Twenty dollars is all one Rotorua family had left after paying the weekly bills.
Others are left with even less as prices of essentials such as food, fuel and rent leave some living week to week.
Rosie Roi and her fiance had only $300 to spend on groceries a fortnight for their family of three.
She had recently moved to Rotorua, but fuel prices meant she could not explore the area at weekends.
Both adults worked full-time and still struggled to stretch their money over rent, food and fuel - no luxuries.
After bills, there was only about $20 left over, which they tried to save.
For expenses such as clothes, she used Afterpay to split the payment over weeks.
"We do worry if anything comes up. My car is booked at the mechanics next week, I'm scared and worried what the bill will look like."
The couple gave up smoking last year due to the cost.
"I don't have a credit card, I won't get a loan. I don't know how people do it."
Roi said they lived on a week-to-week budget, and when the bills were paid, she was "content" to have a roof over their heads.
Rotorua resident Marina Kirk-Osman moved to a new rental after a two-month search for something suitable and affordable.
She said the $590 payment a week for the family of three was a big cost, especially when they needed to pay someone $150 a fortnight to do the garden.
Holidays and "luxuries" were out of the question.
She found a job at the end of last year to help pay the bills and be able to put some money aside for her young daughter each week.
"If we didn't have that extra income we would be stuck."
She said they needed to spend more money than they could make, and it was a relief when they managed to pay all the bills.
"Weekly groceries that were around $150 to $200 are now double in price at the moment.
"Being in isolation, we don't know if we will get a salary next week. All these things are just more stress on a family."
Stats NZ data showed fruit and vegetable prices rose 17 per cent in the year to February 2022, grocery food jumped 5.4 per cent, and meat was up 7.1 per cent, along with other rises.
Data from fuel price monitoring app Gaspy showed Unleaded 98 surged 18.55 per cent in 28 days to $3.32 a litre, as of March 10. Diesel rose 22.11 per cent to $2.21 and Unleaded 91 was up 12.44 per cent to $2.93.
Pak n'Save Rotorua ran out of petrol yesterday after prices were projected to rise again today.
Fordlands Community Centre manager Ana Phillips said the cost of living was "phenomenal and unsustainable".
"It's extremely difficult for our whānau to access regular food in Rotorua."
Petrol costs were making it hard for whānau to access help when there were no accessible services within walking distance, such as doctors and supermarkets, she said.
For some, after all the bills are paid, $9 was left over for food, she said.
"The housing crisis is affecting our community greatly. Well-being and quality of life is reducing, transiency is increasing and community cohesion is compromised."
Feeding Rotorua trustee Ian Barker said there had been an increase in people with steady income needing help who normally would not.
The accumulative impact of fuel and food costs became too much for people, particularly renters, he said.
"There has been more need now than even six months ago."
Trade Me data put Rotorua's median weekly rent at $490 in January, up 8 per cent in a year.
Barker said many people they helped had jobs, but were not paid enough to cover all the bills.
Add in the Omicron outbreak, and demand on foodbanks had jumped.
Rotorua Salvation Army corps officer Hana Seddon said it farewelled some volunteers at the beginning of the year.
"With the rising cost of living, volunteering isn't an option for everyone so we haven't had as many people offering their support as we used to have."
Demand for its services in the first few months of the year had been steady, but was down on last year due to other avenues of support being available.
"However, we have seen a greater increase in the last few weeks, especially as number of people with Covid increases."
Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant acknowledged the difficulties some people are facing in the Bay of Plenty and around New Zealand.
There was a range of assistance for people on benefits as well as those not on benefits who might be receiving one-off grants.
"We have seen some encouraging signs in the benefit figures released recently, which showed a year-on-year fall of around 21,300 people nationwide receiving a main benefit in the December 2021 quarter."
Rotorua Budget Advice manager Pakanui Tuhura said his clients were most worried about rising rents, followed by increasing food and power prices.
