9 May, 2016

8 tips to keep you warm without breaking the bank

1. Dress in layers.

Bundle up. Wear long underwear, sweaters, and even hats indoors. Remember the days of “sleeping caps”? They make sense when so much heat escapes from the head - about 70% actually.

2. Keep Your Feet Warm

Australia is known for it's UGG Boots for a good reason. Keeping your feet warm will help keep the rest of you warm - especially at home. Although the UGG brand can be rather expensive, you can pick up a bargain by shopping around and looking through trift shops.

3. Heat Up Your Bed

Don't turn up the heat for the entire house. Use an electric blanket. An even cheaper and safer option may be a hot water bottle with a wool or fleece cover.

4. Harness the Sun

During the day, open the blinds and curtains on the south-facing windows—and let the Sun warm you. At night, close the blinds and curtains to better insulate your home.

5. Keep the Kitchen Cozy - here are some suggestions:

“I put a cast iron pot of water with liquid potpourri on the top of our cast iron stove. This increases the humidity in the room and puts a lovely smell in the air.”

“Drink lots of yummy hot chocolate!!!!”

“Bake something in the oven, either dinner or a dessert (doesn't have to be fattening but even better if it is).”

“A hot cup of tea is great….if you are sick, a hot toddy works wonders. Also, I always have a crock pot of soup going during the cold months.”

6. Block Drafts

Beyond weather-stripping, which is difficult with old houses, consider these tips:

“I hang blankets to close off the open stair well going to the second floor, since heat raises it keeps the warm air down stairs when we spend most of our time. I noticed it saves a lot of heating dollars.”

“Don't forget to put something at the bottom of outside doors–you can just feel the cold air pour in. You can buy a fancy roll or just use a blanket or towel.”

7. Stay Active

Get your body moving.

“Keep active, this is a good time to clean out closets, garages, etc. Anything to keep active.”

“If I get a chill just sitting I get up and stir around, the movement not only warms me up but also stirs the heat in the house. Children are great when playing, they stir the air around.”

“Don't just sit around. Stay active to keep your blood from 'thickinin.' Exercise is good for ya.”

8. Humidify Your Home

Not only does a humidifier keep your house warmer but also it eliminates drying indoor air. As our readers say:

If you don't have a humidifier, here's another idea: When you take a bath in winter, leave the water in the tub after you get out. If you let it sit until it reaches room temperature, it will add a little warmth to the house and help humidify it!

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4 May, 2016

Federal Budget 2016: your five-minute guide

HOW will the 2016 Federal Budget affect you?

The Economy

— The Government expects an underlying cash deficit of $37.1 billion in 2016-17, down from an estimated $39.8 billion in 2015-16.

— Last year the government had forecast a return to surplus by 2019. But now it sees the deficit falling to $6 billion by 2019-20 and a balanced budget by 2020-21

— Inflation is forecast to grow to 2 per cent by 2016-17, up from a forecast 1.25 per cent for 2015-16 and 1.5 per cent in 2014-15.

— Net debt hits $326 billion in 2016-17 before peaking at $356.4 billion in 2018-19 and then starting to decline.

Income tax

— Upper limit for the middle income tax bracket to rise to $87,000 from $80,000 from July 1.

— Temporary deficit levy of 2 per cent on income over $180,000 from 2017.

Infrastructure

— Additional $33 billion over the forward estimates to deliver road and rail upgrades

— $594 million to Australian Rail Track Corporation for proposed Melbourne/Brisbane rail link

— $2 billion for investment in dams and pipelines nationally.

Banking

— More than $120 million will be paid to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to battle misconduct in the financial services industry.

— The extra funding will allow increased surveillance and enforcement in areas such as financial advice, lending and life insurance.

Superannuation

— A dozen different superannuation rule changes have been announced in a reform package that will save the Government $2.88 billion over four years.

— The biggest savings come from lowering the caps on concessional super contributions — such as employer payments and salary sacrifice — to $25,000 a year.

— The amount of super that can be transferred into zero-tax retirement phase accounts will be limited to $1.6 million.

