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Before we just existed. Now we live.

Leigh couldn’t imagine sending her kids back to school without adding to the increasing pile of debt she and her husband faced while living in her mum’s garage.

‘We had debt that was unimaginable,’ says Leigh. ‘My husband and I were fighting all the time about money. Getting the kids back to school in February we were required to buy uniforms, books, school camp—it was just impossible. We had to get ourselves sorted.’

They went to the Sallies for help, having become associated with The Salvation Army through a morning play group and since then regularly attending their local Salvation Army centre.

Within a year they began to pay off debts, work out payment plans with the local school and had even saved enough money to rent their own place.

‘We stuck to the budget for a year and we now rent a house,’ says Leigh. ‘We are now our own family unit for the first time ever and this is the first year that we have come out of Christmas with less debt than when we went in.’

Because of Leigh’s diligence with their budget, she was able to help implement a budget plan at the local school, enabling other families struggling with debt to pay off school expenses such as fees, stationery, uniforms and camps in weekly instalments rather than lump sums.

‘It’s not so stressful having the kids go back to school now because we can actually afford for our kids to go,’ says Leigh. ‘So now I just do what I can to help other people out.’

Along with maintaining payment plans for school fees, Leigh is also part of a group of friends that help each other with such needs as school uniforms and home-baked bread. Leigh is also now involved in running a weekly playgroup at the Salvation Army centre.

‘My kids go to a lower decile school, so a lot of us are in the same boat,’ says Leigh. ‘So if we have extra we always share. For me it’s just part of being able to give back.’

Leigh also says that being able to budget into the new school year and begin to pay off her debts has changed her life for the better.

‘Since the Sallies helped us put our budget in place, mine and my husband’s relationship is a lot stronger and we are a lot happier. Before we just existed. Now we live.’