From our Financial Counsellors
Managing incomes and outcomes is a challenge many people struggle with every day. Here are our best ten pieces of advice to better organise them.
- Recognise the money in versus money out
A good way to start managing your money is to look at what is coming in versus what is going out. For example, look at your income and work out how much money you have coming in. This could be money from your wages, a pension, government payment, or income from investments. If you are unsure, look at your payslip or bank account each week or each fortnight.
- Track your spending
To see how much money is going out, track what you spend over one or two weeks. Include every transaction, no matter how small. Many apps (like Track Your Spending) help you in the process and make it easy. This process will give you a clear view of where your money is going.
- Separate needs from wants
Use the information you have gathered about your ‘money out’ to decide which things are your ‘needs’. These are the essential items you need to live, such as food, accommodation, and electricity. Everything that is not a need is a ‘want’. These are things you could live without. You could choose to save the money you spend on these things, or you could redirect it to where you need it more. If you do cut back on wants, look for other things to make you happy that do not involve spending money.
- Think about what you spend and pay attention to pricing
Knowing exactly how much you pay for things means you can look for better deals. Next, examine where you can save — on everything from groceries and clothes to phone plans and electricity rates. Think about what you want to do with your money. By setting a goal, such as paying off a debt or saving for emergencies, you are more likely to spend less.
- Plan and smooth your bills
Knowing when expenses are due can help you organise and stay in control of your money. Use your bills and bank statements to mark the due dates and amounts on a calendar. Add them up to work out how much you will need to put aside each payday to cover bills when they are due. Contact your utility and other providers to ask about ‘bill smoothing’. This means paying smaller amounts more often (for example, fortnightly or monthly), instead of paying in one go. If you have overdue utility bills, you can contact your service provider to find out your options too.
- Use Centrepay
If you get a Centrelink payment from Services Australia, you can use their free Centrepay In addition, you can ask them to take a small amount of money from your payment to pay regular bills, such as rent. This can make managing your bills easier.
- Research financial supports that may be available to you
The Australian Government, state and territory governments and community organisations offer financial support for low-income people or experiencing hardship.
Use the Centrelink Payment and Service Finder to see the payments and services you may be eligible for.
– For a guide to available Australian Government payments, see the Services Australia website.
– For housing, aged care and disability services, see benefits and payments and concessions, allowances, and supplements on the Department of Social Services
– For concessions to help you meet the cost of living, for example, discounts on your bills, see government concessions on this website.
- Seek support from community organisations
Good Shepherd, and other organisations, offer financial supports and services for people on a low income.
– For No-Interest Loans, see our No Interest Loans (NILs).
– For cheaper and simpler car and home insurance, see Good Insurance.
– If you have been financially impacted by COVID19 and need help with rent or bills, see our Household Relief Loans and Support Hotline.
- Discover free financial counselling
If you need help managing your money or debt advice, contact a financial counsellor. They can show you how to budget and manage your debts, and deal with other money problems. For free general financial help, such as budgeting or preparing for retirement, you can contact the Financial Information Service (FIS).
- Start a new savings habit:
Once you have your money under control, try to start saving. Having some money set aside can be useful when unexpected or urgent things come up. Try the Saver Plus program offered by The Brotherhood of St Laurence. Saver Plus helps people on low incomes to save and to improve their financial skills. You set a savings goal, and when you reach it, the amount is matched (up to $500).