Monthly Archives: October 2010

Struggling with mortgage payments? Not saving?

House made out of moneyAs seen on Adelaide Channel Ten News on Monday 25 October, reported by Sarah Abo….
In recent years, Aussie household budgets have come under increasing financial pressure. The cost of housing has been steadily rising as a percentage of household income which has been eating into savings and putting people under financial pressure. An ING study has found that 22 percent of South Australians have no savings and that one in five South Aussies say that their income isn’t enough to cover their bills. If you’re one of those people struggling with mortgage payments and not regularly saving, this advice is for you.
For our readers who are not MyBudget clients:
  • Start out by putting a budget together. Itemise all of your household expenses (food, car, petrol, mortgage, bills, entertainment, debts, clothing, lunch money – don’t leave anything out). Allocate a specific and realistic amount to each item.
  • Use the budget to ensure you’re not spending more than you’re earning. Using credit cards is one way to spend more than you earn without knowing it. Use cash instead.
  • Prioritise your payments–work out the most important expenses and pay your bills in that order.
  • Talk to your mortgage lender if you’re behind in payments. Honestly explain your situation and negotiate payments to repay any arrears.
  • Are you able to earn extra income? What about taking in a boarder or room mate?
If you are a MyBudget client, we understand that sometimes life’s circumstances change and your budget may have to be adjusted accordingly. You may suddenly change jobs or become unemployed, separate from a partner, suffer an unexpected illness, have a baby or need a new car–these sorts of changes can put pressure on even the best looking budgets!
Talk through these sorts of changes with one of our Customer Service team members. They’ll re-analyse your budget, get in touch with your creditors (if needed) and keep your budget on track.
Whether you’re a MyBudget client or not, one of the keys to success is to talk about your financial problems–don’t bottle it up so that it eats away at you. Talk about your situation with your family or feel welcome to call MyBudget at any time. We’re here to listen and help. Together, we’ll come up with a realistic plan to solve your problem and get things back on track.

Win a $300 shopping spree… Just like Tanya did!

Did you know that over one-quarter of new MyBudget clients come from referrals from existing clients?

Pictured here is the winner of our most recent ‘Refer a Friend’ competition, Tanya. Tanya is excited to be taking control of her finances and we thank her for referring her friends and family to MyBudget so that they can start doing the same.

Every time you help someone by referring them to MyBudget, you go in the draw to win a handy $300 Westfield shopping spree. There’s no limit to how many times you can enter, so refer as many people as you like to increase your chances of winning. The only condition is that your referred friends attend an interview with us. It’s that easy. And you’ll be helping your loved ones to reduce their debt and financial stress.

Hurry! Prizes are awarded four times a year. Contact MyBudget or visit the members’ site for competition conditions and entry forms.

Christmas is coming… like Christmas!

Pssst… Christmas is only nine weeks away! The silly season is just around the corner; a time of the year which, for many people, heralds stress not angels. But for MyBudget clients, Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful. As soon as you can, ring one of our consultants and check what you have budgeted for and what will be available in your MyBudget account by Christmas.

If you don’t have anything budgeted for Christmas, your consultant can calculate how much disposable income you have between now and Christmas. A certain amount of this can be transferred to savings each week (or fortnight or month) to cover your expected Christmas costs. Don’t be discouraged if the amount seems small. It all adds up and we still have nine weeks up our sleeve. If your nest egg isn’t enough to cover your estimated expenses, perhaps you may need to refigure your Christmas budget to a more realistic amount.

Start with a Christmas budget— Write down all the people you’d like to buy presents for this year. Try not to get too emotional or feel guilty about gift giving; only give what you can afford. Now create a list of all your other Christmas expenses. Include items such as groceries, as well as hidden costs like long distance phone calls, Christmas cards, postage, wrapping paper, dining out, and extra petrol if you’ll be driving. It all adds up. Allocate a budget to each of these items so that you know exactly how much Christmas is going to cost.

Cheap and cheery— Gifts don’t need to be expensive to be thoughtful, fun and useful. Colouring in books, butcher’s paper, textas, and craft supplies are great for smaller kids. Bigger kids might enjoy school supplies, a movie ticket, or an iTunes voucher to download their favourite song. Ask people what they’d like for Christmas so that you don’t end up panic buying.

