Tuesday, 7 January 2014

What To Do When You're In a Dire Financial Situation Part I

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It goes without saying that if you are experiencing extreme financial hardship, then you need to ask for help.  There are many organisations out there who may be able to help you, depending on your circumstances.  WINZ may be able to assist with emergency benefits/allowances, or food grants.  Your local foodbank should be able to offer you a food parcel if you meet their criteria.  Agencies like the Salvation Army may be able to help, and often can offer free bread and other bakery items given to them by supermarkets.  Be honest with your family and friends and accept offers of assistance.  You can always pay them back later, or pay it forward if they prefer.

Financial hardship can occur for many reasons, and it can be both long-term or short term.  Maybe you've had an unexpected bill or two arrive which has been enough to tip an already tight budget over the edge.  Illness or injury can happen out of the blue and will often cause a major change in circumstances and finances.  Even starting a new job can catch people out - there is usually a delay between starting work and your first pay packet.  Whatever the reason - and whether you are entitled to emergency assistance or not - there are things you can do to bring your budget down to the absolute bare bones.  It's not pretty, and it won't be a lot of fun, but it may be the difference between make or break.

First write down your budget - all the money you have coming in, and everything you spend money on.  Then cross out everything except the ABSOLUTE bare minimum.  No SKY, no dvd's, no coffees, no landline and internet package (you probably need a cheap mobile phone and cheap pre-pay monthly package for emergencies, contact with employers, and access to the internet), no eating out, no new clothes, no gym, no alcohol (it goes without saying no smoking/drugs/gambling)... NOTHING except the basics - shelter and associated expenses, food, transportation, schooling, medical and insurance.  I know people try to save money by not having car and home/contents insurance, but to me this is tempting fate and can end up costing you more in the long run.  Unless of course you decide to get rid of the car altogether!   

Everything else is a luxury you can't afford right now.

Now for reducing your expenses even further:

  • Need to go to the doctor or see a nurse?  Look up your local Hauora clinic.  Maori medical clinics are not just for Maori, and are heavily funded.  Most offer free medical care for under-18 year olds, and extremely cheap visits for everyone else.  For example, this is the Tauranga Hauora.
  • Need a smear test/contraception?  Go to your local Family Planning Clinic.  Appointments for under-22 year olds are free, and only $5 for everyone else if you have a Community Services Card.  The contraceptive pill and condoms are $5, but you'll usually find they give you these for free.
  • Discover vinegar - it can be used for cleaning, fabric softener, dishwasher rinse-aid, rinsing your hair... oh and of course, cooking!
  • Once the family has finished dinner and their various activities for the night, everyone usually settles in front of the tv.  So turn off all the lights.  They don't need to be on, they're just burning power.  Light a candle or two - it's cosy, and cheap.
  • Most generic budgets include an allowance for new clothes - but do you really need more?  Most of us have plenty of clothes and could go at least a year or two without having to buy anything.  If you really need something - there is Savemart, and opshops.
  • If you can, get someone you know to cut your hair.  If you can't, look up your local polytechnic and find out when their hairdressing school opens up for real clients.  It will take longer than usual, but it's dirt cheap and will be conducted under the watchful eye of tutors.
  • Use baking soda to brush your teeth (it will whiten them also). 
  • Check in with your household to make sure everyone is turning the tap off between rinses when brushing their teeth.
  • Cut old up clothes into squares and replace everything paper - paper towels, tissues, sanitary pads.  Some people even make their own 'toilet cloth'. 
  • Get out library books for entertainment.  It's free, and you will learn something. 
  • Keep a bucket in your bathroom and catch the water from the shower while you wait for it to warm up.  Use this to water your vegetable plants that you are growing to supplement your grocery bill.
  • Buy the above mentioned vegetable seedlings from your farmers market, they will often sell things like lettuce for .20c each.  A couple of plants could keep your family in salad for the whole summer.  Places like The Warehouse will mark down tomato plants and the like when they're looking a little mottley - once you get them home and in soil they'll take off again.
  • Barter.

Click here for Part II of the series.

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