22 October, 2019

Don’t be tricked this Halloween, apply for your Cost of Living Concession today

The 31st of October is your last day to apply for the Cost of Living Concession. The Cost of Living Concession is an annual payment provided by the Department of Human Services, paid directly to you via electronic funds transfer (EFT) to help with the ever increasing cost of living.

Payments for 2019/2020 Financial Year:

· Eligible tenants will receive $105.40 by the end of March 2020

· Eligible homeowners will receive $210.70 by the end of December 2019

· Eligible homeowners who are self-funded retirees with a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card will receive $105.40 by the end of December 2019

If you previously received a Cost of Living Concession and you are a homeowner (or live in a retirement village or residential park) and your situation had not changed as of the 1st of July 2019, then you may have received your concession payment in August 2019

For more information about the eligibility criteria and how to apply, contact the Concessions SA Hotline on 1800 307 758 (9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday) or search for Cost of Living Concession on the Affordable SA App or at affordablesa.com.au

As Financial Counsellors we speak to many South Australians who are struggling with the everyday cost of living. If you are falling behind on your everyday living expenses (e.g. water, electricity, council rates, mortgage repayments, rent etc) call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to speak to a free Financial Counsellor or search for the National Debt Helpline on the Affordable SA App or at affordablesa.com.au.

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14 October, 2019

Anti Poverty Week 2019

For many years Anti-Poverty Week has helped to raise awareness of the plight of people in poverty in SA and around the country.

Despite all the efforts over many years, poverty rates Nationally have moved little and this year the surrounding soft rhetoric about antipoverty has been dropped in favour of a stronger call to action. It seems the gloves are off with the Raise the Rate campaign invited to be a major player in supporting the week. Support for the campaign is on the rise as cost of living pressures push many closer to struggle street.

Every day there are many people living in poverty who ask, how can they possibly manage to feed their families?

In S.A. organisations such as The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul, Anglicare, St John's, Lutheran Services, Hutt Street Centre, Foodbank, Secondbite and Oz Harvest (to name a few), as well as independent charities, Heart and Soul, Faithworks, Fred’s Vans and small Church groups do their best to provide shelter, food and housing to those in need. Regionally the Red Cross and The Community Passenger Network steps up to help people negotiate the barrier of distances and help people get to the services that are available in the larger towns.

Collectively these groups do substantial heavy lifting in the social welfare arena and without them many people would not have the shoulder of support that they desperately need. Long-term debt or hardship can be soul destroying and why most of these charitable assistance agencies provide good will and dignity as key components to their assistance.

Many of us will go through financial problems at some stage in our lives. Some will waiver in and out of hardship on a regular basis. It is not just a case of people mishandling their finances. People on low incomes and Government allowances are pretty good at utilising every penny.

There are many reasons people fall into poverty. Separation or death of a partner, domestic violence, health and mental health issues can rapidly deteriorate your financial wellbeing. Excessive gambling and substance abuse is not just a poor person’s issue. Add in such life changes as losing a job or only getting casual part time work and many more families are in dire straits. Losing a life long partner brings not only grief but can throw many financial problems and in particular women struggling with a lifelong pay gap or interrupted superannuation schemes are at a real disadvantage to securing better financial prospects later in life.

Payday lenders thrive in these environments and target vulnerable situations with carefree style marketing ads. It’s never a case of borrowing and just moving on. Many assistance agencies see those families teetering on the brink of financial hardship quickly dragged into long-term hardship by scruple less companies in poorly regulated industries.

There are concessions and hardship assistance available for low income earners but gaining a little assistance from a charity can be the difference between actually eating or not. Those relying on these organisations are just getting by but there are still many more struggling that don’t know where to go or what to do to seek help to manage their cost of living expenses.

The Affordable SA is a suite of services that connects you to the services and events that can help you manage the cost of living in South Australia. Download the App, phone the Helpline on 1800 025 539 or go to the website www.affordablesa.com.au

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1 October, 2019

Storage Wars

We all have stuff. Possessions that have some personal value and we take from place to place, from rental to rental or house to house and even from relationship to relationship. Quite often our stuff is not as transportable as we think and we put our stuff into paid storage areas whilst we find a new place to live or sort out some facet of our lives.

The costs of such storage can accumulate quickly and if payments become unmanageable the debt can sometimes be many times greater than the actual financial value of the goods. Storage companies rightfully want their money before granting further access to our stuff. Clothes, furniture, toys and memories held to ransom for what seemed an affordable solution in the short term.

We field many calls to the Affordable Helpline 1800 025 539 from people with substantial storage debt as part of their overall financial hardship.

