In today's society, there is so much pressure and stress! If you drill right down to what is causing the pressure or stress, you may find the common denominator is money.
Sadly, financial stress is widespread experience and has been described as “A condition that is a result of financial and/or economic events that create anxiety, worry or a sense of scarcity, and is accompanied by a physiological stress response”.
It is human nature to look for quick fixes and band aid solutions, but more often than not, can add to your financial stress and sometimes dig that hole a little deeper.
So lets look at ways that could make your day to day living just that little bit easier. It all starts with baby steps and the first hurdle of admitting you are up shit creek without a paddle (so to speak and excuse the french).
Ok, you've made the decision to start a budget, but where do you start? A good place would be to create a “spend diary” (trust me, it works). A spend diary is a diary or journal where you record all your money transactions on a daily basis and helps you to see exactly where your money is going and any bad habits that have crept into your daily living expenses.
Budgeting (according to the dictionary) is an estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. Creating a budget allows you to create a plan for your money and ensures that you have enough money for the things you need and also the things that are important to you. Following a budget or “spend plan” may also help to keep you out of debt, or, more importantly, help you find a way OUT of your current debt.
The goal of a budget is to minimise your expenses and maximise your savings. By cutting down on unnecessary spending (which you've identified in your spend diary) and increasing your savings, you can start to put that extra money towards paying off your debt (sounds easy in theory right...reality though, can be abit harder).
Budgeting can be a difficult transition, so here are few tips to get you started on ways you can save some of your hard earned cashola.
Give up drinking coffee or cut down on alcohol - it may sound scary but it will save you money and can have health benefits. (don't hate me...it's just a suggestion)
Make your lunch at home to take to work.
Have people over for dinner rather than going out and ask everyone to bring a plate of food.
Borrow books and DVDs from the library.
Cancel and cut up your credit card.
Set a limit for birthday and Christmas presents.
If you're buying clothes, check if you can wash them to avoid dry cleaning bills.
If you buy something, make sure it goes with at least two other things in your wardrobe so you can get a few different outfits out of one item.
Check op-shops and local markets for bargains.
Take advantage of stock-take sales or end-of-season clearances to pay less for the things you need.
Write a shopping list – during the week add to this list whenever you think of things you need. Remember to take it with you when you go shopping so you don't forget anything. REMEMBER....only buy what's on the list! No impulse purchases!
Plan your meals in advance and add the ingredients to your shopping list. Create a menu based around items you already have in the pantry so you are using the food you've already got and buy fewer items.
Utilise your leftovers - cook a large batch of meals early in the week and freeze them to use as quick and easy leftovers (or even for lunches). This can help avoid the last minute temptation of takeaways later in the week. Oh, and add your leftovers to your meal plan so you don't forget they are there!
Remember, one small change CAN actually make a difference to your bank balance, so by changing one thing you do regularly, could, in fact, help you save money.
However, sometimes the debt is far more serious than a few changes to your daily routine. If you are struggling with debt, seek assistance straight away – there are free services out there, such as financial counselling that can help you.
Financial counselling is a free service offered by community organisations, community legal centres and some government agencies and can help you with;
Suggesting ways to improve your financial situation
See if you are eligible for government assistance
Negotiate repayment arrangements with your creditors
Explain your options and their consequences, including debt recovery procedures, bankruptcy and other alternatives
Help you apply for a hardship variation
Help you organise your finances and do a budget
Refer you to other services, for example, a gambling helpline, family support, personal counselling or community legal aid
Debts that you are struggling to pay
Threatening letters or harassment by debt collectors
Debt recovery through the courts
House eviction, disconnection of gas, electricity, phone etc
Uninsured car accidents, taxation debts and unpaid fines
If you're not sure if your local community has a financial counsellor, the National Debt Helpline is there to help. The free hotline number – 1800 007 007 is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Your call will automatically be transferred to a phone service in your state. You can also visit their website www.ndh.org.au for more information.
There is also Lifeline's 24-hour crisis support service on 13 11 14 if you need emotional support.
The important thing to remember is, there IS help out there and you are not alone. By making that all important (and sometimes life changing) call to a financial counsellor, or making those tweaks to your daily living expenses you have taken your first step in the right direction to reducing that heavy weight on shoulders.