Survival – Life on the Single Parent Pension
By Kirsty Lamont, Mozo
Australia’s cost of living is already among the highest in the world, making being a single parent an exceptionally tough challenge. The good news is that if you think creatively and are smart with your money, you can still enjoy a wonderful life. Here are some ways to try and survive on the Single Parent Pension.
To quality for parenting payments as a single person, you must care for at least one child aged under eight, and income and assets under a certain amount. Single parents can get up to $699.90 a fortnight, which includes the Pension Supplement. You can also earn up to $180.60 per fortnight, plus $24.60 for each additional child, and still get the maximum payment.
Review your housing costs
If you’re a home owner, your mortgage is probably your biggest cost. Make sure you’re getting the best rates by comparing your loan to others on the market, and switching providers if need be. A rate discount of one per cent will save the average borrower with a $300,000 home loan over $2,000 in interest charges each year.
Renters should also keep a close eye on market rates. While you don’t want to disrupt your family too much, if you find out that you’re paying over the odds, or there’s a nearby suburb that would be $100/week cheaper but still in the same school catchment area, it could be worth moving.
Plug the leaks
Make sure you’re not wasting cash unnecessarily. Turn appliances off at the wall as many of them draw power in stand-by mode. New energy efficient lightbulbs cost 80% less to run than old incandescent bulbs. Teach children not to leave taps running, and encourage everyone to be speedy in the shower.
Be smarter about unnecessary fees and fines. Late payment fees can set you back between $15-$70 a pop, another reason to automate. ATM withdrawal fees are sheer money down the drain. Find your own bank’s ATM, or get cash back at the supermarket. Make sure you also don’t have any unused old credit cards or bank accounts that are charging you annual fees.
Create a monthly budget
Make sure you stick to your budget by setting up direct debits that pay your bills, living costs and any debt repayments first. Look at what you spent in previous months, and see if you can cut back. Little money drains like takeaway coffees really add up: just one a day is nearly $1,000 a year.
Try and involve your children in budgeting, it’s a great way for them to become money smart. If you have enough spare in your budget for a “fun fund”, hold a family vote each month over what to do with it. And encourage your kids to try and save some of their pocket money for bigger treats they may want in the future.
If you have credit card debts, consider finding a zero percent interest balance transfer card. This lets you move your existing credit card balance to a new credit card, and get a much lower interest rate – or even zero interest for a fixed period. This could save you hundreds of dollars in interest.
Negotiate to bring down the cost of your electricity bill by switching and saving and automating your payments.
Look for specials and discount coupons when doing your grocery shop. Some supermarkets have a reduced section with products near their expiry dates going for amazing savings. Better meal planning and keeping tabs on what’s in your fridge can save hundreds of dollars a year on food waste.
Grocery shopping is also a great way to help kids learn about money and counting, and explain the difference between needs (tomatoes) and wants (lollies). Also keep an eye out for online offers such as daily deals websites for cheaper haircuts and affordable special occasions and activities.
Cooking meals at home is not only cheaper and healthier, it’s also nicer. Even smaller children can help out, and cooking is a great skill to learn at any age. If you spend $10 on a home-cooked meal twice a week, rather than grabbing a $20 takeaway, you’ll save over $1,000 a year. Likewise if you’re a working parent, taking leftovers for lunch at least a few times a week can save you a similar amount on café sandwiches.
School lunches can also be much cheaper if you buy in bulk rather than use mini-packets of everything. Individually packaged sultanas or cheese and biscuits can be three to four times per kilo the cost of a larger bag or packet, which you can easily subdivide.
Children love getting messy with mud and dirt, and spraying water around, so gardening comes pretty naturally to them. Even if you’re in a flat you can grow herbs and greens on a kitchen windowsill or balcony. A packet of lettuce seeds cost about the same as a supermarket lettuce, but will grow hundreds more.
With fruit trees, look for ways to bottle and preserve so any oversupply doesn’t go to waste. Or if friends and neighbours have spare fruit of a different variety, do a swap.
The best things in life are free – because happy memories are what count in the long-term, not soaring credit card bills. Enjoying Australia’s wonderful free beaches and parks will leave you with much better memories than a long, hot day endlessly queuing for rides at an expensive theme park. Sites like Single with Children have great, affordable social activities for single parents.
Kirsty Lamont is a director of Mozo.com.au which helps Australians compare credit cards, home loans, insurance and other financial products. Kirsty previously worked for Virgin Money in Australia and BankWest. As a parent herself, Kirsty knows how expensive kids can be.
Link – Mozo site:http://www.mozo.com.au