As prices rise and bills increase, many people are feeling uncertain about their financial situation.
To support you in navigating this time with confidence, we’ll explore:
- Tips to help manage higher living costs.
- Sources of help if you are impacted by the rising cost of living.
Tips to help manage higher living costs
Taking some small steps to change your financial habits could help you to manage higher living costs.
1. Assess your current financial situation
Start by putting together a list of all the things you own (your assets), and how much they are worth. Include things like:
- Your home and/or investment property
- Vehicles, including recreational things such as bikes
- Your personal belongings e.g. furniture, clothing, jewellery etc.
- Savings, investments, and superannuation.
Then make a list of the money you owe (these, are your liabilities). Include things such as credit card debts, car loans, home loans, buy now pay later accounts, phone plans, rent-to-buy facilities, leases and so on. To calculate your current financial position, take the total value of liabilities away from the total value of assets.
2. Check your spending
Next, review your spending. Check your bills, bank statements and direct debits to see what you are spending your money on. Then you could categorise your spending into commitments (such as your mortgage or rent and loan repayments); everyday spending (such as groceries and utilities) and occasional spending (e.g birthday presents).
This review may highlight some places where you may be able to cut back on spending. For example, you may have multiple paid streaming subscription services which could be reduced or switched to free services.
This may also be a good time to review what you pay for current household services like telephone, internet, energy, and insurance. If you check when your contracts and policies are due to end, you may be able to negotiate or find a better price before they auto-renew.
Also, there are several digital solutions to help with managing your money. For example Westpac offers customers in-app spend insights and budgeting tools.
3. Look for ways to save money
Making some small changes to how you use energy could make a difference to your next bill. Some quick wins might be:
- Switching off appliances at the wall when not in use
- Using energy saving light globes (ask if your local council has replacement programs available)
- Turning off lights in rooms you are not using
- Using the power-save modes on electronic equipment
- Using your microwave rather than your oven as it may use less energy
- Using the economy cycle for dishwashing or wash by hand
- Washing clothes with a full load
- Drying clothes naturally whenever possible.
Some longer-term steps you might consider are:
- Reviewing your utility providers and consider switching if you find a better deal. For example, Switch to Save, is an Australian Government website to help you compare the energy offers available where you live.
- Choosing the most energy-efficient appliances. According to the Australian Government site energy.gov.au, around 25% of home energy is used by appliances. You can learn about improving the energy efficiency of appliances and access an energy rating calculator from the Australian Government’s Equipment Energy Efficiency site.
If your grocery bills are a large part of your living expenses, consider these ways to make your money go further at the supermarket:
- Setting a limit on how much you spend
- Planning your meals to make the most use of all ingredients; and shopping for ingredients that are on special, like in season fresh produce
- Switching from your preferred brand to a lower cost option such as supermarket own brands
- Taking advantage of supermarket loyalty discounts and price mark-downs.
As fuel prices continue to increase, consider these websites and apps to help you locate lower priced fuel.
- Australian Capital Territory: (ACT Fuelcheck)
- New South Wales: (NSW Fuelcheck)
- Northern Territory (MyFuel NT)
- Tasmania (Fuel Check)
- South Australia (Fuel Pricing Apps and Websites)
- Western Australia (Fuel Watch)
- Victoria (RACV)
- Queensland (RACQ)
Here’s a few things that may help to manage your interest costs.
- Reducing your debt
- Start by listing all the amounts you owe, and the interest rates you pay
- Then, sort your loans from highest to lowest interest rate to help decide which one to repay first
- The loan with the highest interest rate is likely to be costing you the most, so repaying this first may help to reduce your interest costs more quickly
- Consolidating multiple high-cost debts to a loan with a lower interest rate
- Using an offset account with your home loan where available
- Repaying more than the minimum amount required where possible.
Interest is often calculated on a daily basis so get started sooner rather than later to reduce interest costs.
Sources of help if you are impacted by the rising cost of living
Help with paying your bills
It is not uncommon for people to struggle with paying bills at some point so there is help available. If this is something you are experiencing, here are some steps that might help:
1. Work out what you can afford to pay
Look at your current financial position and understand where your money comes from and goes to. From here you can then create a budget, which helps to calculate how much you can afford to pay. This could help in any discussions you have with the people you owe money to.
2. Ask for help
Many organisations have dedicated customer teams to help get people back on track. Talking to these teams about your situation helps to find a solution that suits your individual needs.
Keep a record of all your conversations and keep all your emails and correspondence so you may refer to what you agreed later.
The support each organisation can offer you will vary and depend on your specific circumstances. Solutions may include:
- Deferring repayments until you can afford to pay
- Arranging a lower repayment plan
- Changing the frequency of payments. For example, weekly instead of monthly
- Reducing or removing some fees or penalties
- Suggesting a lower cost product or service that may be more affordable
- Sharing information about discounts or concessions available, and other government or charitable organisations that may be able to help.
3. Seek other assistance
If you cannot reach an outcome that you believe is fair, then find out who you can raise your concerns with. Many organisations have dispute resolution services that are run by an independent industry body or the government. Sometimes they may have an ombudsman who may be able to intervene or help you to reach a satisfactory outcome.
Help with your rent
One of the largest essential expenses for some households is rent. Paying more than 30% of your gross income on rent, is a sign of being under rental stress.
For some eligible low-income households Rent Assistance, a non-taxable income supplement, may be available to people who rent in the private rental market or community housing. To find out more visit Services Australia.
Other help available
- Some lenders offer financial hardship arrangements to help with loan repayments. Before entering a financial hardship arrangement, learn about the impact on your credit report. in this downloadable guide from CreditSmart.
- The National Debt Helpline offers step by step guides to help people with financial problems. Their professional financial counsellors offer a free, independent, and confidential service, and can be called on 1800 007 007.
- Westpac has more information on managing the cost of living on the Master your money pages.