[Editor: And they are not an exception …

BayBuzz’s Abby Beswick has written ‘Cost of living crisis hits Hawke’s Bay’ in our current magazine. You can read her article online here. To drive home the reality, here’s another of her close-up looks at families coping with today’s costs.]

Two years ago, Hastings couple Emma and Travis were doing well. Emma worked part time at a cafe in addition to caring for their young daughter, and Travis had a full-time job as a concreter. They could comfortably cover the mortgage on their Raureka home and living expenses, spent up to $280 a week on groceries and even had enough left over for the odd treat. 

Since then, spiralling living costs have had a huge impact on the family and just two years later their situation is very different. Now a family of four, they are facing increasing costs from all directions, and simply trying to pay for the basics sends them into overdraft every week. Travis works in the same job and Emma does cleaning part time while caring for their children, but higher mortgage, petrol, food and daycare costs have had a significant impact. Making ends meet has become an impossible task and there’s no relief in sight from climbing costs, says Emma. “Every couple of months they go up; it’s horrendous.” 

Sitting at the bottom of the middle-income bracket, the family isn’t entitled to any Government support, leaving them in a place of desperation and few choices, says Emma. She would love to work full-time to help the family financially. But because their youngest child is only one and won’t be entitled to ECE funding for two more years, the cost of full-time daycare is prohibitive. 

With few other options, the family has been forced to cut their costs from a budget that has no fat. “I’ve had to cut down any which way I can,” says Emma. Their weekly grocery budget is now $120-$150. That means only buying items on sale and reducing or cutting items from their list completely. Emma only buys yoghurt once every three weeks, cheese is rationed for meals and no longer a snack for the children, fresh fruit and vegetables are bought sparingly and desserts never feature in the family shop.

There have been other changes too. Travis skips lunch most days as they don’t usually have enough food for him to take to work. “He just goes without during the day. He has breakfast then he has something when he gets home.” The couple don’t go out for date nights. Their one treat a year is going out for dinner on their anniversary. They look for free ways to do things together as a family and keep the children entertained – playgrounds, parks and walks are all regular activities.

The family grows their own vegetables and Emma has been going to Nourished for Nil twice a week for the past few months to supplement their food shop. It was hard to go at first she admits, but it’s taken a huge weight off her shoulders. Most of the family’s fruit and vegetables come from the food rescue operation and staples like bread rolls are welcome extras to bulk out meals. There have also been treats she couldn’t afford to buy – like baked goods and frozen items such as kumara chips … “to have them in my freezer is such a luxury”.

The mental impact of struggling to pay for basic living costs never goes away however, says Emma. “Sitting at the bottom of the middle is just killing people. It’s taking such a mental toll. You can’t get any help for your children or any help with anything.” For others feeling nervous about using services like Nourished for Nil, Emma has a message: “There’s no need to be embarrassed about going to those sorts of places because sometimes that’s the only form of help we can actually get.”

Here’s another of Abby’s close-up looks at families struggling with costs.

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