A solo mother who changed careers to fit around childcare. Another who says taking a day off work weekly to spend time at home with her toddler is "unrealistic".
A new father who created a cost-of-living guide so that his wife can work less and stay home with their baby.
These are the stories of single-income families in the Bay of Plenty who are cutting costs, working longer or changing jobs in order to pay the bills as the cost of living soars.
According to Stats NZ, the average weekly earnings in the region are $1273 - or more than $66,000 a year.
TradeMe's latest figures showed the median weekly rent in Tauranga was $630 and $500 in Rotorua.
Annual inflation has hit 6.9 per cent in the year to March 31, the largest movement in 30 years. Food prices have climbed to a 10-year high, rising 7.6 per cent in March.
Grocery food prices are up 6.7 per cent, fruit and vegetables up 18 per cent, and meat, poultry and fish up 8.7 per cent.
To help with these rising costs, the Government has promised to give eligible low-to-middle income earners a $350 payment in three monthly instalments as part of an emergency $1billion cost-of-living package in Budget 2022.
'You can not really pay for that time at home'
Logan Donnelly, 28, tracked his family's budget for several weeks, comparing how much they spent on power, internet, gas, food and insurance.
His Cost of Living Guide has received more than 150,000 views after he posted it to finance websites.
Donnelly started the cost-cutting exercise so that his wife Charlee, 28, could spend more time at home with their now six-month-old daughter, Delilah.
Charlee's maternity leave ended in May last year and she decided not to return to her job as a nurse due to Omicron and not wanting to leave her baby.
It meant the Donnellys - a young family of three with two dogs and a $550,000 mortgage - were now on a single income.
Before the baby was born, their combined income was between $130,000 and $140,000.
Donnelly was working from home as an education consultant reviewing unit standards for certificates, degrees and diplomas four days a week.
Without maternity leave and only working four days a week, Donnelly calculated their annual sole income would be $56,000 minus the Working For Families benefit.
So he increased his workdays to five and negotiated a pay rise, which bumped them up to about $75,000.
"We have always kept a rough budget week to week, but in January 2022 I ran the numbers and saw there was no way we could possibly survive on my income alone.
"This led me to a mentality of seeing how much we could save by cutting expenses so that Charlee could work as few hours as possible."
Donnelly said he tracked their budget "very strictly" for several weeks and itemised what to work on - power, internet, insurance.
"These were our three biggest expenses that seemed to have wriggle room."
In the last three months, his annual savings were between $1100 and $1300 on power bills, more than $400 on the internet, and about $4600 from switching banks.
After comparing gas, insurance and food prices, Donnelly said all up he had saved between $5000 and $7000.
Donnelly said he had been with one provider for years because of certain perks it offered.
But he said he was "astounded" after finding several providers $20 cheaper than the one he was with for the same service.
"Further shopping found that these cheaper prices could be combined with 50 per cent off for six months or three months for free deals, leading to substantial savings."
Donnelly said he added a referral code for anyone who joined up to his new provider thinking he would only get about one or two people changing over.
"We got enough referrals that the power is paid until the end of the year now.
"It is cool to think that I did this for myself, and now it has helped so many others."
Switching insurance also made "substantial savings", he said.
"We cut any subscriptions we had ... We also changed our cellphone plans to a prepaid monthly.
"We started doing exclusively click and collect at [the supermarket] so that we don't buy any extra things.
"We also looked into what benefits young families qualify for and were happy to get an additional $100 a week that we hadn't expected."
Donnelly said they eased into their saving exercise and were realistic.
"Stuff comes up, costs come up all the time.
"I think if we went too strict too quick we would have been like: 'This is not going to work'. It was like a soft launch into being stricter."
Donnelly said he knew as the cost of living grew that they would have to keep adjusting their budgets. The pair have also started side hustles to get some extra income - Logan is blogging and Charlee is turning dried flowers into reefs.
But so far their savings have had a "huge" impact.
"We cannot go for a holiday or anything. But it has let us be able to live and get by.
"To me, this is the best place we could be in. You can't really pay for that time at home.
"That was a real goal rather than focusing on money."
'You can't be all of one and all of the other'
Tauranga solo mum Candice Westnedge is changing careers from truck driving to real estate because the driving shifts do not match her toddlers' kindy hours.
Westnedge, 32, went back to truck driving, doing 15-hour days, when her two-year-old son Braxten Bell was three months old.
But she stopped working in June after finding it tricky to find shifts late enough to work in with her toddler's kindy hours. So she is studying for a new career in real estate.
