7 October, 2016

Making it an Affordable SA Christmas

Emerging from the storerooms and spilling from every corner of the big shopping centres, a very glittery Christmas is coming out. The shelves are starting to move around and the red and white is an invading force into the high traffic thoroughfares. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and if the thought of holiday shopping anxiety is taking hold then its time for you to get yourself ready for an Affordable SA Christmas. Its just under 12 weeks to go!


Make a list and check it twice. Its not a case of whose naughty and whose nice, its just better to identify the people you want to give presents to and those that you can send cards and best wishes. Many people simply cannot afford to spend money on everyone they know such as their work colleagues and the neighbours.

Start planning early and don’t wait for the tinsel to roll out and carol music to begin. This provides time to save and look for gifts in the pre-Christmas sales and before the car parks start bulging every day.


Using your gift list write out how much you want to spend on presents and add any substantial food purchases such as a ham. Include posting cards, wrapping paper, and decorations. Extra meals and extra mouths add to what you usually allocate for your normal expenses. Even money for petrol to travel to visit family is a relative cost (sorry for the pun). Add 10% to your budget to make allowance for last minute details.

When Christmas is over assess this budget and be honest about how you managed or how you can improve the plan for next year.


Christmas is a time for connecting with those we love. Speak to friends and family members and set realistic expectations. Very much in vogue is to create a gift pool for extended family where each person is given the task of buying a gift for a different member of the family. Each person receives one gift and buys one gift. Pulling names out of a hat can be made fun and a good talking point between family members. Set a maximum cost for each gift of $5 or $10 or what ever you think is appropriate but affordable and get everyone to stay on budget.


Create a Christmas savings account or have a change jar for coins that you can periodically bank. A small amount put away each fortnight can help to take the debt out Christmas. Is it too late to save? Its never too late to save but if the milk and cookies are already set and Santa is throwing a leg over the chimney then before the tree and the decorations are packed away start a saving account for next year.


Homemade gifts are usually less expensive and are a wonderful, unique expression of your love. Freshly baked treats tied in a festive bow might make the perfect gift for a teacher or friend. Hand-sewn or knitted toys or clothes are cherished. Show off your talents with creative wrapping – affordable presents can look extravagant.

Not all of us are as talented as a budding Master-chef or home show presenter and sometimes buying all the materials needed to make something can quickly add up. Look online for ideas and judge for yourself what is achievable or not.


Stick to your lists and your budget and try to use cash or debit card rather than credit to make your purchases.

Paying for parking and travelling around hunting for gifts can be time consuming and costly if long hours of parking fees are involved. Plan your trips wisely to avoid duplicate travel expenses.

Keep your receipts. There are several reasons to keep receipts. It makes it easier to return items and it provides you with a way of quickly identifying what you have purchased and confirms your real costs.

Last-minute Christmas shopping is for the brave and the fool hardy. If you can get it done before the Carols start then your well on your way to the head of the cue and a stress less Christmas.


If you know what you want you can quite often get an online bargain without the hassle of congested shopping. Purchase online items early to avoid the disappointment of having to wait till after Christmas to receive the gift. Mail moves slowly closer to Christmas. Looking at items online or in catalogues also provides a guide to what you should expect and budget to pay.


Plan for the holiday menu and look where you can buy ingredients in bulk to save money. Holiday time sees many types of leftovers, which can be stretched over several days. A good meal with the family is about celebration and sharing, not excess.

Look for the specials before the Christmas period for items that have long best before dates.


That warm Christmas glow can quickly disappear when the credit card bills come rolling in at the start of the New Year. Using savings or debit cards rather than credit provides a realistic way of monitoring your spending. Spending your own money and reducing debt is always a good idea all year round if possible.


If the big ticket family purchase like a telly is on your Christmas list create an IOU to be used during the big sales in January. If you have managed to create a saving plan for Christmas then its time to reward yourself.

Once the Christmas rush is over Christmas themed items are greatly reduced and many people purchase cards and decorations or even a new plastic tree for next year.


The cost of a gift is not a reflection of your love. Not only are the best things in life free, the best things in life are not “things”. Christmas is a time for family and making time for activities and games are gifts of fond memories for everyone. They don't come with a guarantee or a warranty but they usually last longer and increase in value over the years.


If you or a friend struggle to make ends meet there is help. Speak with a financial Counsellor for free and get some control on your finances.

The Financial Counselling helpline can be contacted on 1800 007 007

9.30-8pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30 – 4.30pm on Fridays.

30 September, 2016

Emergency Relief Grants

As emergency service continue to mop up the carnage created by high winds and large volumes of water from several days of extreme weather conditions the Department of Community and Social Inclusion has released several Emergency Relief Grants available to those affected.


