One Question Quiz
A CV, an eftpos card and a thought bubble showing a house and car, with the words THE COST OF BEING
Image: Tina Tiller

SocietyMay 23, 2023

The cost of being: A blind jobseeker flatting in Christchurch

A CV, an eftpos card and a thought bubble showing a house and car, with the words THE COST OF BEING
Image: Tina Tiller

As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a 23-year-old on the Supported Living Payment explains how they work with what they have. 

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Gender: Agender (I’m just a human)

Age: 23

Ethnicity: Part Māori, part Pākehā

Role: Unemployed – searching daily since I left home at 17. Occasional volunteer work. Income from the Supported Living Payment

Location: Urban

Rent per week: $420 split between myself, my partner an our flatmate. We also have a system where we each pay a weekly share of our monthly utility bills along with rent, which is another $27 each.

Typical weekly food costs

Groceries: between $120-160 split between my partner and me, sometimes more when we’re in credit on our utility bills. We’re vegan, so prices vary a bit.

Eating out: $0

Takeaways: $40 each once a week for some Uber Eats

Workday lunches / cafe coffees/snacks: $0

Other food costs: $0


My partner and I save as much as we can for upcoming costs in the short term, but neither of us have sufficient income to think longer term than a month or two. Our account usually sits between $100 and $400, but it can be emptied just like that, usually by medical expenses, transport costs or other unforeseen emergencies. We’d both like to save a lot more for some financial security, and we both aim to put something away each week, but there isn’t enough money going in to get us out of the loop.

I worry about money: Always.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be… On the edges.


My biggest edible indulgence would be… Sometimes I get a meal delivered even if there’s food in the house.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be… $0 – I don’t drink

My typical weekly transport cost is… Between $10-60. I walk or take the bus when possible or convenient, but depending on where I’m going, or the accessibility of the area, I sometimes have to use rideshare.

In the past year the ballpark amount I spent on any clothing was… $0 – I haven’t bought new clothes in about two years, I don’t really need to. I occasionally receive free used clothes from friends.

My last pair of shoes cost… $50 from The Warehouse.

My grooming/beauty expenditure includes… Shower products, razors, perfume. I have a hair cut coming up, but it’s not a regular thing.

And the annual cost would be about: $60

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $0 – I exercise at home without equipment, and I walk a lot.

My last Friday night cost… $92. A few months ago we went and had takeaway Chinese on the beach. Most of the cost was transport, the food was $28 for both of us.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was… Nothing, I don’t really buy things for myself except the occasional meal delivery or subscription to a streaming service.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was… I got a fantastic deal on a server through Facebook Marketplace. Ended up paying $100 for something that should have cost $2000, and it works great. It wasn’t exactly an indulgent purchase because I did need it, but it was still a rare time when I dropped money I didn’t really have on something without knowing whether it would be worth it in the long term.

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad… Everywhere. That’s more than one area, but it’s necessary when half of my weekly income goes toward rent and bills, and the other half goes toward groceries and medication. The situation is too tight for anything else.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be… Working with what I have.

I grew up in a house where money… Was tight. We never starved, we always had what we needed for school, and Mum made sure we could do something nice in the local area as a family once and a while, but we didn’t really have anything. As kids, my sister and I were fairly shielded from the implications of our hardship. It wasn’t until about 15 when I really understood the extra things like karate classes, piano lessons, and new laptops for school often came at great personal cost to our mother, who did all she could to ensure we had enriching childhoods. Before I left home, she taught me a lot about budgeting, sacrifices, and how to be sensible when buying groceries.

The last time my Eftpos card was declined was… A few years ago. I transfer money to my card just before I check out, so I know that I have it, and so it won’t get taken by an automatic payment.

In five years, in financial terms, I see myself… Exactly where I am, if I can’t get a job. I have a lifetime entitlement to my benefit, but it’s not enough to build a future on, nor is it a dignified or satisfying way to live. Few businesses will employ disabled people for the minimum wage, let alone employers in the fields in which I have valuable skills. Over the last six years I’ve applied over and over for IT or writing positions, making my blindness known up front. In most cases I didn’t even get the interview.

Disability is not the only reason for this – my lacking tertiary qualifications is certainly a huge element. But with very little on my resume, and without the funds to attend university or pay off student loans, I can’t even get those qualifications. My future feels like an endless catch-22 and it scares me a lot. Five years ago, I was 18 and searching for a job. In five years from now I’ll be nearly thirty. It feels likely that I won’t be any closer to my goals than I am today.

I would love to have more money for… A life. In my wilder moments I imagine a house, a car for my partner, a home recording studio for me… But really at this point I’d settle for enough money to live comfortably, eat well, and maybe a holiday once a year.

My financial low… Is basically ongoing. the more things cost, the worse it gets. Benefits were raised in April, but not enough for some of us.

I give money away to… Other struggling disabled friends and people on the street. It’s never a lot, but I’m a believer in doing what you can for others.

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