1 in 3 Australians are only two pay packets away from financial distress (Digital Finance Analytics) and 25% say that they stress about their finances more than 2 hours every week (Map My Plan Employee Survey).
You are absolutely not alone if you feel like money is just a constant stress.
To top it off, if you are a Single Parent or a family on one income it can be an even greater challenge. The cost of living in Australia is not exactly adjusted for you, full rent or potentially mortgage still has to be paid, running expenses for a car is not shared and it can be particularly challenging when managing kids.
In single parent households not all the kids bills are shared many are simply doubled with kids actually living in two places, not to mention differing opinions on the remaining shared expenses, like school fees. Managing relationships in these situations is definitely out of our remit but we have put together some tips for taking control of your money, particularly when things are tight.
1. Set your attitude
Feelings of anxiety can be overwhelming. Anxiety is related to our imagination of a future state that is unknown. The only way to settle anxiety related to finances is by making your future clear. When you start tackling knowns you are not constantly battling unknowns. Even if it isn’t a beautiful picture, there are many things you can do to address the challenges but you have to know what it is that needs addressing. The most important thing to note is, it actually doesn’t matter why you are here or how bad things are…
You can only start where you are, accept this small fact and then move forward.
2. Get clear on where your money is going
Knowing what is coming up and being prepared will save you mountain loads of stress, not to mention ensuring that you are not paying more than you should in late fees and unnecessary interest by missing important dates.
Start with a simple banking structure
It is very easy to set up online accounts that don’t cost you fees and can only be accessed via Online.
- Account for Bills – all bill payments to come out of this account
- Account for Spendings (every day expenses that are more free form, eg: groceries, clothing, gifts)
- Account for Savings (suggest having multiple accounts one for long term and one for Emergency)
- Account for Fun /No Guilt spending
Next list out all the must dos and knowns
- Sit down and write a list of all bills you have, make sure you are looking at least 12 months ahead.
- List each bill name and the frequency that it is paid.
- Add up the total amount that it costs you over 12 months and then divide it by your pay period. Moneysmart has an awesome online tool to make this exercise really easy. https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/tools-and-resources/calculators-and-apps/budget-planner.
Here is an example of what you need to do. You are paid fortnightly. $500 Rates are due quarterly = $500 x 4 = $2000 then divide this by 26. Plan to put $76.95 every pay into your Bills Account. Work your way down each line to work out how much needs to be automatically transferred in total to your Bills Account, we always suggest adding a 5 -10% buffer. Make sure all bills are paid from this account. If you get a new bill then you will need to ensure you increase your automatic transfer. We do not recommend direct debits as it is difficult to change service provider if you do that. It is better to set up scheduled payments and calendar reminders.
If your list of bills includes debts then you should also be looking at putting a debt reduction strategy in place to remove unnecessary interest and fees as quickly as possible. Here is a good link to provide you with a start if you want to dig deeper now “Debt Reduction Strategies discussed” but we will definitely be revisiting this one.
Once you have the bills sorted then keep going….Start with your weekly and fortnightly expenses and then work your way through monthly, quarterly and adhoc.
Use your calendar and think about what has come up in the last year and what needs to be considered over the next 12 months.
Common items that can be forgotten that may not come in the form of physical bills – School Excursions, Car Maintenance – Repairs/ Tyre replacement, Home maintenance, holidays, gifts (birthday/Christmas) and all the subscription services. When you know the amount you need to put aside each pay day then make sure you transfer money to your Spending Account and only use this account when paying for these items.
Set money aside into an Emergency Fund
There are lots of theories on how much you need in emergency fund. We suggest you initially work towards a minimum of 1 months pay but target having 3 months pay as a permanent buffer. This may take a while to build, the important thing is you start working on it as soon as you can.
When budgets are tight most people can find themselves in dire straits over unexpected expenses, having a buffer is as essential as paying bills so that you can keep your head above water during harder times.
Start by putting whatever amount you think you can afford, be tough on yourself here! But no matter how small make sure it is transferred every pay into your emergency fund.
3. Set a vision for your money and make every dollar count
The next step is making sure every dollar is working for you by starting to work out your savings plans for “FUTURE YOU” and also ensuring you have some fun funds for “NOW YOU”. No plan will work if it is all sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice.
Do this now by stepping back and asking yourself some big questions.
What do I want out of my life?
What gives me energy?
What is important to me?
Where do I want to be in 5 years time?
What does retirement look like to me?
Basically, you need to set yourself some financial goals. Without thinking through this it will be much harder, if not impossible, to change habits and make great choices. Sure, it is possible to deal with the essentials and then spend the rest on having fun but maybe FUTURE YOU will not be so thankful NOW YOU made these decisions.
We choose our freedoms but we also choose our chains
Whatever decisions you make you are choosing for NOW YOU or FUTURE YOU. Our future chains and outcomes are sometimes because we are not consciously choosing in the first place.
The above steps are just the start and you will definitely need to keep going if you want to get your finances rocking and your stress under wraps. If you have got this far then you are already streets ahead of a lot of people because now you are organised and have a better picture of where you are at. Financial Clarity is the super power you are seeking. It is the key to reducing stress and providing a catalyst for change.
If you work through the activities described here it will help you to reduce financial anxiety and stress. However, if this whole process is overwhelming , or you don’t have answers to some of your financial challenges then don’t keep suffering, reach out for help. We have a team of money and debt management experts who can help you get clarity on where you are at now, and create a systematic automated plan to get you progressing towards your financial goals, without the stress!