In Times of Need – April 2006

I guess that in a perfect world Budget Advisors would be the safety rails at the top of the cliff rather than the ambulance at the bottom.
However, almost every day we hear about the current trend of New Zealanders to overspend, and the clients that we see are no different. Perhaps the hardest thing for us is dealing with the fact that there is usually no spare money to pay the Hire Purchase, and even worse, there is not enough money for the rent and the power.
Budget Advisors can see that problems arise when beneficiaries “need” a car. In fact it is often a “want”, and one has only to look at benefit levels as set by government, to see that many of the things that most of us take for granted are beyond the reach of beneficiaries. As a result, it is often the power, rent and food that suffer. It would be a perfect world if everyone knew that “needs” come first, and that “wants” have to go at the end of the list, rather than putting the “wants” first.
The best advice we can give, especially as the days are getting colder, is to know how to monitor the use of power. It is important to read the meter, and it is important to know the number of units used on a daily basis, and the cost of each unit. Without this basic knowledge, we will continue to see clients who are unable to pay the power bills, who constantly lose the discount, and constantly seek assistance with overdue accounts and the threat of disconnection. There are also cases where the Supplier has overcharged a customer, sometimes when there has been a change of supplier and the reading has been incorrect at changeover, and sometimes because the meters are the old type with clocks, and even the meter readers have made mistakes.
So, our advice is, learn to read the meter, and learn just how many units each appliance uses. One unit is the equivalent of one-kilowatt hour, so it is easy to see that the cost of heating using a 2 kilowatt heater for 8 hours a day is going to be between $75 and $100 per month.
If you are experiencing problems, make an appointment to see a budget advisor, after all, budgeting is really about money management.
Pearl Pavitt
Public Relations Officer
Rotorua Budget Advisory Service

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