By Molly Benjamin and Betsy Westcott, Ladies Finance Club
It’s hard to Netflix and chill when you’re worried about how you’re going to pay your bills. As the measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 step up a notch, an increasing number of Australians are facing unexpected financial challenges brought on by the economic slowdown, a dive in financial markets and job losses.
We know that so many Australians are feeling vulnerable right now. First the work slows down, then the money in your bank account starts to dwindle, you wonder which of your bills you can do away with and whether this is going to affect your credit rating. Given we’re not sure how long this virus and measures to curb the spread will last. All of this can quickly add up to overwhelm and a feeling of financial anxiety. Even if you haven’t yet impacted financially, the fear of what might happen is equally anxiety inducing.
The government has taken unprecedented action to provide $17.6 Billion of economic support to encourage investment and keep people in jobs. On an individual level it’s time to prioritise your financial wellbeing and take action to get your finances in shape as we weather this storm. After all, prioritising your financial wellbeing is a form of self care.
So here are money savvy moves to help you avoid financial stress and anxiety in the coming months:
1. Take Stock
You need to work out where you’re at with your money right now. Write down a list of everything you Own, Owe, Earn and Spend. This is your starting point and your method to find out what kind of shape you’re in financially.
2. Start or Top Up Savings
Every money savvy individual will have an OMG Fund, often referred to as an emergency fund. This is money sitting in a separate high-interest, fee free account and there to get you out of a tight spot. If you’re just starting out aim to put aside $1000. Over time, build this up to the equivalent of 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses.
3. See if you’re eligible for Government Support
Unless you’ve been living off the grid, you’ll know that the government has been pulling no punches when it comes to trying to cushion the impact of COVID-19. From additional social security payments, to stimulus packages and wage subsidies it’s all there. To see if you’re entitled to financial support check out: https://treasury.gov.au/coronavirus/households
4. Pay down any high interest debt
If you have a debt with an interest rate above 10% pay it off ASAP. This kind of debt is expensive and taking you backwards. Direct any spare cash to knocking it over and fast. After that, if you have any loans with an interest rate above 5% keep paying them down but it’s ok to focus on saving at the same time too.
5. Marie Kondo your Regular Bills
Spark some joy with financial savings! Dig out your loan statements, credit card bills and utility bills, memberships and subscriptions. What are you paying? Is there a better deal out there. A quick google search of like-for-like products and services will show you what other providers are offering. If it’s a better deal, see if your existing provider can match it or switch to save! Check out comparison sites such as www.finder.com.au or www.canstar.com.au
6. Remove temptation
“I can resist anything but temptation” said Oscar Wilde. If you’re like Oscar, and find it hard to say no to the marketing emails telling you to spend big then it’s time to remove the temptation. Head to website unroll.me and you can unsubscribe to all marketing emails in a few clicks.
7. Swap Takeaway for Home Meal Kits
There’s a push to support local businesses and order takeaway. In principal it’s a great idea but not at the expense of your financial wellbeing. Save the takeaway as a once-a-week treat and instead try a meal kit delivered. Both Hello Fresh and Marley Spoon will let you try a box for free. Healthy, tasty, and convenient food without breaking the bank. Plus you don’t have to think of ideas of what to cook!
8. Pause your gym membership and opt for free workouts Apps
Staying healthy during this period of social distancing is super important for your physical and mental health. The good news is that staying fit doesn’t need to be expensive. The Nike Training Club, Daily Yoga, Aaptiv and Daily Workouts Fitness Trainer are just a sample of the free apps available.
9. Join Ladies Finance Club’s Bootcamp
Do you want to take back control of your money or stop living pay check to pay check? Then join the Ladies Finance Club Money Makeover Bootcamp. Kicking off on the 15th of April you can enjoy group coaching all from the privacy of your home over a period of six weeks. Covering everything from mindset, cashflow and investing to understanding superannuation, buying property and protecting yourself. This is an investment that your future self will thank you for.
Use this time to learn a new skill and future-proof your career. You can take over 500 free courses from IVY League Universities in the USA. General Assembly are now offering all their courses online such as learn to code and social media refreshers. Don’t forget to update your CV when you’re done.
11. Keep calm and stick to your goals
If you have any existing investments outside of Cash, you might be tempted to sell out of the volatile markets and retreat to safety. Unless you planned to sell now, stay the course with your original investment plan. Take a deep breath and remember this too shall pass and your investment will recover with time.
12. Don’t touch your face and don’t touch your super
The government is allowing you up to $10,000 from your superfund this financial year and again next financial year but avoid doing it unless you’re completely out of options. Why? Taking $10,000 out of super in your 30s equates to you having roughly $46,000 less in your super when you retire (assuming av. return of about 6%). That’s almost 5x the amount you took out and the equivalent of 1 years retirement income.
13. Don’t forget to laugh
We love laughter at LFC cause it’s free and contagious (in a good way). Jump on Youtube or Tiktok and watch your favourite comedians. Laughing soothes nerves and decreases the stress hormones. Clinical evidence shows high levels of stress can weaken immune systems.
14. Ask for help
If you are struggling to make ends meet right now, don’t keep it to yourself. There’s help out there. There are services that will help you with paying your bills, food, housing as well as emotional support. If you’re not sure where to start, start by calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.