Learning to ‘live within your means’ is a mantra Wairarapa Free Budget Advisory Service regularly relay to their clients. The irony that it cuts both ways is not lost on the organisation’s manager Grant Howard.
“We’ve got a lot of people who depend on us, so we too have to be mindful of how we spend our money,” Mr Howard says.
Annually the budget service is responsible for over $3 million of its around 300 clients. While Ministry of Social Development (MSD) funded, the budget service is still reliant on grants and donations to operate.
“Up until three years ago we were fully funded by MSD, now we have to go out and apply for grants and donations to top us up.”
A key contributor is the Trust House Foundation, which recently approved a grant of $16,000 to assist with operational costs. It is the third consecutive year Trust House has provided the grant.
Other significant financial grants come from Lotteries and COGS (Community Organisation Grants Scheme).
Mr Howard says they are also very grateful for the support from the Masterton and Carterton Foodbanks, The Community Law Centre, and The Salvation Army.
The service would not be able to operate without the seven volunteer budget advisors who each have about 25 – 30 clients.
Mr Howard is chalking up his 21st year at the service, and says there is no let up in the number of people falling into financial difficulty.
Despite the recent increases in minimum wages and family assistance, people will continue to be financially stretched, he says.
“It’s great that low income people are now getting more help, but the problem is the increases are not keeping up with the increases in outgoings.”
There are many contributing factors causing a person to hit the financial crisis panic button. Mr Howard’s advice is don’t wait until it is too late to ask for help.
“We’ve been able to rescue most situations, but the earlier a person comes into see us the better for everyone.”
Often preventing people from taking action is shame, he says.
“For some people, coming in here downloading their problems and getting independent advice can be a huge weight off their shoulders.
“The advisors are non-judgemental and don’t tell people what to do. All they do is offer advice.”
He says, for some people money is very tight and it doesn’t take much to tip them over the edge, especially if they are paying off things that they may have bought a while back.
“Credit is too easy to get and society’s expectations and the social pressures to have things that not everybody can afford such as a big TV or a new car have a lot to answer for.”