— There’s a big cut in how much non-concessional, or after-tax, contributions people can make in their lifetime, while lower-income earners will benefit from a new tax offset.

— Only 4 per cent of super fund members will be negatively affected by the changes, the government says.

Tax avoidance

— Australian Taxation Office to receive $679 million to help crack down on multinationals, private companies and high wealth individuals

— A new taskforce to raise $3.7 billion in tax between now and July 2020.

— Funding will increase the ATO’s specialist audit and investigation teams dedicated to addressing international tax risks and focusing on wealth individuals, trusts and tax scheme promoters.

Welfare

— Crackdown on welfare rorts.

Disability support pension:

— Save $62 million over five years reviewing 30,000 people receiving DPS payments every year for three years (90,000)

Rental payments:

— Streamline payments so public housing tenants have their rent payments automatically wired to landlords to minimise evictions and encourage investment in new public housing stock.

Try, test and learn fund:

— $96.1 million over four years to target people at risk of long-term welfare dependency (NZ model)

— $80 million cut from Department of Human Services.

Health

— Medicare rebates frozen at just $37 for six years forcing doctors to introduce co-payment.

— Prescription medicine prices to rise by $5 from January

— $1000 free dental care for kids axed

— $1.2 billion aged care cuts

— No reforms to private health insurance which may have cut premiums by up to $300 from next year

— New Medicare rebates for breast cancer MRIs

— $9.4 million to detect, prevent and respond to hospital superbugs and antibiotic resistance

Families

— Plans to press ahead with cuts to the paid parental leave that could leave 80,000 families up to $11,000 a year worse off by preventing them so called “double dipping” on their employer paid leave while at the same time getting government money

— Families will have to wait at least another year for new streamlined childcare support and the lifting of the child care rebate cap from $7500 to $10k which won’t be introduced now until July 2018.

Small business

— Small business tax rate will be lowered by 1 per cent to 27.5 per cent.

— Turnover threshold for small businesses increased from $2 million to $10 million giving access to tax incentives.

— From July 1 the increase to instant write-off for equipment purchases will be extended until June 30, 2017 to businesses with a turnover less than $10 million.

— Access to tax concessions increased to more than 90,000 additional small businesses.

— Unincorporated tax discount increased up to eight per cent for businesses with turnover below $5 million.

Jobs

— Youth job seekers who need to boost their job-readiness will take part in intensive pre-employment skills within five months of registering with jobactive.

— Internship program with up to 120,000 placements over four years to help young job seekers who have been employed for six months or more.

— Job seekers will receive $200 per fortnight on top of their regular income support payment while doing an internship.

— Businesses will receive an upfront payment of $1000 when they take on an intern.

— Australian employers will be eligible for a Youth Bonus wage subsidy between $6500 and $10,000 depending on young person’s job readiness.

Education

— Investment to education, training and child care will increase to more than $41.8 million in 2016-17. Early education and care will increase by 9.6 per cent to $8.6 billion, schools will rise by 8 per cent to $17.6 billion, higher education will increase by 0.9 per cent to $12.3 billion and skills up 7.7 per cent to $3.3 billion.

— The Government’s Higher Education reforms have been delayed by 12 months and university fee deregulation abandoned.

Research

— Backing co-investment in new spin-offs and start-ups created by Australian research institutions through the CSIRO

— Expansion of the CSIRO accelerator program to support public research bodies to achieve commercial success

Communications

— Commercial television and radio license fees cut by 25 per cent

— Funding levels for the ABC to remain at $3.1 billion and $814.2 million for SBS

Defence

— $686 million for continued military operations

— $29.9 billion allocated for defence as outlined in the 2016 Defence White Paper includes 12 new submarines, 9 future frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels

Terrorism

— $195 million on increased cyber security

Foreign Affairs

— About $42.3 million will be spent on opening consulates in Lae in Papua New Guinea and China and an interim embassy in Ukraine

Tobacco

— Cigarettes up by 12.5 per cent a year for the next four years.

— The limit to the purchase of duty-free cigarettes will also be slashed in half from July 2017 — dropping from just 50 cigarettes to 25.

