COVID-19 has brought financial stress and uncertainty to many Kiwis. See what support is available and what you can do to understand your money situation.

2019 seems like a distant dream. Back then as we blithely went about our lives we didn’t think twice about standing close to other people and didn't regularly use the word ‘unprecedented’ in casual conversations.

Then along came 2020, bringing with it an unwelcome guest called COVID-19. Life has changed beyond recognition and many things that we took for granted just weeks ago, seem very uncertain now.

The bright light amongst this turmoil, is that while we’ve had to deal with this separately in our own little bubbles, we haven’t had to deal with it alone. We are in this together and there are support and services available to try and help you through this. If you’re facing financial stress and worrying about how you can pay bills or repay debt, reach out and see what support is available.

How we can help

If you’ve got multiple debts – credit cards, personal loans, store cards or hire purchase – talk to us and see if you can consolidate them. This means rolling all of your debts into one, so you just have one repayment and one interest rate to keep track of.

If you’re worried about not being able to meet your home loan, personal loan or credit card repayments, talk to us about your options. The exact support we’ll be able to offer will depend on your personal circumstances, but you can take a look at some of the available options on our dedicated COVID-19 web page.

Don’t wait – the sooner you ask for help or solutions, the sooner we can get started. The best way to get in touch is to fill out a personal support form and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Government support

If you’ve lost your job, Work and Income has information about what support is available. If you’ve had your hours of work reduced because of COVID-19 your employer might qualify for a wage subsidy, which would mean you could continue to get paid. You can see if your employer has applied for a wage subsidy here.

If you’re struggling to pay your rent the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has information about the protections and support that are in place.

Run your numbers

If you’re worried about your finances, you need to get a handle on your expenses. This will give you a realistic idea of how much money you need to get by and help you work out if you’ve got enough or if there’s a shortfall.

The lockdown meant we were unable to spend money on anything other than the bare necessities of life, so you’ll probably be able to get a clearer picture of what your essentials are now than in more usual times.

Take a look at internet banking to see what you’ve been spending money on - things like your rent or mortgage, electricity, gas, phones, mobiles, internet, streaming services or pay television, as well as groceries. If you need help remembering bills that might come in less regularly, like insurance, rates, or car registration try our bills calculator, which will give you some prompts.

Once you’ve done this, see if there’s anywhere you can cut back. Try comparison sites like powerswitch.org.nz and priceme.co.nz to make sure you’re getting the best deals and aren’t paying too much. Don’t forget to take a look at your bank accounts and make sure you’re not paying too much in fees.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Even if you’ve been fortunate enough to maintain your job along with your usual wage or salary, it’s still a good time to get your finances in order. The financial fallout from COVID-19 is going to be felt for a while, so even if things are looking good for the moment, it can’t hurt to build up an emergency fund and get prepared in case things unexpectedly change.

One of the few benefits of lockdown, is that our spending was stripped back to the bare minimum. We had to meal plan, so we didn’t spend half our lives in supermarket queues, and cook our meals at home rather than rely on takeaways and meals out.

If you were able to work from home during lockdown, chances are you may have actually saved a bit of money, simply because you weren’t able to spend money on non-essentials. It’s unlikely you’d be able to keep up that level of deprivation once let loose in the world again, but try to hold on to some of that frugal behaviour, so you can build up your savings.

The traditional rule of thumb has been to build up three months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund, but experts are now saying it could be worth aiming for more in uncertain times like this. You don’t have to build this up overnight, you just need to get started.

Look after your mental health

COVID-19 hasn’t just taken a financial toll on Kiwis, it’s also taken a mental toll.

It’s stressful worrying about money, not being able to leave the house and facing the uncertainty of what’s yet to come. Taking care of your mental wellbeing as we get to grips with our new normal is really important. We’ve partnered with Sir John Kirwan and Mentemia to offer a free app to help support your mental wellbeing through the COVID-19 crisis. Take a look and see how the app could help you.

Other resources

Sorted – money tips, guides and calculators.

Money Talks – free and confidential budgeting advice.

Citizens Advice Bureau – free budgeting advice.

COVID-19 – Latest government updates on COVID-19.