Utility Hardship

No one enjoys getting bills in the mail box and for many Perth families it's getting harder to meet the deadline.

Perth mum Louise Pope says staying on top of 3 boys under 5 is hard enough.

For Lou; everyday costs are driving up her utility bills - water, gas and electricity and the uncertainty of how much her bills will be - is putting her family under huge financial pressure.

Louise isn't alone - and alarming statistics show more and more WA families are asking for assistance just to cover everyday essentials

Over the past year, over $9 million dollars was given to families who couldn't pay their bills, almost 25 000 homes in financial hardship.

Personal finance expert Nick Bruining says more and more families are searching for support. "We're seeing more people tapping into their parents' super-annuation and other sources beyond what just the government can provide."

The number of payments made through HUGS grants has risen overall by 10 percent

And looking at the bill breakdown- electricity hits the hardest

Electricity grants issued to Synergy customers has risen by 14 percent; over $6 million dollars helping WA families keep their lights on.

Alinta Energy contributed over 1 million dollars in gas grant amounts.

And the water corp issued a thousand grants to families and individuals at a cost of $330,000.

Despite the rising costs, retired pensioner Ian McKinlay says he keeps his bills down by living frugally and the 84 year old has only changed 1 light bulb in 16 years - his electricity bill is just $1 a day. "There's a street light there there's a street light there so when I get up in the morning when we are out here I can move around there's enough light."

According to Nick Bruining - there are ways to ease the burden of utility bills - but it requires discipline.

Also plan ahead - if you budget for your bills - you won't be caught short when they arrive.

Invest in Smart Power.

And for those on Centrelink benefits - you can apply for Centrepay - a scheme which deducts money from your payments for future bills.

Or you can set up your own budget plan direct with the utility companies.

Louise says "I've set up a direct debit out of my account each week so I have little bits going to each bill, so by the time I have the final figure I can try and nail it or I get a little bit of a credit."

For Louise, by tightly monitoring her household income and expenditure and planning ahead - she's managed to keep their heads above water, and says it's simply a matter of rethinking the way you pay.