She has moved back into her parents' place after the owners of her previous rental needed to move back in and she had to find another.
It took about 14 months and more than 100 rental applications and viewings to find a rental of her own.
"I had done so many interviews and viewings. It was upwards of the 100 mark."
She feared rent had almost doubled since the last time she was a tenant.
"We had to totally re-budget and cut right back to the minimum."
Since moving in with her parents, she noticed instantly the difference between when you go from renting to boarding of what you have available to you funds-wise.
"When you have a little one it makes it a bit trickier."
The rise in food and fuel was "crazy".
"What I get now for $120 would be the equivalent of what I used to get for $60 to $80."
A full tank of gas for the week used to cost $120 but that now got nowhere far, she said.
"If you have got anything extra that pops up you are not going to be able to do it.
"Now I am finding I have to say no to going to places like taking bubs around the Mount. Do I have enough fuel for that? It's the little things."
That cup of coffee at a cafe has turned into instant coffee at home, she said.
But what helps her get by is being home for Braxten's milestones. The only part she misses is when he is at kindergarten twice a week.
"I love watching him grow. I have enjoyed watching him learn to run, learn how to ride his bike, teach himself how to eat."
When she was working late doing truck-driving shifts she would miss everything, she said.
"But you can't be all of one and all of the other. Because, at the same time, if they see mummy working that is instilling it in him as well.
"He is going to have a good work ethic as well.
"You have to figure out for yourself what is the lesser of two evils."
Her advice to other mums trying to do it all was to keep at it, if that is what they wanted.
"It is important that they see us working as well because that instills a good thing for them. It is not going to be an instant reward but you will be thankful later."
Staying home with child not realistic, mum
A solo Bay of Plenty mother, who NZME has chosen not to name, said she would love to stay at home one day a week with her nearly two-year-old.
But she said her role was not realistic to have that time out of the office weekly.
The mother said she was fortunate to be earning more than enough to support herself and her child - and to have doting grandparents who helped out twice a week so that she did not have to pay for daycare full-time.
"I would love to stay at home one day a week with my child."
Unfortunately, the mother said she did not qualify for the solo parent benefit, and while she earned enough to pay her mortgage and bills easily on one income she struggled to save any money.
"I have quite frequently over the last few months wondered how other single mums in the same position would be able to get by, on a $60,000 salary, for example, with no child support to help with expenses.
"I just don't know how they would do it."
The mother said she would easily spend $250 a week on groceries now because items like nappies and formula, on top of groceries, were so expensive.
"To fill my car up costs about $150 now. The mortgage is $650 per week.
"For people on a $60,000 salary, if petrol fell in the same week, all three would be more than their take-home pay after tax.
"Then imagine bills still needing to be paid, clothes and shoes for the toddler etc. Let alone anything for yourself.
"People must be struggling so much. But how do we as a country support people in these situations more, other than our taxes going up?"
Tough to find work that fits around childcare, expert
Tauranga Budget Advisory Services manager Shirley McCombe said it was tough for single-income families and it was very hard to find work that fitted around childcare.
"It's a tough choice because many would love to remain home in those early years but fewer and fewer families can do this.
"Single working parents have the cost of childcare, the stress of juggling family and work commitments, as well as all the other pressures families face."
McCombe said double beneficiary families were often worse off financially than single beneficiary families.
"For some, returning to work isn't the answer either as they may not earn much more than on benefits – especially if they are on lower incomes."
A large number of their clients were single-parent families, she said.
"It is a contributor to poverty and, in some instances, poverty is a contributor to relationship breakdowns.
"Some choose to say they are living separately to boost their income - this is benefit fraud."
Rotorua Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura said many clients had cut their outgoings to a minimum so when costs of food, accommodation and power rose they only had one real option - to increase household income.
"There seems to be plenty of work available so households are increasing their work hours or numbers of jobs by taking on part-time or temporary work."
Struggling on a single income? This is how to cope
- Find out what your expenses actually are
- Do your research
- Write it down, build a record each week of where you spend your discretionary funds
- Recognise the patterns, find out where the wriggle room is
- Get control of your habits
- Don't beat yourself up, you're only human
Source: Logan Donnelly
- Safety of the children is paramount. If you seek more hours of work or more jobs then make sure your children are looked after by dependable people you trust.
- Try to find work that doesn't require long travelling.
- Talk with Work and Income to see if you are eligible for assistance (beneficiary or low wage income earner).
- See a financial mentor or budget adviser
Source: Rotorua Budget Advisory Services