Life’s transitions such as relationship separations, moving interstate, elderly couples downsizing or even a partner's car in storage can quickly become a burden and you can find yourself falling further and further behind. Sometimes the imperative of escaping violence and finding a safe place away from that violence puts many into these financial situations and there are specific groups that can help.

Storage is not cheap and can quickly become large debt. We are quick to justify it as a small monthly sum but perhaps a better way is to consider, what your stuff is really worth and how that stacks up to several months or a yearly payment of storage. The difference may be thousands of dollars. You might need to reconsider how much your stuff really means to you or if Gumtree is a far better option.

By [Graeme](https://affordablesa.com.au/team/graeme-hinckley)

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20 September, 2019

Are you financially OK

Last week many people took the time to look around their workplace and to the people they see everyday in their communities to ask, “[Are you OK?](https://www.ruok.org.au)” and to recognise the signs of people experiencing life's ups and downs.

There are many life issues that have an impact on our well-being and mental health. Mental health problems can contribute to financial difficulties, and vice versa. At Affordable SA we see a lot of associated problems that can be traced back to financial hardship and increasingly Health care professionals are seeking assistance for mental health sufferers from a Financial Counsellor to assist in breaking the cycle created by financial problems. Struggling with Financial problems can create a sense of no way out of debt and which can develop into a string of more serious issues such as the breakdown of relationships, gambling, depression and even suicide.

We are often only one step away from serious financial stress and the rising cost of living problems are making more and more of us vulnerable. The loss of a job or a change to our health can turn small debt issues into huge financial disasters. Sometimes a little bit of assistance at the right time can keep us from falling into the common traps but many people don't seek help in confronting their financial situation early enough to prevent severe long term debt.

A person with mental health problems may not complete financial tasks because they forget, lack the motivation to pay bills, make poor financial decisions, or feel overwhelmed by financial tasks, such as communicating with creditors or visiting Centrelink. Even opening the mail can seem impossible. Information about having the R U OK? type of conversation with someone suffering mental illness issues and financial difficulties can be found at Mental Health first aid help [https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/MHFA-finan...](https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/MHFA-financial-difficulties-support-person.pdf)

Financial hardship can happen to anyone. A Financial counsellor’s services are Free, confidential and independent. They are on your side and can help people deal with immediate financial problems such as the threat of disconnection and minimise the risk of future problems.

The [Affordable SA Helpline](https://affordablesa.com.au/programs/money-finances/affordable-sa-helpline) can assist with managing the cost of living pressures effecting South Australians. Providing information, advice and referrals to appropriate services such as financial counselling, case work, advocacy and community education programs. It is a not-for-profit, community based service for anyone experiencing financial difficulty. Ring the Affordable SA Helpline on 1800 025 539.

Download the Affordable SA App, your mobile guide to cost of living support services throughout South Australia. Available Free on [Apple](https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/affordable-sa/id919497307?mt=8) and [Android](https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vertogroup.vinteract.business.affordablesa&hl=en) devices

By [Graeme](https://affordablesa.com.au/team/graeme-hinckley)

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4 September, 2019

Pepperoni, pineapple and Payments - How do you serve your budget pizza?

Imagine that you have invited 10 guests for pizza night. You go to the freezer, take out a pizza and look at the box, it says Serves 8. Your stomach drops, you don’t have enough pizza. What do you do?

You think, ‘I can make this work’. You cook the pizza, take it out to the table and start to slice. The pieces are all different sizes. You cut 9 slices and realise there is not enough pizza. You are willing to miss out, but one of your guests is going to miss out too. Who will it be?

You start to pass the slices around the table. Some of your guests are pleased with their slices, others are confused. One guest bangs their fist on the table demanding more pizza because they didn’t get enough. One guest snatches another guest’s slice before it can be placed on the table. The guest who doesn’t receive a slice just sits there staring at you, the following day they text you demanding 2 slices the next time they see you.

Your guests are like creditors.

Creditors are expecting a certain amount from you each week, fortnight or month and if they do not get this amount and you do not explain why, things can get messy.

The important thing to know about creditors is that they understand there are times when you do not have enough to go around. Creditors have trained teams of people to assist when this happens. Therefore, it is important to be up front and honest with your creditors about what has changed and how this change has affected your circumstances.

Do not hesitate. There are more options available to you, the sooner you take action.

If you would like to speak to a Financial Counsellor to discuss your options further, call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or search for the National Debt Helpline on the Affordable SA App.

