One Question Quiz
Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

SocietyJanuary 12, 2024

The cost of being: Unemployed on jobseeker support

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

Summer reissue: As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a beneficiary in Auckland explains how they make ends meet.

First published on July 18, 2023.

Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at

Gender: Cis female

Age: 45

Ethnicity: Pākeha

Role: I am an unemployed beneficiary on jobseeker support. I have chronic depression, and so I have to go and get a medical certificate every three months from the GP to make an exemption for having to look for work. I get $501.69 a week at the moment. For most of my adult life I’ve been on the benefit with depression. It’s really hard having to prove your disability regularly to someone who’s just waiting for people to be ripping off the system. 

You used to have to go in and see somebody face to face, and I would end up crying every time because it was so demeaning having to having to prove yourself in that way. Now that you can do a lot of things online, it’s a lot easier because you don’t have that kind of face-to-face trauma. But I still have to prove I’m worthy of being on the benefit four times a year. It’s really exhausting and scary knowing that they can stop it at any point. 

My living location is: Urban

Rent/Mortgage per week: My rent is $170. We also pay $65 for bills. We’ve got quite an unusual setup where we pay quite high bills and buy a lot of food together as a flat. Our rent is actually ridiculously low because I’ve been in the same place for close to two decades, and our landlord has kept our rent right on the lower limit of what he can manage. Four people live here and the house rent is $680. If we moved from here, there’s no way we could pay what we’re paying now and, if we could, it would be a shit house.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: I spend around $40 a week on groceries. It fluctuates, some weeks it is $70, some weeks it is $20 because of the pantry setup that we’ve got. We share all pantry stuff like flour and sugar, and all of your pasta, rice, noodle kind of things. We share canned food, spices and oils, condiments, tea and coffee and a lot of vegetables. What I buy for myself is meat, bread, cheese, treats, breakfast foods. 

Eating out: Over the last four months, I have spent less than $20 a week dining out. It’s quite high at the moment because I just went out for a $40 dinner for a friend’s graduation. On average, I spend around $20 a week on delivery and a little over $10 a week getting takeaway food on average.

Workday lunches: I’m usually home so it is part of the grocery bill. I don’t I don’t really go to cafes very often. I spend a lot of time at home.

Savings: I’ve only started trying to save in the last couple of years when I decided I wanted to do Outward Bound and found out WINZ couldn’t couldn’t cover it. But when I started getting some savings there, I ended up spending it all on getting driving lessons. Now I am trying to keep saving without a clear goal in mind, and I am probably saving $30-$50 each week. 

One thing I’ve realised about saving is… It’s been easier having a separate bank account to put it in, instead of just trying to do it in the same bank account. It’s really easy to open new, free accounts with my bank, so I can label it and have it visually separate and that’s made a lot of difference to my savings. 

I worry about money… Constantly. 

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Poor. But stable. Still better than a lot. 

My biggest edible indulgence would be… Uber Eats. 

My alcohol expenditure per week is… I’m not drinking. Every now and then I’ll have a cocktail or a glass of bubbly, but that’s only a couple of times a year.

My transport expenditure in a week is… I’m spending between $30 and $70 a week on petrol and up to about $5 on parking. 

In the past year the ballpark amount I spent on clothing (including sleepwear and underwear) was… I probably spent about $300 In the last year on clothes. I get most of my clothes from secondhand stores, or the free store, which is amazing. Kmart is my place for kind of “fancy” clothes, or I get them passed down from friends. 

My most expensive clothing item in the past year was… I was going to a friend’s wedding and I bought a dress for just under $100 and then got it taken up for $30. That was a big one. 

My last pair of shoes cost… $60 sneakers from Number One shoes.

My grooming/beauty expenditure in a year is… Probably around $300 a year. I spend some money on dry shampoo and skincare, and I usually shop at Chemist Warehouse or Farmers because there are a couple of products from The Ordinary that I like. 

My exercise expenditure in a year is… Nothing. 

My last Friday night cost… Probably $50 with parking and petrol. It was a dinner for a friends graduation dinner, but I don’t usually go out on a Friday. 

My most regrettable purchase in the last year was… I bought some fairy lights and immediately broke them. I was untangling them and the solar panel bit fell onto the floor and broke. I don’t do much splurge buying. 

My most indulgent purchase in the last year was… It would have been the dress for the wedding. It came from a little shop in Henderson Mall. One more thing that I spend quite a money on are my cats. One is 17 and one is 15, so their vet bills are likely to be a bit higher. They are on fancy food, so I am nearly spending more on their food than mine. And then there’s flea treatment and other things like that. I bought one of them a tiny electric blanket that he sits on all day because he hasn’t got any fat anymore and he really feels the cold. 

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is… Clothes. I find it really hard to spend money on clothes. 

Five words to describe my financial personality would be… Trusting, indulgent, responsible, generous and shortsighted.

I grew up in a house where money was… We didn’t really have any money, but I wasn’t really exposed to that because I think my parents were quite protective. We ended up going bush for a while for my parents to save money for a deposit to buy their own house. We lived in a house with no electricity on someone’s property for two and a half years, but it just seemed like an adventure to me. It was amazing. 

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was… It was a few days ago in Kmart. I was buying some pyjamas and a few other things and it got declined. I’d taken some cash, but the total was just over the cash I had, so I had to do a split payment. 

I would love to have more money for… Just feeling more secure. Everything feels quite precarious for me. I’d like more money for hobbies. I love to do random hobbies. I’d love to take like a pottery class and a floristry class, but it all costs so much money and is so hard to fit in. 

My biggest financial low was… About six or seven years ago, I had a flatmate who stopped paying rent. They were going through a hard patch with work and they ended up being a real jerk about it, and by the time they left, they owed over $1,000 to the flat account. I ended up having to get money from WINZ to help cover it, which I’m still paying back. 

I give money away to… I donate a little under $10 a week on average, and I give loose coins away as well. I’ve got a little tray of coins in little bit in the middle of the car, and when there’s people at the lights or people on the street I always try and give a couple of coins away. I also support a couple of artists on Patreon just to try and help out. 

In five years I see myself… I really don’t see anything changing for me. I’m hopeful that it will be the same, because the only other thing I see happening is that things are going to get worse.

Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at

Read the previous Cost of Beings here.

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