As the loss power was attributed to the storm, households will not be compensated through their energy providers. However, the Department of Community and Social Inclusion have announced an Emergency Relief Grant (Residential Households only). This grant is for immediate essential needs, is not means tested, and is available to support people directly impacted by power outages during the declared Major Incident 28-29 September 2016.

To be eligible you must meet all of the following criteria:

- your principal place of residence must have been continuously without power from 3.50pm Wednesday 28 September to at least 12pm Thursday 29 September

- have suffered hardship as a result of the power outage

- unable to meet your immediate essential needs for food, clothing, medical supplies or temporary accommodation.

This grant is not asset tested. Eligible people will receive $280 per adult and $140 per child, up to a maximum of $700 per household.

To apply for the Loss of Power Grant, you will need to download and complete a Loss of Power Grant application 127.2 KB form (also available at relief centres) and lodge in person at an Emergency Relief Centre


If you have been affected by the severe weather event but have not experienced at least 18 hours of power outage you may be eligible for The Emergency Relief Grant, for immediate needs when you are unable to access your home. Eligible people will receive $280 per adult and $140 per child up to a maximum of $700 per family.

To be eligible, your home must be inaccessible because of the severe weather or flood and you are unable to meet your own immediate and essential needs such as food and medications.


This grant is to assist with the clean-up of flood-damaged homes. This is paid per residence, up to a $700 maximum, depending on the level of damage to your home. To be eligible at least one room inside your home must have been damaged by the floods.

For more information or to apply for a grant, visit a relief centre. If you are unable to visit a relief centre due to illness or distance, call the recovery hotline on 1800 302 787.

13 September, 2016

Food safety in emergencies

Across South Australia we have experienced some dramatic weather patterns this winter and there is more on the way.

Recently the electrical companies have paid compensation to house holds for outages that have caused inconvenience but what do you do with a fridge full of food after an outage if your not sure if its safe to eat? SA Health have published a quick guide.

Food may or may not be safe after an emergency situation such as a power failure, flood, bushfire or severe weather.

Always remember - When in doubt, throw it out!

However, appearance or smell is not always a reliable indicator. Some foods may look and smell fine, but if they have been warm too long, they may contain enough bacteria to make people ill.

Keeping your food cool

If you experience a power failure during any emergency event, there are several steps you can take to limit the amount of spoilage to refrigerated and frozen food. In the event of a power failure that lasts longer than several minutes:

- Take note of the time

- Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to keep the air temperature colder for longer. A closed refrigerator/freezer should -keep your food cool for 4 to 6 hours.

- Quickly move perishable food from the refrigerator to the freezer

- Meat, poultry and fish should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator

When power is restored

After the power has been restored you should check the temperature of perishable food in your refrigerator to see if the temperature is 5°C or below.

Less than 2 hours

If it perishable food is above 5°C and the power has been off for less than 2 hours you can re-refrigerate the food or use it immediately.

More than 4 hours

If the food temperature is above 5°C or has defrosted in the freezer certain foods may be unsuitable to consume if stored above 5°C for more than 4 hours. They include:

- Raw or cooked meat

- Meat topped pizza

- Manufactured meats

- Casseroles, stews or soups

- Milk, cream, yogurt, soft cheese (for example camembert and brie), most dips

- Mayonnaise, tartare sauce, creamy dressings, aioli and other salad dressings

- Cooked pasta, potato, rice and salads prepared from these foods

- Sweet baked foods with cream

- Custard.

Safe foods

Certain foods can be safely stored at room temperature (above 5°C) for longer periods of time and still be safe to eat. These foods include:

- Butter and margarine

- Hard cheese

- Fresh fruit and vegetables

- Dried fruit and nuts

- Fresh herbs and spices

- Open jars of salad dressing, peanut butter, relish sauce

- Mustard

- Bread, rolls, cakes and muffins.

12 September, 2016

A Right to be Heard

A new booklet focusing on the issues surrounding domestic violence and the support services available for those in the Murray-Mallee Region.

Drawing on previous resources, information and combining the collective knowledge and experiences of individuals and agencies this new booklet covers an extensive range of topics associated with domestic violence and uses examples to help provide context as to the effects of domestic violence as well as providing strategies in dealing with the many scenarios that could be encountered. The range of safety planning and resources specific to the region make for a substantial and conclusive list for anyone in threat of domestic violence in the Murray - Mallee Region.