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15 April, 2016

The debt relief industry & how you can help yourself, for free.

Are you in debt? Then you must watch this 7 minute video to see how you can manage it for FREE....

It also clarifies many myths and truths about debt management.

For free financial counselling in South Australia, call toll free 1800 007 007

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14 April, 2016

Orange Sky Laundry, a mobile laundry service for the homeless, launches its first van in Adelaide

IF THE van is a rockin’, it just means Orange Sky Laundry is working hard cleaning the laundry of Adelaide’s homeless.

The world’s first mobile laundry service for the homeless launches its first van in Adelaide today.

Founded by Brisbane-based 21-year-olds Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi in 2014, the van will help locals like Steven Smith, who was the first to use the service during its trial period last week.

The 37-year-old, who has been homeless for about two and a half years, said his socks had never been cleaner.

“I think it is totally awesome, the service is great for the needy … and I can say guaranteed you will have your washing done in an hour,” he said.

“It means a great deal to me … it is so important because there’s a lot of needy people around Adelaide’s streets who do need that sort of service.”

Mr Smith said he also appreciated the “good conversations” he had with volunteers.

“It meant a great deal because I couldn’t talk to my family (over Easter),” he said.

The charity’s Adelaide expansion follows last month’s launch in Perth. The service also runs in Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and South East Victoria.

Co-founder Nicholas Marchesi said while they have a growing team of 450-plus volunteers nationally — who wash and dry about 3500kg of belongings every week — they needed more Adelaide volunteers. They plan to operate the van, named Peggy, weekly at nine locations over six days.

“We’ll need just under 100 volunteers to run the service,” he said, adding that they also welcome donations from the public because “every load of washing costs us $6”.

“What we have found is washing takes time and our volunteers have an opportunity to have positive and non-judgmental conversations with our homeless friends,” Mr Marchesi said. “Through washing and drying clothes it’s amazing to see the massive impact it can have on someone’s life.”

Mr Marchesi and Mr Patchett were named 2016 Young Australians of the Year in January.

The Adelaide service has been funded by RACV Salary Solutions and The Good Guys, Orange Sky Laundry’s national partner.

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3 March, 2016

Here is an example ...

Here is an example of how a small debt can have life changing consequences....if you're in financial hardship, please call 1800 025 539 to arrange a free appointment, with a Financial Counsellor. Services are confidential, independent and provided by qualified personnel.

The earlier you take control, the more control you'll have!

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1 February, 2016

Share the Dignity

Share the Dignity was born last year, after reading an article in Mamma Mia on a crisis concerning homeless women and women who are in refuge after fleeing domestic violence.

Many women are forced to choose between food for themselves and their children, or sanitary items when they have their period. Many women were having to create makeshift pads from newspaper, hand towels, clean themselves in public restrooms, and girls living in poverty are not going to school at that time of the month.

If this is the first time you've heard about this, you are probably having the same reaction I did. I was horrified. I couldn't know about this and try not to do something about it. No women should suffer indignity of this nature. I started with a small local collection and as news travelled and the collection gathered press, more and more support agencies were sending requests for pads and tampons. forward to today, 10 months later, and we are now a national organisation supporting hundreds of agencies.

We survive on the goodwill of compassionate volunteers and the caring women who support our twice yearly sanitary collection drives each April and August, or attend our various events through the year. Following us and sharing our posts on social media is a quick easy and free way to ensure more people are aware of this crisis and that we can do more. We've been so lucky with the outpouring of empathy and love from the public.

At Christmas we had the idea to do collections of "it's in the bag", whereby women were asked to donate a preloved hand bag and fill it with life's necessities and some of life's luxuries, in addition to sanitary items. We know that children's needs are often met at Christmas, but that many women do not receive gifts. We were overwhelmed by the volume of Donations and the notes included in the bags and feedback from the recipients’ make the work we do worthwhile. With over 26000 handbags donated we were hearing stories about women receiving these as Christmas gifts where they hadn’t had a present or gift for ten years, the simplest of things that we do make such a difference to women in need.

