In Times of Need – August 2004

In times of need, who is there for you?
I was so pleased to see that this was the selected theme for this feature. At this time of year we at the Budget Service know that there are many families in our community who need help, but also that they are not sure where to go for assistance. This winter has been cold and wet, and for many, the power bills have been hideous. The problem with power is that it is invisible. If you use wood or gas to heat your home it is fairly easy to assess that if the gas bottle has only lasted for two days, the answer is to turn it on less often, or to put less wood on the fire if the load is not lasting. But power is different, flick the switch, and have the panic attack when the bill comes in. Unfortunately we still see clients who use the oven as a heater, and the occasional person who thinks that the oil filled electric heater is actually an oil heater. We still see people who are actually pleased when the power company is slow in sending the first account.
Our advice is to read the meter whenever moving into a new property. Then read the meter every day to assess an average usage. It is important to know that a unit of power does not just “make the wheel go round”, but that it is based on a kilowatt hour. In other words the larger oil filled heater in the lounge is using 2¼ units of power per hour, maybe eight hours a day, thirty days of the month, or 540 units. In real terms, depending on the Power Company, between $66.00 and $96.00, and that is before GST.
It is important to pay the account on time just to get the discount, remembering that any arrangements to “use now, pay later” are going to cost more in fees.
Perhaps the most important thing is to shop around. We all like a bargain, and power is no different, different companies, different charges. Use www.powerswitch.org.nz to access the best provider for you.
Whatever the problem, be it power, rent, car registration or the stress caused by the inability to pay bills, contact your nearest Budget Advisory Service for free confidential advice about money management.
Pearl Pavitt
Public Relations Officer
Rotorua Budget Advisory Service

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