It took a couple of months for us to feel the effects of the collapse of our finances thanks to my habit of over-paying bills a by a small amount each month, eventually putting us ahead by a couple of months. Still the clock was ticking and I knew it was just a matter of time before everything was in arrears. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to pay our bills, we just didn’t have any money.
Most companies were happy to work with me to manage our debt. Most were sympathetic and helpful and many have financial hardship policies.
It’s been eight years since we went broke and as traumatic as the experience was, it taught me so much about money and clearly I had to learn about it the hard way. These are the four money products I wish I’d had when I was dealing with my families financial crisis.
1. Kochie’s Money Makeover Challenge
Kochie and Libby know what it's like to struggle financially. With four young children and a business just starting up they have lived just as we all have - scraping by, worried about how to pay for food, school fees, camp and birthdays. I jumped at the chance to review Kochie's Money Makeover Challenge because even though I was doing a reasonable job of managing our finances I knew I could be doing more.
The first thing the challenge taught me was to look at the big picture.
I was managing our money from week to week and failing to plan for the future. By sitting down and listing my goals and how much money I would need to achieve them, I received a huge wake up call about our ability to achieve them. It was time for action.
The next step was to sit down and do a proper budget. It took me all weekend and was a bit scary but it was like ripping a bandaid off. I was horrified at how much money we were wasting on take away and kid's activities but I also felt empowered by knowing I could do something about it.
The challenge goes for four weeks and each day you'll get a video and a task. You'll receive excellent advice, lots of inspiration from Kochie and information about additional resources to see you through. You can chat to experts about your specific financial challenges and join in on community conversations about money.
2. Awesome Apps
Managing our personal finances through a crisis was so much hard work. Every day I'd have to sit down and open up all the letters we'd received, pay bills over the phone and note down exactly how much money we had left to get us through the week.
These days Banking Apps make it so much easier to manage your personal finances. All of the information is right there in front of you. You don't need to call anyone or be in front of a computer. There's no excuse for not knowing how much money you have to spend on everything. You just tap on the App and it's all there in front of you.
It's also so satisfying to see all of our accounts listed. You can watch your savings grown and watch your debt reduce. You can screen shot your savings account as you reach milestones and share the satisfaction with your partner. Saving money is hard but so worth it. Reducing your debt is even harder, but even more valuable to your financial future.
3. An idiot-proof guide to investing
My husband was a property developer and it was considered a risky enterprise. We'd talk about what we'd do if we ever experienced money problems and would comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we were both in a position where we could do a number of different jobs, should the worst ever eventuate.
Still I realised how vulnerable families can be when it comes to employing. During the GFC so many people lost their jobs and hardly had any savings. They had no other sources of income and the domino-effect on their lives was devastating.
Being able to establish a passive income, no matter how small, will do so much to ensure your financial stability. I'm talking about investing in shares and even in property if you can afford to. Starting with shares is a good idea though because it is more achievable. Just save $1000 and buy some good-quality shares, then save another $1000 and invest it again.
4. Free Financial Counselling Service
When you're going through the process of losing every single cent you've ever earned, the last thing you need is to start spending money on something new. I was desperate for advice on how to get my family out of our financial black hole but I had no choice but to go it alone. Every company I contacted for help regarding which steps to take or refinancing options lost interest in helping me once they realised we'd already lost our home.
I still needed major help with the remainder of our debts but without the mortgage, there was nothing in it for them. It was devastating. I've never felt more alone.
Now there are so many financial aid services that are free, including many that are run by your own bank. Financial hardship services shouldn't be money-making endevours and it's in your bank's best interests to help you recover from financial devastation. It inspires loyalty and ensures you'll one day contribute to their bottom line again.
Financial Counselling Australia offers so many resources for those who need help and tools for those who want to self-help.
You can contact Financial Counselling Australia here.