Kris Kringle— I have a huge family and, over the years, it’s gotten too expensive to buy a gift for everybody. These days, among the adults, we practice the gift giving ritual known as ‘Kris Kringle’. Each person buys a significant present for only one other person. It’s actually a lot of fun. Instead of getting 10 boxes of chocolate, you end up with one, lovely, very considerate present. You can do the same with your Christmas meal—ask people to bring a dish to share.

Split the cost— Designate specific times and a purpose for shopping. Idle browsing is a recipe for blowing your budget. If you see something you’d love to buy for someone, but it costs more than you’ve budgeted, keep looking, or ask a friend or family member if they’d like to split the cost with you. I do that with my brothers and sisters all the time when we buy presents for our parents. We pool our money and get them something nicer than we could each afford on our own.

Don’t borrow to pay for Christmas—
Use cash, rather than your credit card. It’s too easy to overspend with plastic. In fact, leave your credit card at home if you think you’ll be tempted to use it. And don’t shop for yourself until after Christmas. Wait to see what Santa brings you!

Resist advertising messages— Retailers and advertisers would like us to believe in their idea of the “perfect” Christmas. Plan and budget for your perfect Christmas, not the one you see on TV and in retail catalogues. Christmas doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive to be special. How about packing sandwiches for a Christmas picnic at your local park or at the beach?

Christmas starts in January— Speak with our team about setting aside Christmas funds in your budget for next year. It’s much easier to put aside $10 a week over 12 months, than to find $500 the week before Christmas.

Most importantly, remember that life’s real blessings are not commodities. Love, health, friendship and family can’t be bought, sold, wrapped in paper or tied up with a ribbon!

Don't overfeed your furry friend

Dogs and cats bring their owners immeasurable joy. They’re more than companions. In my house, Ari (pictured here), is at much at home as any of the humans. We couldn’t imagine life (or the sofa) without him. But caring for pets can be expensive. Vet bills, especially for medicines, surgeries and emergency services, can run up to thousands of dollars. The best way to avoid the vet and their charges is by keeping our furry friends fit, safe and healthy.

Overfeeding of cats and dogs, however, has become a serious concern for vets and animal welfare organisations such as the RSPCA. Like humans, overweight animals run greater risk of many diseases including diabetes, arthritis and joint problems, liver and heart failure and high blood pressure. Obese animals are also prone to surgical complications caused by anaesthetics. Aside from reducing the lives of our four-legged family members, all of these diseases are expensive to treat.

Our busy lifestyles often mean that our dogs don’t get the exercise they need. The feeding guidelines that appear on the back of pet food bags and cans may also contribute to overfeeding by encouraging us to feed our pets more than they really need. The biggest calorie culprits, however, are usually treats and leftovers.

Experts suggest that if you’re feeding scraps or treats, you should reduce your pet’s main meal(s) accordingly. Dogs should be exercised daily for the benefits of their minds and bodies (and owners!), but it’s important to avoid injury by introducing exercise slowly to an animal that’s already overweight. Severely overweight animals may need a vet-supervised weight loss plan.

What's your Smurf worth?

Some people collect stamps, some people collect Smurfs or diecast cars or watches or snow domes or trucker caps… They say one person’s trash is another person’s treasure and the statement couldn’t be truer when it comes to collectibles. As a case in point, a dedicated Star Trek fan recently paid $33,000 for Captain Kirk’s (aka William Shatner’s) kidney stone after it had been removed in surgery!

According to valuation experts, any cultural artefact can be in demand and the price will be dictated by its perceived value by the purchaser. Price guides can be found on the internet for most popular collectible categories, including diecast cars, action figures, dolls, toys, books, games, Lego, bobbleheads, sports memorabilia and more.

If you’re not attached to your Smurfs or Care Bears, it might be time to check the internet for someone who is. Sites that specialise in collectibles are good meeting places, as are online auction sites such as eBay. A regular Smurf might only fetch around $10, but a rare Christmas Smurf could attract $200 or more.

Sporting and historic memorabilia is another popular category. Autographed items are popular, but quirky artefects can also be in demand. There are, for example, multiple sellers on eBay offering Brownlow Medal dinner menus and another selling a big chequered flag that has no historic significance whatsoever.

The message is to check your cupboards – you might have a poster, ticket stub or My Little Pony that a collector would be excited to call their own. And remember, it may be worth seeking a professional valuation if you think you may be sitting on a rare or popular item.