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SocietyOctober 31, 2023

The cost of being: A 29-year-old making ends meet on the supported living payment

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As part of our series exploring how New Zealanders live and our relationship with money, a reader explains the ‘humiliating juggling act’ of surviving on a disability benefit.

Gender: Trans-masc.

Age: 29.

Ethnicity: Pākehā

Role: Full time mentally ill creative weirdo living on about $550 from the supported living payment.

My living location is: Suburban.

Rent/mortgage per week: I flat with two other adults and two teen/tween children in a four bedroom house. We pay $800 a week rent total and I pay $320 a week for one of the large bedrooms and utilities.

Student loan or other debt payments: I have around $10k of student loans but don’t pay attention to it because I’ve never been over the income threshold to require me to make any repayments.

I’ve never had a credit card or overdraft because I’ve only ever gone between the supported living payment and student allowance and back again; I know I couldn’t maintain them.

Any major upcoming costs: Lmao at the thought of being able to own a home!

Unless it’s something I can’t ignore I try and only visit the GP every three months when I need new scripts.

I have wisdom teeth that are coming through and I’m procrastinating about seeing a dentist for it because I’m so tired of the dance of  making appointments, getting a quote, sending the quote to Winz, the long hold times, having to justify the cost and relying on the mercy of whoever you get on the phone knowing what you’re entitled to, getting the quote confirmed, using the payment card, and then making the actual dentist appointment. Plus two of my wisdom teeth are impacted, requiring an oral surgeon which is even more bureaucracy and travel and stress.

I’ve only just paid Winz back for previous dental stuff and now I’m only paying them back for a bond for the previous flat I was in. They subtract around $10 a week from my benefit for this. Thank god the $1,000 yearly allowance for dental has kicked in – the $300 it used to be was a joke and barely covered anything.

My phone and laptop are dying (not high-end, otherwise they would be lasting longer) but I try not to think about this.

Typical weekly food costs

I have a girlfriend I don’t live with and who Winz doesn’t know about, because if they did they would add our benefits together and reduce it by at least $100, most likely more, and we really really really can’t afford to live on any less than we already are.

Groceries: $100 to $150 for my partner and myself depending on what is needed. This includes other necessary household goods like cleaning, laundry etc. I always check the local fruit and veg stores but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference cost-wise.

My girlfriend owns a car and is my transport to all my errands because buses are unreliable and infrequent, and Ubers are so expensive, so her contribution goes towards petrol and maintaining her car.

My flatmates are very kind and give me dinner whenever they have extra, or let me try things they’ve bought in bulk from places like Reduced to Clear.

Eating out: $0.

Takeaways: $0.

Cafe coffees/snacks: If I have the spare money I like to get my partner and I Starbucks, but that hasn’t been able to happen for a while.


Savings: The last time I managed to have any decent amount of money left over after rent and bills, and to keep it, was during lockdown. I’ve managed to keep $100 for emergencies, but it’s always getting eaten by things that come up. Every week is a balancing act between what absolutely needs to be paid for now and what can be put off for another week.

I put off and delay a lot of things rather than going to Winz because of how stressful they are to deal with. I got told I’m now eligible for temporary additional support because of my rent but I’m too scared and stressed out to apply.

I worry about money: Always.

Three words to describe my financial situation would be: Humiliating juggling act.

My biggest edible indulgence would be: Moccona instant coffee.

In a typical week my alcohol expenditure would be: $0. I drink socially very occasionally and budget for it in advance.

In a typical week my transport expenditure would be: If my girlfriend has had other bills come up, between $30 and $40 depending on where we need to go – enough to stop the petrol light from coming on. I don’t bother with buses any more. It’s amazing how many more places are available to me simply from having access to a car.

Lifestyle costs

I estimate in the past year the ballpark amount I spent on my personal clothing was: Around $300 for my girlfriend and me. I mostly buy secondhand, on sale, or low cost items. I use Afterpay if it’s available. I also have a somewhat revolving wardrobe via donating and receiving donated clothes from my friends.

My most expensive clothing in the past year was: $80 pants from Trade Me, using Afterpay.

My last pair of shoes cost: $80 platform shoes a couple years ago also from Trade Me.

My annual grooming/beauty expenditure would be: I bleach and dye my own hair, do trims and maybe twice a year visit a mall hair dresser. I don’t wear makeup too often anymore but already own what I need. My skincare products are from the supermarket. Shaving is always expensive and I’m looking at getting a replaceable blade safety razor.

And the annual cost would be about: $100 – $200 because I buy the bleach and dye in bulk.

My exercise expenditure in a year is about: $0.

My last Friday night cost: $0. I’m usually just at home or my partner’s house.

Most regrettable purchase in the last 12 months was: The platform shoes that didn’t fit… but I sold them to a friend who does fit them.

Most indulgent purchase (that I don’t regret) in the last 12 months was: A secondhand leather jacket, I love finding op shop bargains

One area where I’m a bit of a tightwad is: Everywhere, out of necessity; if I can find it cheap, repair it, or not buy it at all I try and do so. I want to improve my clothes alteration skills.

Five words to describe my financial personality would be: Vimes’ boots theory gets it.

I grew up in a house where money was: Plentiful but I didn’t know it, my dad is rich but it wasn’t spent on the family. My mum taught me how to budget but my parents didn’t talk about their money to me.

The last time my eftpos card was declined was: Years ago. I always have a note on my phone of what my exact balance is at all times and recalculate after every purchase.
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In five years, in financial terms, I see myself: Worse off.

I would love to have more money for: Everything: food, nice things, going out and seeing people, not having to do mental gymnastics before every purchase. I would love to be able to consistently save – there’s a lot of things I want and try not to think about because I can’t afford them and don’t see myself being able to afford them for a very long time, if ever, because of how much everything costs. It is depressing and demoralising.

Describe your financial low: The groceries and errands day of the week is always miserable because it all comes in and immediately goes back out. Running out of food I can prepare with my limited energy always sucks; I can’t stand baked beans or two minute noodles anymore, they taste like being broke.

I give money away to: My girlfriend, light of my life, for the bills she can’t afford to cover and the things I think she deserves, because I know what it’s like to not have enough. And my friends and I pass back the same $20 every so often.

Want to contribute? Send us an email briefly describing your situation at costofbeing@thespinoff.co.nz

Read the previous Cost of Beings here.

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