An Auckland mother of three has laid her finances bare to bust the myth that those struggling to make ends meet are wasting their money.

Part-time teacher aide Catherine says she's forced to feed her family on less than $89 a week after paying rent and bills.

"I don't waste any money because there's no money to waste," says Catherine.

"You have to try and stretch every dollar right down to the cent."


To prove her point Catherine is happy to have her budget put under the microscope.

Adding together wages, family tax credit and accommodation supplement, Catherine pockets $825 a week.

But after paying $530 a week rent for her modest three-bedroom Takanini home, and forking out another $206 for essential household and transport costs, she's left with just $89 to feed herself and her three primary school age children.

Catherine doesn't have any insurances and all one-off costs such as repairs, health costs or clothes also have to come out of the $89.

"It's really tough. Sometimes when the kids aren't around I feel a little bit down thinking 'oh I'm working for peanuts'."

Catherine says she doesn't smoke and drinks a small amount of alcohol once every three months at most.

Her only treat for her kids is a once-a-fortnight trip to a fast food outlet which works out at around $10 a week.

She doesn't have Sky, has never gambled and bought her TV on Trade Me for just $220 five years ago.

"My budget doesn't come up short from spending it up large, it comes up short because there's other things that require money."

Catherine says working in a local primary school means she's got to know many other parents who are in a similar or worse situation.

"There are families where they just don't have breakfast or they won't have eaten any food for lunch either.

"Most of the families are in a similar situation to mine. We're [coming up] short but it hasn't come about in a silly way, it's because they've come into a bill or need to pay for medicine for a child.

"Most parents in this community are not wasting their money.

"They are actually trying to better their own lives, their kids' lives, their families' lives.

"We just need a bit of help sometimes."