It is surprising how many people cruise through life living in the moment and not worrying about the future. As long as they have a roof over their heads, enough food and power to keep them warm right now they are content to live a simple and austere life, gaining interesting experiences through their relationships with family, friends and the community at large. For them, money is not really an issue but living well is, and to live well on a low income usually means living simply and moving from the attainment of physical assets to social and relationship assets. I grew up on the East Coast and many people there, from whole seaside communities to surfers had a very similar philosophy. It was a simple life money-wise but rich in relationships and social interaction as we all lived close to each other.
There are many low income families in Rotorua but life isn’t simple in town and everything seems to cost money. In order to adapt to the complex relationships and social aspects of larger communities in towns and cities people have taken cell phones into their pockets and hearts. When creating a budget for a client we ensure that the basics for living are covered first and then look at the non-essential items. Many people tell us their phone is essential but can’t quite articulate why. Cell phones are fast becoming a basic living essential in addition to accommodation, food and power because of the social aspect. Maintaining relationships with friends and family, work communication and even social interaction is now carried out through the cell phone. It has revolutionised the way we interact with each other as much as the advent of the motor vehicle in the early 1900’s and the wheel and fire back in the stone ages.
Unfortunately, this can impact on the first three living essentials. Consider the cost in relation to the use, when buying a cell phone (or phone plan). You should not buy a cell phone for status or image reasons. If you are a person who is not a social butterfly and only want to send and receive messages then the cheaper prepaid phones are the way to go. If you are a social butterfly and want access to the internet for social or work reasons then you will need to look at the more expensive phone plans. However if you can’t afford these more expensive phones then there is no point in sacrificing your accommodation, food or power. If your phone communication is with a small number of people (and assuming they are better off than you) get them to phone you on a regular basis so that they are charged and not you. Use other avenues for access to the internet such as the public library or if your work allows the use of limited personal internet access use that instead. It seems hard but doable.
(Manager – Rotorua Budget Advisory Service Inc)