If you find yourself in debt, you need to put together a budget and debt management plan. This will help you get more control over your finances.
As you are working through getting your finances under control, all the people you speak to – financial counsellors, advisers, banks, creditors and agencies – will need to know details about your income and expenses so they can help. So choose your own way to do it, but make sure you have something in writing that represents your current financial situation.
The Budget Planner below can help you work out your income and expenses. Use it as a checklist to make sure you don’t overlook any expenses.
You can access and work with the calculator in a number of ways:
- Why prepare a budget?
- Debt management plan
- Review your budget regularly
- Self help tools to put you back in control
Why prepare a budget?
Having a budget that details your income and expenditure will help you to maintain control of your finances and, if necessary, help to illustrate the problems you may be having with your creditors. It’s true that your debt problems won’t be solved by the fact that you have a budget alone. But beginning with this basic information about the reality of your current situation is essential.
When assessing how much time you have before your cash reserves run out, assume you’ll have no income for the first few weeks.
If you have lost your job and have very little cash on hand and didn’t receive a redundancy or termination payment you may need to get emergency relief immediately to ensure you have some cash for basics like food and shelter.
It is also important to contact Centrelink to find out if you are entitled to any Government assistance.
In preparing a budget you should consider any benefits you may be eligible to claim such as:
- The Schoolkids bonus. Check the DHS website.
- You can claim a tax offset of 20% (20 cents in the dollar) of your net medical expenses over $2,000. There is no upper limit on the amount you can claim. Check the ATO website for the definition of “net” medical expenses and for further information about this tax offset.
Debt management plan
Your budget will assist you to prepare a debt management plan. A debt management plan allows you to work out how much money is left after you pay your highest priority debts each fortnight or month. You will then be in a position to determine how to allocate the money and make affordable payments off your lower priority debts.
Even preparing a simple debt management plan using figures from your budget will give you a better idea of whether you are able to handle your debt situation.
More information about preparing a debt management plan.
You can ask a MoneyHelp financial counsellor to help you prepare your debt management plan.
You can also pay for professional help to prepare a debt management plan.
Review your budget regularly
It’s important you review your budget plan regularly. This will help you make sure you’re sticking to your debt recovery plan and enable you to identify when your budget is no longer meeting your needs.
Events such as a change in your income or accommodation arrangements, a new addition to the family or consolidating your loans all impact on your finances. Your budget will need to change in order to accommodate them.
Self help tools to put you back in control
Financial Counselling Australia also has self help tools to help you manage your individual debt situation.