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Karen's Story

Karen's Story

What do you do when your partner gets you into debt, and you’re falling prey to overpriced “home shopping trucks” to get essentials at ridiculous mark-ups?

Recently we helped a client at VisionWest who had been referred to us by a mental health support worker. Karen was in a “questionable” relationship, where her partner was racking up debt and making it impossible to live within their means. She decided she’d be better off on her own and left the relationship but found herself having to address a residue of debt.

Karen’s health issues meant she couldn’t hold down a fulltime job and had to rely on Work and Income (WINZ). It was going to be difficult for her to repay her debts.  

Our Financial Mentor Debbie guided Karen to draft a debt-reduction plan that was right for her. It had to be her style for her to adhere to it. Debbie also helped direct Karen with talking to the right people to get some penalties reduced. Sometimes all a client needs is help to understand all the jargon.

Buying from easy-to-use home shopping trucks was one of the biggest causes of Karen’s debt. She knew she had to stop if she was going to get on top of it. But the people from the home-truck crowd were hounding her, parking in her driveway and calling out to her to come and buy more. 

One day Karen ran outside and said to the sellers: “My budget advisor told me to tell you if you don’t leave my property I’m calling the police!”  To help her to deal with the shopping trucks Debbie gave Karen some stickers from the Commerce Commission that say, “Do not knock - sales people aren’t welcome here.” Karen put them over her fence and letterbox. 

Every week for 14 months Karen would call Debbie to tell her what she’d done towards her debt-reduction plan. It kept her accountable. Sometimes Debbie would talk her through a decision on whether to buy something. “She’d even call me and say something like: ‘My tights are getting worn - can I go and buy some from k-mart?’ She really didn’t want to use store cards or anything like that anymore,” says Debbie. 

With Debbie’s help, Karen quickly honed her financial skills and learnt to how to avoid debt. Karen told her WINZ meeting case manager that she is no longer in debt (even with WINZ) because of the long-term support and encouragement from VisionWest. It wasn’t always easy to stick to the budget and there were times that Karen still needed a food parcel to make ends meet while sticking to her debt repayments.

At the end of the 14 months, Karen chose to leave VisionWest’s Budgeting Service, but she still phones in once a month with progress reports. Karen is in the initial stages of becoming a volunteer at St John’s Opportunity Shop. She says she’s very grateful for all the help given and friendships made, and now she wants to give back.