How do you manage savings?Share your stories, photos and videos.
Hundreds of thousands of indebted Kiwis are struggling to make ends meet, with many owing money to the government.
Budget advisers say they are seeing more middle-income earners. They also report more relationship breakdowns because of financial strife.
There are also more complicated cases, where there is little advisers can do to help people stave off financial ruin, as small increases in essential items take their toll on living costs.
Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox said the service saw 50,000 clients this year, compared with about 30,000 annually until 2009.
The most common debt was mortgages, with clients owing a total of $150 million, while $64m was owed to government departments, mainly Work and Income, for items such as hardship grants.
Finance companies were owed $61m and non-mortgage bank lenders $48m.
Clients owed an average of $20,500, of which $3700 was overdue, though this had come down from $32,000 and $5000 about three years ago, meaning people were seeking help earlier, Mrs Fox said.
Today's cases were more complex and there was no way out of debt for many clients.
"There's not a lot of money for the basics. The cost of housing is going up, petrol has kept going up, power has been going up, and if you've lost your job you've just not got the money you had before, so once you just survive there's nothing left to pay off your debts."
Wages were not keeping up with inflation, she said. "So, if everything goes up, even if it's only by 5 or 10 per cent, if your income doesn't go up at all then you've got a 5 to 10 per cent deficit."
The manager at Porirua's Agape Budgeting Services, Brian McGettigan, said more middle-income earners were seeking help, and the service was seeing more relationship breakdowns cause by financial stresses.
People were finding out their partners had taken on tens of thousands of dollars in debt without consulting them, including a recent case where a woman came to the service after discovering her partner had five credit cards with $25,000 of debt on them.
Southland's Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager, Simon Tierney, and Ken Ogden, from Auckland's Christian Assist Trust, said they were seeing more complicated financial cases, rather than more cases overall.
"It's a lot harder," Mr Tierney said. "It's not just doing a simple budget and pointing them in the right direction.
"We're talking power cut off or mortgagee sale, or just heavy-handed repossession and that type of thing."
They were also finding debt collectors taking a harder line.
As they acted on behalf of clients, they were receiving about 10 calls a day from debt collectors, he said. "They hound us, so I can imagine what it's like for the client."
Mr Ogden said more people were trying to withdraw money from their KiwiSaver accounts to try to clear debts, but were not getting enough money back to do so.
- © Fairfax NZ News