EMILY JOOSSE checks her phone bills line-by-line, divvies up the grocery shopping between shops to make the most of the specials and each night turns off every appliance in the house to save money on electricity.
It might sound like frugality taken to the extreme, but that’s what it takes to make ends meet for her family as day-to-day living costs soar.
And a new report from retail bank ING Direct shows cost-of-living increases are even worse than official figures have so far suggested.
The Financial Wellbeing Index finds household expenses across Australia over the past year have soared an average 7.5% against an official consumer price index rise of only 2.7%.
In NSW, the numbers were even worse, with more than a quarter of households reporting a jump of more than 10% in the cost of living and only 8% of 1033 households surveyed saying they had no problem at all meeting regular bills.
Those soaring costs – largely on the back of higher medical, schooling, utilities and transport costs – have led to big jumps in credit card debt and plummeting levels of personal savings.
Mrs Joosse and her husband, Mark, of Goonellabah, said their family had a simple solution to the credit card issue – just don’t have one.
A combination of careful frugality and making the most of a broad social network helped with the rest.
Mrs Joosse said she had started growing vegetables for her family and often did food swaps with her friends, who also had veggie patches.
The other clever idea is the use of what she calls a ‘craig's list’.
The list is put up at her local church for people to mark down things that they need and things they could give away.
Items on the list have ranged from children’s bikes to driving lessons and it is generally about 20 items deep.
Even then, Mr and Mrs Joosse and their two kids have had to make sacrifices.
“For a lot off my friends it’s really stressful,” Mrs Joosse said.
“A lot of my friends are living pay-day to pay-day and it’s something that weighs on them. If their car breaks down, they have to go to the bank for a loan.”
Only 8% of NSW households have no difficulty meeting regular bills.
Households have faced “significant increases” in goods and services, including medical, schooling, utilities and transport/fuel/motor vehicle costs.
Household credit card debt has blown out from an average $1775 in the last quarter of 2010 to $2205 in the first quarter of 2011.
At the same time, average household savings have dropped from $9238 to $7215, and almost a third of households have less than $1674 in personal savings.