Finding a Way out of Debt | The Salvation Army

Finding a Way out of Debt

Despite being in full-time work, mum-of-three Sheree was deep in debt and at breaking point when she reached out for help.

‘I was at a very low point in my life the day I walked into The Salvation Army. I had heard they did financial mentoring, and I was in dire need. I was probably a week away from declaring bankruptcy.

It had been brewing for years. Just before Covid hit, I’d managed to get out of an abusive relationship with my children’s father. But then I was made redundant, and we were in emergency housing for six months. It threw years of good work straight out and I had marital debt too. I worked hard and eventually found a good job, and a rental, but the debts had mounted up.

I was making sure my children were fed but I was barely eating myself, maybe once or twice a week. There was never enough money to go around, and I had to make difficult choices. If I pay the rent, the power doesn't get paid. And then I’d think, what if the power gets cut off? We'll still have a roof over our head. So, we'll pay the rent this week. And not the power bill.

It's hard when you have a full-time job and you're on a good income to be in that situation, because it's not right. I don’t know how people do it. Because I struggle. Every single day is a struggle.

Still, it was terrifying to ask for help. I'm a strong, independent person. But when you've reached out to other agencies and been refused help and made to feel you are nothing, it’s hard to be vulnerable again. You’re trusting in a stranger to be kind, caring and sensitive. To be supportive and non-judgmental. It's a huge thing.

Stephenie, the financial mentor from the Salvation Army in Greymouth has been great. There’s zero judgment, just helpful comments and lots of different suggestions. We worked together on a budget and a plan to reduce debts and it’s an ongoing, fluid thing. You're not having someone do it for you, you're involved with every step of the process, and that makes a huge difference.

At the beginning I was supported by the foodbank, and it might not seem much, but it is huge. Even just one bag of something can be the difference between me eating or not for a day or two or having toilet paper. Or being able to wash my clothes and go to work smelling good.

It’s still a struggle. I'm strict with my food shop. I look online to see which supermarket has the best deals. My last shop was $150 for one and a half bags of groceries. I had to hold back tears at the checkout, I could have filled my trolley once upon a time.

There’s no money for contingencies, like if the car needs work or my son needs glasses, but at these times I’ve got Stephenie to help me work out a plan and I can get some help from the foodbank.

I think in the next 12 months, I will be the majority out of debt. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now whereas when I started this journey, there was no light.’

Financial mentoring is one of the wraparound services made possible by donations from people like you. With today’s cost of living crisis, the need for these services is growing.