Worried About Money? You’re FAR From Alone: 93% of Kiwi Parents are Struggling with Financial Stress

If you’re doing it tough right now, know you’re not alone – in fact, it’s almost all of us, reveals a new survey on financial stress

April, a 33-year-old mum of two from Christchurch, has never had to live so frugally as she has in the last few years amidst the cost of living crisis.

“The cost of living crisis has definitely impacted every choice I make as a parent. We can no longer afford petrol so my children are travelling on two buses everyday just to get to school which has been very hard on my daughter’s mental health. It’s now majorly impacting her grades in her final year at high school due to bad anxiety.”

She’s far from alone, with some confronting statistics about how the rising cost of living is impacting nearly all Kiwi parents and their tamariki, with 93% of parents reporting that they’re facing financial stress.

The 2023 nib State of the Nation Parenting Survey reveals that:

  • Almost half (49%) of all parents’ surveyed said financial uncertainty is the main source of household stress (up from 41% in 2022, 35% in 2021) 
  • 19% are going without some essentials like petrol, heating or even skipping meals. This is even worse for Māori parents, affecting 26% – doubled from last year.
  • Cost of living is the top concern parents have for their kids’ future (66%)
  • 52% of parents say they are eating less or differently, but this was much higher for Māori at 64% 
  • Almost a quarter of parents say they are keeping grocery spend the same but eating less (23%)
  • 51% said they were eating less fresh vegetables, and 40% said they were eating more processed foods.

It’s a tough situation for April, who is living week to week and budgeting strictly to make sure her income stretches to cover all her expenses.

“No more daily coffees at the cafe or buying good-quality footwear for myself and my children,” she says of some of the changes she’s had to make. “I’d say I earn enough money to cover 50% of the expenses regularly but I’ve become an expert in bargain hunting and saving money anywhere and in any way I can. It is stretched very thinly across all my expenses though.”

Increasing costs are impacting family life as well, with parents reporting a negative impact on their relationship with their partner (31%), their social lives and connection to friends (42%) and the amount of time spent with their children (25%).

Nathan Wallis, nib’s resident parenting expert and neuroscience educator, says that in times of stress it’s important that parents plan so they can create time for themselves, family fun and connection.

“Parents are under increasing financial pressure and many feel like they don’t have the time, energy or resources to care for their kids and look after themselves but it’s really important that parents find ways to look after their own wellbeing”.

“It might be as simple as taking a walk to connect with nature, calling a friend for a quick catch up or having a relaxing bath after the kids have gone to bed. By regularly taking time for yourself and your relationship with your partner, friends and family you’ll be better able to show up for your kids,” he says.

Many Kiwi households have been tightening their belts for some time. There is also a strong indication that the cost of living crisis is affecting decisions about whether parents decide to have more kids. About 14% of families are making the tough decision to delay having more children and in 13% of families, the main caregiver is returning to work.

This comes at a time when New Zealand birth rates have dropped below replacement rates. Statistics NZ reports that the birth rate was 1.65 births per woman at the year ended March 2023, down from 1.69 in the previous year, and well below the replacement rate of 2.1 reported in 2022 – the average number of children each woman must have for a population to replace itself over the long term.

“I feel for families that are delaying having kids or parents who need to return to work just to get by,” Nathan says. “It is a tough time for parents and while almost all parents are facing financial stress right now, the vast majority can provide the essentials and are doing their best”.

“There’s no such thing as the perfect parent, but the good news is that being good enough is great. So go easy on yourself. You’re doing the best you can, and I’m sure you’re doing a wonderful job.”

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