Once rent, power and groceries are paid, families often have little left over. As a result they may turn to loan companies or make other poor or difficult financial decisions. This is where the Christchurch Methodist Mission budgeting team of Linda Smith and Mali Toma steps in. “While a lot of people know how to handle money, they may not have enough and so just trying to manage week by week is hard,” Linda says.

Our budgeting service is a little different to some others. In addition to making home visits, which proves useful for parents with children or the elderly, Linda and Mali tailor programmes for each person or family they assist.

“We look at what we can change and what people’s goals are,” Linda says. “We don’t give people a budget by which they have to live, we work with what they’re doing in their lives to try and make a difference. Everyone’s got strengths. What can we build on so that people are doing it themselves?”

The service supports clients in a range of ways. It advocates on their behalf to Work and Income, makes KiwiSaver applications, seeks financial contributions for outstanding power bills, organises food parcels for hardship clients, and helps meet other family needs, such as school uniform costs and warm clothes for children, especially during winter. In some instances, it makes insolvency applications.

They’ll look at a families’ budget, encourage them to set aside emergency funds for unexpected bills and see what can be put in place so families are not always on the back foot. The attraction of short-term loan companies – sometimes used in desperation – with high and escalating interest rates can worsen a families’ financial situation. “Change can take a long time but when you see them doing things differently and the debt getting paid off and see them moving in the direction they want to go that’s amazing.”

For Linda, this is her third year with CMM. She came from teaching and facilitating children’s programmes. Mali comes to CMM with a background in small businesses and development.

“The cost of living is the problem,” Mali says. “The benefit is too little and is based on old information about the cost of living and inflation.”

He says that for people in hardship the only way out is budgeting, setting priorities and deciding what to forego. “For me, it is empowering for people to actually see where they spend their money. Money management is not easy and it’s more than just the figures, especially if it’s not something we were taught or if our parents didn’t have it.”

“I like it and am passionate about it. I still see a lot of scope for this service. I’m happy to make people smile and see that they are in a slightly better place. It keeps me waking up in the morning and coming to work,” Mali says.

For our budgeting service, please contact Linda at lindas@mmsi.org.nz or Mali at maliepot@mmsi.org.nz

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“We look at what we can change and what people’s goals are." Linda Smith and Mali Toma are there to support clients on a range of budgeting matters.