Managing your finances when life gets pricey

Even if you’ve got a contingency plan, a sudden change to your income can affect your wellbeing. Discover five steps to put you, and your finances, back on track.

Even if you’ve got a contingency plan, a sudden change to your income can affect your wellbeing. Discover five steps to put you, and your finances, back on track.

Step 1: Determine your essentials

The first step to taking care of your finances is to determine what it costs, essentially, to be you.

Start by looking at your bank statements or online spending accounts for the last few months. This will give you a good indication of your quarterly ‘essential’ costs. Think about the ‘need-to-haves’, not the ‘nice-to-haves’.

This will look slightly different for everyone, but it’s important to have a clear picture of your day-to-day needs. Remember to factor in heating costs, which may be more expensive over winter. Also, identify any savings you can make while staying home or unable to go to work like transport costs, petrol or entertainment. Before you order UberEats, consider if you could make a simple meal at home instead. Or maybe you could start making your own morning coffee instead of buying it at a café – the little savings can really add up.  

Step 2: Paying for your expenses

Even if you reduce your living costs and cut out non-essential spending you might still have trouble paying your fixed expenses.

For larger expenses, like utilities or insurances, get in touch with your provider to discuss your options. Many utility retailers and insurance providers are offering support programs; you may be able to delay your bill or pay it off in smaller sums.

If you’re unemployed you might also be able to reduce your mortgage repayments, pay interest only or pause repayments for up to six months. You’ll need to talk to your bank, and in most cases, you’ll still be accruing interest, so consider this option carefully. If you’re struggling to pay rent due to the impact of coronavirus you could also try negotiating through your agent to defer or lower your rent.

Step 3: Boost your income

If your regular income has reduced or stopped altogether, consider whether you could get a bit of a side hustle going. Can you sell clothes or other items you no longer need, or turn a hobby, like crafts or cooking, into something profitable? 

You may also be eligible to boost or replace your income through government support programs.

Head to the ATO’s website or Services Australia to understand whether you’re eligible and how to apply.

There’s also the government’s temporary change to early access to super, which could allow you to withdraw some of the savings you currently have invested.

Step 4: Prepare a plan

Now you know how much you have to work with, it’s time to create a plan.

List all your expenses and work out exactly how much you need each fortnight. Your list doesn’t need to be a fancy excel spreadsheet, just a simple pen-to-paper list. Stick your plan to your fridge to keep yourself accountable.

Remember, your financial circumstances may keep changing, so it’s important to keep reviewing your financial plan to make sure it’s working for your current situation. You never know — you might find yourself keeping these savvy financial habits in the future!

Step 5: Ask for help

Fortunately, when it comes to decisions about your finances, you don’t have to fly solo.

If you’ve found yourself in financial debt and it’s affecting your wellbeing, call the National Debt Hotline for free counselling. And remember, we’re here to help you navigate your financial situation, no matter how difficult it seems. We offer expert advice over the phone as part of your CareSuper membership.* Our advisers receive no incentives to sell you any advice, so you know they have your best interests in mind.^ 

Book a call back with one of our advisers.  

Information correct as at 12 September 2023.

*Financial advice obtained over the phone, or through MemberOnline, is provided by Mercer Financial Advice (Australia) Pty Ltd (MFAAPL) ABN 76 153 168 293, Australian Financial Services Licence #411766.

^ Advice is provided by one of our financial planners who are Authorised Representatives of Industry Funds Services Limited (IFS). IFS is responsible for any advice given to you by its Authorised Representatives. Industry Fund Services Limited ABN 54 007 016 195 AFSL 232514.