No matter what living arrangement domestic or family violence occurs in, everyone has a right to live in a safe and secure environment without the threat of violence. Domestic violence does not discriminate, it occurs across all cultures, across all socio-economic backgrounds, in all types of intimate relationships and at any stage of relationships – marriage, defacto, dating or separated.

The booklet will be available across a range of Council Departments but is available as a PDF below.

The information in the booklet has been compiled from various sources which include the Central and Southern DV Service booklets. The content is not original to the MBRCVAWC and is not used for any financial purposes.

The file is large so please consider if your mobile data plan is limited.

8 September, 2016

1800 007 007 - A Perfect Match for Financial Counselling

A new video doing the rounds on you tube relates to managing your debt and who is best to help you through debt problems.

This video is produced for www.yourfinancialrights.org and directs you to the Financial counsellor Helpline 1800 007 007

Financial counsellors are available in every State and Territory and work in non-profit community organisations. Their services are free, independent and confidential. They can help you manage a short-term crisis and plan to prevent a future one.

The free hotline is open from 9:30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday. When you call this number you will be automatically transferred to the phone service in your state. Calls from mobile phones may incur a fee from the mobile phone carrier.

The producers of this video outline four key Debt Management Firms. Management firms may appear as simple, helpful options for people experiencing financial stress, but often they make things worse through high fees, ill-suited advice or questionable business practices. Their cheap tricks end up being quite expensive. Let’s really get to know them.

Credit Repair

Credit Repairers claim that they will be able to “fix” or “clean” a bad credit report and “improve” a poor credit score. However their ability to do any of this is limited and if your credit report is inaccurate you can get it fixed for free.

Money Management

“Money Management,” “Personal Budgeting Services”, or “Debt Payment Services” offer to manage your income, bills and debts, while providing you with an allowance for daily expenses. Some also claim to provide other services, such as negotiating future repayment arrangements with your creditors. They then charge you periodic maintenance or management fees, usually in addition to an up-front establishment fee.

Debt Negotiation

Debt Negotiation is a negotiation between you (the debtor) and your creditor(s) to settle a debt on terms beneficial to both parties. Debt Negotiators present debt negotiation as something they do as experienced “professionals”. But in many cases they are far from it.

Debt Agreement

Debt Agreements are an alternative to bankruptcy for people who are unable to pay their debts. Debt Agreement brokers usually offer to provide a “free consultation,” during which they may suggest that entering into a debt agreement is your best or only option. This is often not the case. A Debt Agreement is an insolvency option and has serious consequences.

Enjoy the video linked below.

5 August, 2016

Making the most of our Census

If you have been looking for something surrounded by more entertaining controversy than the senate ticket in the last election, then on Tuesday evening you can participate in the 2016 census. It’s five year fact finding mission will attempt to capture a wealth of information by asking you to log on with your own special 12 digit number. The length of the census questionnaire is possibly only a whisker longer than the senate ballot sheet but the heated debate around it is just as fierce. On one hand it is good that the country is finally talking about such issues as privacy and public trust (something not many people consider when they use a loyalty card) but there is also great concern that if people express their viewpoint by boycotting or not providing their true details we may be in danger of losing the ability to capture accurate information to help meet the needs of many groups such as the 6000 homeless in South Australia.

The information gathered about people experiencing homelessness is key to forming policy and the associated funding decisions that provide the services and assistance for this community. Many people slip in and out of the homeless category as their circumstances change but without help from community groups many will experience even greater hardship or possibly suffer tragic outcomes.

You might ask how does the Government plan to match such groups with a 12-digit barcode and separate them from the people just wondering around the streets looking for Pokemon. This is where the controversy and plethora of Pokemon humour ends, as there has been a lot of work done over the years by many organisations and welfare groups to identify and measure these groups so that an accurate picture can be made of the homeless. In fact just classifying these groups can be problematic. The ABS definition of homelessness includes rough sleepers, couch surfers, persons in supported accommodation and persons in severely overcrowded dwellings - different procedures are in place to capture the information for each category.

This year the ABS has enlisted special field officers predominantly made up of the ranks of the homeless service provider networks, their staff and volunteers as well people who are or have experienced homelessness in the past. Now that’s more progressive thinking. These activities, which may involve a short interview, could take up to a week to complete and already training for these groups and reference material has been provided or well underway. The community organisations know how important this task is and are keen to give the homeless a proper voice and attention.

It follows that with this much controversy the public debate will continue long after Tuesday. Perhaps well into the next five years when the ABS will need to address public concerns fully or once again be the target of some very funny sarcastic anti-ads and online videos. Still, on Tuesday evening Pokemon hunters may not stay at home to fill out the census but at least some provision has been made to count the many homeless and perhaps not leave them totally out in the cold.