The human cost of high prices

21 November 2022

Through our Christmas Appeal, we are highlighting the pressures faced by Kelly, one of thousands of people turning to the Society due to the rising cost of living.

“…with everything going up, we just can’t keep up…It gives me so much anxiety - it’s crippling,”

Surging inflation and interest rates are creating severe cost of living pressure on those who can least afford it - people who are already vulnerable.

Kelly and her family have been doing it tough following COVID-19 lockdowns and now, economic pressures are adding to her already desperate situation.

“The bills have now gone up so much.

“We’re doing everything we can from not using lights, taking the shortest possible showers, eating only pasta because it’s cheap, but nothing ever seems to be enough,” she says.

The cost of housing, food, energy, and petrol have seen some of the sharpest inflationary pressures and there’s only so much you can do to cut back on the necessities of life.

This is what sets this moment in time apart from previous periods of high inflation – the fact that so many of the sharpest increases are on things people can’t do without.

“My husband works. My eldest daughter works. But, with everything going up, we just can’t keep up.

“It gives me so much anxiety – it’s crippling,” Kelly says.

Kelly’s husband works in the hospitality industry and lost his job due to the pandemic.

He was rehired as a kitchenhand but is now earning a lot less money.

The cost of rent for Kelly and her husband exceeds more than half of their combined income, placing them in acute housing stress.

More than half of people who approach the St Vincent de Paul Society NSW are experiencing housing stress.

Housing stress is defined as a household which spends more than 30% of its income – before taxes – on housing.

This leaves very little left over to manage other bills and expenses.

“When our electricity bill came in, I dropped. I literally dropped.

“There’s just no way we could pay it,” Kelly says.

“The roof is leaking, and it’s destroyed our microwave.

“We can’t afford to fix it, and we can’t afford to replace the microwave.

“What do we do?

“I get so much anxiety.

“There’s always another bill.

“There’s always something to be fixed, or things we need, like clothes.”

The St Vincent de Paul Society NSW has provided the family with assistance, including rent, utilities, food and school expenses, as well as bedding for Kelly’s daughters.

“To get some help, it really changes everything.

“I just started seeing a counsellor thanks to Vinnies,” Kelly says.

At this point, we have likely not seen either the peak of inflation or interest rates, so costs are only set to increase the closer we get to Christmas.

For many families like Kelly’s, who are already struggling, things are likely to get worse before they get better.

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Please share the word of the Vinnies Christmas Appeal to ensure that we can continue supporting people like Kelly in their time of need.

You can make a donation to the Vinnies Christmas Appeal at www.vinnies.org.au or calling 13 18 12.