
However,Tauranga Community Foodbank manager Nicki Goodwin is reminding the local community they are not too busy to help and is encouraging people to reach out.
Goodwin said the food bank was "busier than we have ever been" after giving out more than 70 food parcels on Friday and about 50 on Monday.
"A busy day for the foodbank is about 35 food parcels," she said. "It has been growing and growing."
Goodwin said foreign nationals stuck in New Zealand and unable to travel home had contributed to the sudden growth in demand.
The service had joined with other local organisations to be able to help visitors so the foodbank could remain focused on the needs of the Tauranga community.
She said the Salvation Army would undertake a needs assessment to determine their situation and what help was needed.
"It is hard because everyone is in need and we are expecting that demand to continue."
Goodwin said they had received "mindblowing" support from the community and she encouraged those in need to reach out for help.
"We don't want anyone to think the foodbank is too busy and someone else might be more important. That's exactly why we are here. We can help and we will help."
Goodwin said many people were seeking help after losing their jobs or taking a massive paycut due to the Covid-19 crisis.
"A lot of people never expected to be in this position ... They are in a situation they could never have planned for. It is beyond their control," she said.
"The wage subsidy has cushioned it for a lot of people but that is not going to last forever. They have still taken a huge decrease in income."
Goodwin said many people were saying they were just scraping by and did not need support just yet.
"My advice to them is don't go into debt just to buy your food," she said. "There is no shame in reaching out ... There is zero judgment."
Support from the community organisations including the foodbank and local budget advisory services was "vital" as the country moved through alert levels, Goodwin said.
"It could be the difference between people coping or not coping."
Meanwhile, Tauranga Budget Advisory Service is expecting a surge in people seeking help with how to manage their money when Covid-19 subsidies end and redundancies were confirmed.
Manager Shirley McCombe said in the next few weeks stress levels would start to rise as bills begin to arrive and she was encouraging people to seek help sooner rather than later.
The Bay of Plenty Times reported this week that in 2019, the service dealt with about $26m in client debt and held 4500 one-on-one sessions as well as group education.
McCombe said about 70 people would usually seek budget advice each week pre-Covid-19.
However, she said numbers have been much lower with the alert level restrictions meaning they have had to cancel face-to-face sessions and instead try to work with clients over the phone, email or Zoom.
"We are expecting to see a surge of people when the subsidies end and redundancies are confirmed."
McCombe said people made commitments based on their earnings and to suddenly lose some or all of their income was frightening.
"Many will be trying to cope by using savings, credit, or store cards. But in the next few weeks, bills will be starting to arrive that they are not able to pay and stress levels will be rising.
"We are encouraging people to come and see us sooner rather than later, they don't have to deal with this all on their own."
Generally, McCombe said it was debt that brought people in.
"Often they wait until things are out of control and they are about to be evicted or have their power or phones disconnected.
"Many have borrowed to pay a bill and then the loans (generally with very high interest) get out of control."
McCombe said any time someone was trying to take control of their spending, having a budget and a shopping list was "vital".
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Shirley McCombe has also shared her top tips for saving money on your weekly grocery bill.
1. Plan your meals.
Identifying exactly what you need means that you can reduce waste. If you buy larger packets of meat, divide them up and freeze them separately so you are not cooking more than you need. Plan to use leftovers for lunches or freeze them for a day when you are busy or don't feel like cooking (instead of buy takeaways). Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables as these represent the best value and if you can, shop at the start of the week (it makes it easier to spread the food out).
2. Make a list and stick to it
Check your cupboard before you head to the supermarket. Take your own bags and use a small trolly, it will help reduce the urge to fill it up. It helps to shop alone as often children and/or partners who are not aware of the budget can make it difficult to stay on track. Many stores offer calculators for customers to use while they shop, it is a great way to ensure there are no nasty surprises at the checkout.
3. Don't shop when you are hungry
It is much harder to avoid the temptation, especially when everything looks and smells so good.
4. Check out the store brands
Many of us go for a brand we know even though it may be much more expensive than the store brands. Look on the lower shelves, often that is where the best bargains are. Check out reduced to clear, they may have a short expiry date so plan to eat them earlier in the week.
5. Put treats last
If you are going to buy treats, put them on the conveyer belt last. If you are over-budget, be prepared to put them back.
. Have you lost your job or your hours are reduced? Are you worried about paying your bills? Do you owe money and don't know what to do?
. Make a free and confidential appointment to met with a financial mentors face to face or by phone, email or Zoom.
.Phone 07 578 0969, text 021 08177107 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
. Clinic times at www.tgabudget.org.nz