6 November, 2019

Help for energy consumers in hardship

Need help to pay your electricity or gas bills?

You have rights.

Stronger protections are now available to households having trouble paying their energy bills. The Australian Energy Regulator has taken action to assist vulnerable customers experiencing payment difficulties by introducing an enforceable Customer Hardship Policy Guideline.

Energy retailers have important responsibilities in helping vulnerable customers. The Guideline requires energy retailers to provide consistent minimum standards of assistance, ensure hardship programs are easily accessible and put processes in place to identify customers who may need help.

Customers participating in a hardship program will get access to different payment options, help finding a better energy plan, tips on energy efficiency, and information about government concessions, relief schemes, energy rebates and financial counselling services.

Other help may also be available – All energy providers have a hardship policy that tells you how they can assist you if you are having trouble paying your energy bills due to hardship. You can find it on their website or ask them to post you copy.

If you are in a hardship program and meetings its conditions your energy provider cannot disconnect you.

If paying your utility bills is a struggle call your energy retailer and talk to them about your situation, you may be surprised by the help that is available.

For more information, visit the Australian Energy Regulator’s website at [www.aer.gov.au/consumers/my-energy-bill/help-for-customers-in-hardship](https://outlook.office.com/owa/redir.aspx?REF=CVjY0EEewpzFGhBVoOuq7C_Xb4rSpSeCBjgQoJ4-QUPr7PrKRWLXCAFodHRwOi8vd3d3LmFlci5nb3YuYXUvY29uc3VtZXJzL215LWVuZXJneS1iaWxsL2hlbHAtZm9yLWN1c3RvbWVycy1pbi1oYXJkc2hpcA..).

When life is tough call Affordable SA 1800 025 539 or visit [www.affordablesa.com.au](https://outlook.office.com/owa/redir.aspx?REF=uS9vZkOIrOv6MsJd-xrudYu4AWGqiRiGqarrbUBtWwjr7PrKRWLXCAFodHRwOi8vd3d3LmFmZm9yZGFibGVzYS5jb20uYXU.) or download the app AffordableSA for free, confidential and independent support to 'get in the know' with services that can best help you.

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5 November, 2019

50 Days to GO...50 Ways to Save for an Australian Christmas

Community

1. Contact your local Salvation Army and ask about the Christmas Cheer Program

2. Seek out which church based organisations are offering Christmas day lunch in your area

3. If don’t want to feel the financial pressure of Christmas Day, consider volunteering your time on Christmas Day to help others

4. Contact your local council, community centre or library to see what free Christmas activities are offered in your area during the Christmas period

5. Visit your local op shop for Christmas supplies

6. If you are considering buying a pet as a gift for Christmas, consider adopting from a rescue centre

Food

7. Buy in bulk and split the cost with friends and/or family members

8. Start buying non-perishable groceries now

9. If you know that there will be non-perishable groceries that you will need for Christmas, buy 2 of them when they are half price, that way you will have one for now and one for Christmas

10. Instead of an expensive hot turkey, consider a non-traditional, southern-hemisphere inspired Christmas Day menu of cold meat and salads

11. As most supermarkets are closed on Christmas Day, pay them a visit the night before right before they close to see what food has been discounted

12. It doesn’t snow this side of the equator on Christmas Day, so take Christmas outside. As an option, suggest that everyone bring a salad or a packet of sausages to cook on the public BBQ at your local park.

13. Instead of trying to buy (or make) a Christmas pudding, consider making a ‘non-traditional’ ice cream cake

14. Consider using accumulated supermarket loyalty points to buy your Christmas food

15. Instead of hosting a Christmas lunch or dinner, consider the cheaper option of a Christmas breakfast (no turkey required)

16. Avoid Christmas hampers that have year-long payment arrangements. You can end up paying a lot more for items compared to if you purchased them outright.

17. Don’t feel pressured to serve ‘traditional’ food at Christmas time. In Japan, it is tradition for around 3.6 million families to get a ‘holiday party bucket’ from KFC on Christmas Eve…

18. Instead of buying a whole turkey, ham or chicken, consider buying separate cuts of meat (e.g. legs, wings, roasts, etc.)

Presents

19. Commit to a budget. Draw up a table with who you are buying for and how much you can afford to spend on each person. Do not go over your budget.

20. If the children in your family are getting older, consider the option of a Secret Santa (each person is responsible for only one gift)

21. Take advantage of the extended Christmas shopping hours. There will be less people around, which means you may feel less stressed and rushed

22. Don’t feel pressured by others, or yourself, to buy Christmas presents you cannot afford

23. Wrapping paper can be expensive. Consider newspaper, material, cellophane, brown paper, etc

24. Consider baking cookies or making a Christmas pudding as alternative to buying someone a Christmas present

25. Consider making homemade pickles, jams, preserves and giving them as gifts

26. Only go shopping for Christmas gifts when you know what you want to buy – avoid impulse purchases that are not within your budget

27. Save money on buying Christmas cards by sending your Christmas greetings electronically via email, text or social media

28. If you are creative, try a DIY present – soaps, candles, a knitted scarf, a tie dye t shirt, a photo frame, a painting, etc

29. Consider giving the ‘gift of time’ to someone. Create a coupon book of activities that you could do together in the future (e.g. watching a movie of the other person’s choice)

30. Do not put yourself in financial hardship just so you can buy what others consider to be ‘the most amazing, best Christmas present of 2019’… it will be something completely different by Christmas 2020

31. If you don’t know what to get someone, consider a small charity donation on their behalf

32. Consider giving gift cards instead of actual gifts

33. Avoid the temptation of getting ‘quick, easy’ money through pay day lenders to buy Christmas presents

34. Recycle Christmas wrapping paper and gift bags from previous years

Decorations

35. Get your children involved by making your own Christmas cards

36. Buy your 2020 Christmas decorations on or after Boxing Day

37. If buying a new Christmas tree is not in your budget this year, consider designing and building your own

38. To give the traditional ‘Christmas tree’ a modern twist, decorate an indoor plant

39. Make your own table decorations – i.e. use a roll of wrapping paper as a table runner or pick foliage from your garden

40. Make your own Christmas stockings by decorating old pillow cases

41. Use newspaper and craft paint to make a home-made Christmas garland

42. Choose solar Christmas lights over electric

43. Do not put yourself in debt trying to make your house look like something you saw online. You don’t need to make people believe that you live in a European, snow covered cottage…

Budget

44. Are you a casual employee and does your work place close over Christmas? Make sure that you have funds saved up to cover essential living expenses over the Christmas break.

45. Do not put yourself into financial hardship for the sake of others. If you cannot afford to attend a Christmas function, it is ok to politely decline the invitation.

46. It is inevitable that there will be people out there that will spend more/less than you at Christmas. Remember to work within your budget this Christmas

47. The weather at Christmas time can be extremely hot. Consider doing a home energy audit on your air conditioner/cooling system to see the amount of electricity it uses and what it is costing you

48. For Christmas 2020, consider putting money away each fortnight into a separate bank account

49. Create a Christmas spending budget and keep track of food, presents, decorations, etc

50. Try to avoid using the money you would spend on essential living expenses (rent, electricity, etc) to pay for Christmas. This will catch up with you when Christmas is over.

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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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