By [Sam](https://affordablesa.com.au/team/sam)

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2 September, 2019

Don't get your wires crossed when paying for electricity

If you have contacted an energy retailer in the past, chances are that the sales person would have offered you either a standing offer or a market offer contract. A market offer contract is set by the energy retailer and is designed to lure you in with competitive discounts. Whereas, the standing offer is a basic ‘bread and butter’ contract with no discounts that can often be more expensive than the market offer contract. In many cases, customers are unknowingly put on a standing offer contract once their market offer contract expires.[1]

In July 2018, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) published the Retail Electricity Price Inquiry Report, which stated that consumers found the electricity retail market confusing and difficult to navigate.1In response to the 2018 Inquiry, the Australian Government introduced The Default Market Offer (DMO). The DMO is an electricity tariff set by the Australian Energy Regulator that acts a price cap for energy retailers. It was introduced to assist customers that were disengaged from the energy market and were subsequently paying higher energy costs on standing offer contracts as a result.[2]

What does this mean for South Australian Households?

In July 2019, customers on standing offer contracts were automatically switched to their retailer’s DMO, prompting a future saving of up to $171 per year for South Australian residential customers. With the change to DMO prices, it is estimated that the average South Australia household on a single rate tariff (4,000 kWh/year) will pay no more than $1,941 per year for their energy.2

Although the introduction of the DMO will provide some relief for South Australian households, it is important that customers do not become complacent and accept rates and discounts at face value. To ensure they are receiving the best available deal, customers should regularly contact their energy retailer and discuss the following:

· Are discounts being applied to both supply and usage?

· Am I eligible to receive the ‘Pay on Time’ discount even if I pay in instalments?

· Am I receiving the best deal/discount available?

· Am I locked into a contract that would cost money to get out of?

· Are SA Government Concessions being applied to my electricity account (if eligible)?

Discounts offered by energy retailers are not the same as SA Government Concessions. If you hold a concession card, or you have recently changed energy retailer or moved house, call Concessions on 1800 307 758 or search for Concessionson the Affordable SA App or website for more information.

For more information regarding gas, electricity and water look under the [Utilities](https://affordablesa.com.au/programs/utilities) section on the Affordable SA App and website.

By [Sam](https://affordablesa.com.au/team/sam)

[1]Mullane, J. (2019) ‘Default Market Offer (DMO) Explained’, Canstar Blue, 27 June. Available at: https://www.canstarblue.com.au/electricity/default-energy-pricing/(Accessed 26 August 2019)

[2]Gudova, M. (2019) ‘Energy regulator reveals savings for customers paying most’, Canstar Blue, 30 April. Available at: https://www.canstarblue.com.au/electricity/default-market-offer-savings/(Accessed 26 August 20219)

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30 August, 2019

Lets talk about Tax Help

A lot of people find lodging their tax return a little overwhelming. Whether it is your first time dealing with tax or you are running a business and can't afford to pay for professional help, even if you're new to the country and don't understand the expectations of the tax system, there is help available that can save you falling into a lifetime of tax anxiety.

The ATO has several Tax Help programs that can help you for free. All across Australia the ATO in conjunction with a range of community centres, Universites and organisations, have registered and accredited volunteers or supervised students and Tax presentations to help.

PERSONAL TAX RETURNS

Tax Help is a network of ATO-trained and accredited community volunteers who provide a free and confidential service to help people complete their tax returns online using MyTax. Tax Help is available from July to October in all capital cities and many regional areas across Australia.

You are eligible for Tax Help if your income is around $60,000 or less for the income year and you did not:

•work as a contractor, for example a contract cleaner or taxi driver (have an ABN)

•run a business, including as a sole trader

•have partnership or trust matters

•sell shares or an investment property

•own a rental property

•have capital gains tax (CGT)

•receive royalties

•receive distributions from a trust, other than a managed fund

•receive foreign income, other than a foreign pension or annuity.

NATIONAL TAX CLINIC PROGRAM

The National Tax Clinic program is a government-funded initiative to help people who may not be able to afford professional advice and representation with their tax affairs.

This program is available to eligible individuals, small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

The ATO supports this initiative but the tax clinics operate independently from the ATO. UniSA has been funded to run the tax clinics and are available in the Adelaide CBD and Hackham West campus.

Qualified clinic managers supervise students, studying tax-related courses, to provide free tax advice and support at the clinics.

TAX INFORMATION PRESENTATIONS

The ATO offers presentations to increase people’s awareness about Tax as is relevant to their circumstances.

The sessions they currently have planned in SA are available at https://lets-talk.ato.gov.au/sbworkshopssa

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