We are so thrilled that our collections in April and August will be really easy to make donations with our donation bins being able to be found at all Terry White Chemists, Fernwood Fitness, Australian Hearing Hub, Brazilian Beauty and participating Coles not to mention the offices and local businesses that care to help us Share the Dignity. We hope to have donated 500,000 packs of pads and tampons that will ensure NO woman should have to choose between buying food or sanitary items.

https://www.facebook.com/sharethedignity

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18 January, 2016

Case Study - Jenny*

In late 2015, Jenny* contacted the Affordable SA Helpline (1800 025 539) at the recommendation of her energy provider. Jenny moved back to Adelaide 5 years ago from New Zealand since her son was ill. Since moving back, she was unable to find a job which allowed her to care for her son and was placed on a Carer’s Payment from Centrelink. Due to various factors, such as the drastic difference in electricity prices in South Australia, she was unable to make payments on her electricity bill and was therefore disconnected.

The disconnection occurred 4 months prior to her call and she has been living without gas and electricity since.

Jenny is an extremely resourceful person and has been able to cook and wash without gas and electricity for the past 4 months. When asked how she is managing to wash her clothes without a washing machine, Jenny stated that she fills a large barrel with water and powder, places her white clothing into the makeshift machine, places the barrel in the back of her car and drives around running her errands. She then swaps the whites for coloured clothing, and rolls the barrel down the street. ‘The entire neighbourhood knows who I am and I’ve made heaps of friends this way’ Jenny said.

Although this method of washing might be effective, it is not efficient and due to her son being moved back into her house, she needs electricity to run the medical machinery needed to keep her son alive.

When asked how she managed to cook her meals, she stated that she used an open fire pit in the backyard. Although this method worked for a few months, the fire department and local police stopped and fined Jenny as she was causing a fire hazard.

The financial counsellor that she was placed with through calling The Affordable SA helpline was able to get Jenny a $400 EEPS (emergency electricity payment scheme) grant and contacted the energy provider to have Jenny’s electricity and gas reconnected. Jenny is now on an affordable payment plan through Centapay where she need not worry about her next bill or where she will find the money to pay any future electricity and gas bills.

(*names have been changed)

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6 January, 2016

Getting off to a good financial start in 2016

Christmas is over and the starter’s gun for the New Year has already sounded. This time of year sees many of us dealing with extra debt that the season has added to our financial load and that can leave us feeling anxious about what to do when the extra bills start rolling in.

The Financial Counselling Helpline on 1800 007 007 is a free and confidential service that can help start your new year on the right financial foot. They analyse and assess your financial situation and give you ways of dealing with a range of issues including credit and debt. They work with you to develop a plan to improve your financial situation.

The Helpline team have kindly offered their following Top Ten Tips to help get you started in finding your financial footing in 2016.

1. It is worth investing some time and effort in planning and assessing your situation. Planning is cheap but it is an effective way of obtaining some control over your financial situation. Understanding what income or money you have coming in against expenditures, what money you need to spend, is a good start. Keeping track of these essentials is also a good way to identify savings you can make or money that can be better used. If your expenditures are more than your income then something needs to change.

2. Reduce your credit card Debt. Long term credit card debt impacts on the money you have now and in the future. Over time you may end up paying much more than you need. Planning to pay off debt as early as possible or finding ways to consistently make payments reduces your overall expenditure.

3. Payment Options. You may be able to pay back debt or larger bills over smaller, more frequent payments using monthly or even weekly instalments. Regular small payments rather than one large payment for such things as insurance, utilities or other regular bills can also help you manage your income and expenditure by smoothing out the financial highs and lows over the year.

4. Plan for seasonal expenditure. Start planning for Christmas and holiday expenditure now. Starting a savings account for special events or incorporating these expenses as part of your yearly budget helps make them achievable.

5. Utilities. Make sure that you are on the best plan for your usage or if you are able to access any discounts or concessions for utilities such as electricity, water and gas. Knowing your usage and understanding the charges can help you in making an informed choice of provider or how best to control usage. Heating and cooling can be expensive and the very young and elderly prone to health issues in extreme conditions and in some cases have access to concessions.