"Previously we were able to find non-essential costs that could be cut back on but now the choices of where to make cuts is beginning to be between essential needs."
Large numbers of people had been seeking help to apply for Kiwisaver hardship withdrawals.
Tuhura said they were typically workers, but loss or change of employment and rising living costs forced some to risk future financial security to deal with the present.
Principal economist and Infometrics director Brad Olsen said the disruption to global supply chains, shift from ultra-low interest rates, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, economic demand outstripping supply, and a tight labour market all contributed to how New Zealand has ended up at this point.
But he said fuel prices would be the "key challenge" this year, hitting households at the pump and in the rising price of goods that would become expensive to move around the country.
"Higher costs will be making many workers ask for higher pay increases, which might see businesses look to raise their prices even further to pay for increased labour costs – if this sort of increase continues, we could find ourselves in a wage-price spiral upwards."
Olsen said people should expect high global commodity prices to push up the price of goods and services more during the next six months.
The Bay of Plenty may experience "even greater pressure" due to stronger levels of economic activity, he said.
In his view, people should look out for specials that would be "more important than ever", use fuel monitoring apps such as Gaspy, buy seasonal fruit and vegetables and take greater advantage of local holidays and free walks, etc.
Top tips for budgeting better
• Build a positive and long-term relationship with your landlord by being a good tenant (keep property tidy, report anything that needs the landlord to repair/maintain promptly, etc). That way if you get behind in rent, the landlord may be more open to plans to repay arrears and get back to paying rent on time as soon as possible.
• Power wise, shop around. There are good websites that compare prices. Make sure you are on the right usage plan and read your meter regularly to pick up on any sudden increases in power usage. Shorter showers, and wrapping hot water cylinders in insulation also help.
• For food, think long term and seasonal (fruit trees and vegetable gardens) as well as short term (neighbourhood fruit trees or gardens, barter work for food, food banks and food grants). It is important to note that short term solutions may feel embarrassing but to keep in mind that there are a lot of people now who are using these sources and food is a necessity.
• Don't buy spontaneously. Plan your debts – how much, from where and how it will be repaid. The amount of future stress that is avoided by doing this more than makes up for the short-term fun of impromptu buying.
Source - Rotorua Budget Advisory Service
- additional reporting Carmen Hall
Bay of Plenty-based MPs on if the cost of living is a crisis and how to fix it
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller
"It's absolutely a crisis, every time we all take out our Eftpos cards at the moment we wince. Labour needs to tighten the show up quickly, start being prudent with our taxes and our kids' futures. I support National's plan to adjust tax thresholds and leave some money in your pockets."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges
"There is a cost of living crisis . . . and it's hitting Tauranga people hard. More families are now having to make some very tough decisions. National has proposed tax relief . . . That said, increased government spending is part of the problem, fuelling inflation higher."
Māori Party and Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi
"The cost of living is at crisis point, a reality weighing heavily on our Māori whānau. The cost of food/petrol is exorbitantly high. I have serious concerns for our people's well-being as we approach the winter months. Prices must be lowered for whānau to have one less thing to worry about during this pandemic."
Tauranga Labour list MP Jan Tinetti
"There is no question that things are hard for middle and low-income families right now – the impact of a truly global pandemic, a global energy shock, and a war in Ukraine. Not a single solution – but we are; raising the minimum wage, lifting superannuation payments, increasing Working for families, improving benefits."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay
"Yes. Rents are up $140 a week, petrol is now $45 more to fill a tank and food is, I'm told, more expensive than people can remember. [We need] less Government regulation that comes at the cost of businesses that get passed on and adjustments to the taxes where middle-income earners are paying 33 per cent."
Waiariki Labour list MP Tamati Coffey
"Petrol and food are more expensive right now because of so many things that are out of our control. We haven't stopped working on addressing inequity in our community. We've also raised the minimum wage to $21.75. Budget 2022 will also provide more for those of us really struggling."