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What Should I Do if I Can't Afford to Pay a Bill? Navigating the Cost of Living Crisis

The cost of living in Aotearoa has been the topic of many a korero around the dinner table, workplace water coolers, and across social media. With the current economic conditions, more and more New Zealanders are finding themselves facing a particularly tough question: "What should I do if I can't afford to pay a bill?"

If you're grappling with this dilemma, know you're not alone. Here are some pragmatic steps to consider:

Don't Ignore It

First and foremost, it's important to face the issue head-on. Ignoring the bill won't make it disappear. In fact, it could lead to late fees, extra charges, and even damage to your credit rating.

Contact Your Provider

Kiwi businesses understand the tough times their fellow countrymen are going through. Ring them up, explain your situation and ask if they have any hardship provisions or payment plans. Many providers offer extensions or flexible payment terms, especially if you've been a loyal customer.

Prioritise Your Bills:

If you've got multiple bills breathing down your neck, sort them out. Essentials like rent or mortgage, power, and food should be at the top of the list. Lesser priorities, though still important, such as subscriptions or non-essential utilities, can be temporarily paused or reduced.

Seek Financial Counselling and Advice

There are several community-based organisations across New Zealand offering free financial counselling. They can provide guidance, help you budget, or even negotiate with creditors on your behalf.

Cut Unnecessary Expenditures

Though it might sound obvious, comb through your monthly expenses and see where you can cut back. Maybe it's that extra coffee from the local café, or perhaps you can carpool to work to save on petrol.

Consider Government Assistance

The New Zealand government has various schemes to assist those in financial strife. From accommodation supplements to temporary financial assistance, there's a range of support mechanisms you might be eligible for. Check the Work and Income or IRD website, or reach out to your local Citizens Advice Bureau for guidance.

Join the Conversation:

The cost of living crisis is a national issue and one that needs addressing at the systemic level. While individual actions are essential, joining advocacy groups, attending community hui, or supporting policies that combat this crisis can pave the way for long-term solutions.

The Bottom Line

It's undeniably tough out there for many, but remember, asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength and adaptability. Whether it's reaching out to whānau, community groups, or professionals, the support is out there.

Kia kaha, New Zealand. We'll weather this storm together, as we always do.

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