6. Being technologically mobile has become a convenient part of connecting with our work, support networks and community. Mobile telephones and tablets using internet and data contracts can be surprisingly expensive if you step outside of the policy limits. Get to know your usage and understand the contracts you are signing. Explore the options of contract vs prepaid particularly in regards to expensive excess data usage. It is better to have slower access than long lasting debt.

7. Stay in touch with the Affordable SA App and explore the Programs and regular articles. This can help save you money by indicating the programs that can best help you and provide information about the latest assistance programs and advice.

8. Hardship. If you are experiencing difficulties meeting regular Utilities bills you can approach a provider and explore the many options available in meeting your payments. If you cannot agree on a compromise or a way forward contact the Financial Counselling Helpline on 1800 007 007.

9. Try and work on stress levels and fitness. Keeping healthy helps you deal with stress. Walking and general exercise is a cheap way to stay healthy and de-stress from the pressures of work.

10. Remember, if you need help ask for it. Many people experience some form of financial hardship at some point in their life. The 1800 007 007 Financial Counselling Helpline is there to offer support and help get you back on track. They are non-judgemental and experienced in dealing with the many scenarios and situations and want to help

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22 December, 2015

Three tips for managing loneliness this Christmas

Christmas is a time to connect with our loved ones and celebrate the gift of giving. But for many people it can feel the opposite. Being separated from family and loved ones – either due to work, loss, or conflict – can make Christmas a time of unhappiness and loneliness.We might feel disconnected from others, as though nobody really understands us, listens to us, or values our company.

The holidays can be a difficult time if we are feeling like this and don’t have supportive people in our lives. But there are simple strategies you can use to help manage feelings of loneliness.

Here are some ideas to get you started this holiday season.

Think differently about feelings of loneliness. Like all negative emotions, loneliness is an important and valid part of human experience. Loneliness tells us that we crave connection. It comes from a part of ourselves that wants to reach out to others. If we never felt lonely, we might never recognise just how important meaningful relationships are to us.So a good first step in managing feelings of loneliness is to think differently about how we see them. Rather than viewing these feelings negatively and being hard on ourselves, we can choose to see loneliness as coming from a healthy part of us that is motivated to connect with others. Reframing loneliness in this way can help us feel better about ourselves and more positive about seeking out meaningful relationships.

Reconnect with yourself. If we find it hard to connect with others, or genuinely don’t have many social opportunities, then a good place to start is to try connecting with ourselves first. When we’re taking good care of ourselves, we are more likely to be positive, and feelings of loneliness may have less power to get us down.There’s no right or wrong way to do this. A great starting point is to try brainstorming some ideas for activities that make us feel good and then start doing them.Some suggestions are writing down your thoughts in a journal, going for a walk, spending time in nature or simply having a cup of tea in a beautiful cup. Try planning one nice activity for yourself every day and keep a record of how it made you feel. If you build some momentum with these activities before the holidays arrive you might find you are able to coast a bit easier through those moments when you are feeling lonely.

Reach out to others. Feeling lonely during the holidays is never easy, and reaching out to others can often seem difficult and scary. But it’s important to talk to people in your life at this time of year and let them know how you’re feeling.You can do this in whatever way makes you feel comfortable. It might be as simple as a text message or a phone call.

Or you might want to catch up with your family or a friend one-on-one. You can also jump online and connect with an online community for support. The SANE Forums are operating over the holiday period and are a great way to connect with others living with or caring for a loved one with mental illness.

You can even join the virtual Christmas Feast, a social gathering from 6pm AEDT on Christmas Day.There are also a number of great online and telephone services such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline that are available if you need someone to talk to. And if you are struggling with persistent sadness and loneliness, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help from a GP, psychologist or counsellor.

** The Salvation Army and The Australian Psychological Society’s (SA Branch) launched 'SalvoPsych’, a project to help marginalised and disadvantaged people receive psychological assessment and intervention, as well as counselling and other support, in addition to that already offered by the Salvos. - You can learn about SalvoPsych in The Affordable SA App**

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