Christmas financial crisis looms
A CHRISTMAS crisis is looming for average working families as the rising cost of living forces them to turn to charities to make ends meet.
It’s not something Glenwood mum of four Krista O’Neile finds easy to do. The stay at home mum says although her husband is in work, they can’t make their budget stretch the distance and have resorted to topping up their pantry with help from the Gympie Foodbank at the St Vincent de Paul depot.
“I don’t know anyone who’s not struggling,” Ms O’Neile said.
Foodbank Queensland said this week it’s now trying to feed fully-employed families, with the demand for its services the highest in its 15-year history.
Ms O’Neile only started using the service in the last six months, saying it was electricity and fuel costs that tipped the balance.
“It’s hard on your self-esteem,” she told The Gympie Times candidly.
“My husband works, but he doesn’t get a high wage. It’s at the point where we can’t afford to go out, so we stay home and try and make it fun for the kids. You worry so much about your budget – it’s non-stop.”
Foodbank general manager Ken McMillan said working families were really struggling, with Christmas looking grim for them as they tried to cope with the latest barrage of price hikes.
Gympie’s Salvation Army Family Store manager Gordon Adams said in the last month alone they have had a 25 per cent increase in clients seeking assistance with food and clothing, as well as an alarming increase in the number of people seeking help with electricity bills.
“We don’t have the funds to help pay electricity accounts,” he said. “We can help with food and clothing and that will hopefully tide them over.”
The extra strain on charities is starting to show. “In the last month we had to shut down twice because our budget just couldn’t cope with it,” Mr Adams said.
The father of eight stressed how important a budget is when times are tight, and says it’s possible to get by, although he admits it’s not easy.
“We offer free, confidential help with budgeting, using Lifeline’s financial counselling support,” he said. “It can be done. Lots of people come back and say how wonderful a budget has worked for them.”
A Roy Morgan Research report released by The Salvation Army last month showed that around half of Australia’s low income households were experiencing cash flow problems, with more than a quarter of them needing to increase credit card debt, exhaust savings and borrow money from friends and family.