Finance expert Natasha Janssens answers your money questions.
Q: “How can I pay off current debt and build a little buffer in my savings when I live pay cheque to pay cheque (just for living expenses, food and medical bills)? I very rarely go out or buy myself things. I was on a much higher wage before and now I’m on a much lower income and single.”
OK. So as you know, in general the answer is spend less, earn more or a combination of both! There may be some areas of your finances you can look at specifically, but without knowing the full details of your financial situation let me give you a few easy tips that might help.
Reality check your lifestyle
One thing that tends to happen when our income goes up is our spending goes up with it. So while you say you now rarely go out and buy things, I would suggest that there might be a chance that there is still wiggle room in your budget – you may just be used to the old lifestyle and potentially ‘wants’ have maybe become ‘needs’.
Take a close look at your budget and add up how much you spend on dining out, takeaways, clothes, TV subscriptions, or gym memberships, and be really honest with yourself about the must-haves vs the nice-to-haves. Read some more of my lifestyle on a budget tips here.
Ditch the plastic
When it comes to debt, the first thing you need to do is stop the bleeding – which means you need to get used to not using your credit card. The rule is: if it has to go on the credit card, you can’t afford it! Then you can focus on cutting your spending down further to make room to save.
Research your rate
If you have a mortgage, do some research to make sure you have a competitive interest rate. You can potentially refinance with another bank who has a more attractive rate, or use the competitive offers to negotiate a better rate with your current bank.
Rethink your rent
If you are a renter, consider moving to a cheaper area. Alternatively have a look at sub-letting if you aren’t already. Do you have friends or family you could stay with, even just for a month or two to help kick start the savings? Or perhaps house-sitting is another option.
Earn some casual cash
The first place to start is your closet. Do a big clean-out and see what items you can afford to sell to kick start your savings. You could also look for casual weekend or evening work, like driving for Uber or running errands for Airtasker.
Consider your transport options
If you drive a gigantic fuel-guzzler, it could be time to downsize to a more economical ride. Or if you drive everywhere, consider taking public transport or walking a few days a week instead! If you have a car loan, perhaps it is time to make some hard decisions about down-sizing to a more affordable ride.
Decrease those bills
There are loads of ways to save on your essential bills – just switching off all the lights and appliances at the power point can make a big difference to your energy bill. You should also shop around providers for your car, home or health insurance. There are even comparison sites for energy providers – just be sure not to compare % discounts and instead look at what rates they charge for consumption after the discount. A few phone calls can easily save you hundreds of dollars – your existing providers may even match the competitor offers and save you the hassle of switching.
Investigate Centrelink Support
There are lots of Government support payments available, depending on your circumstances, so it’s worth doing your research. A good starting point is the latest version of “A Guide to Australian Government Payments” for a listing of available payments and eligibility criteria.
Natasha Janssens is the founder of Women with Cents and finance expert. For more from Women with Cents click here.
What tips do you use to chip away at your debt?