Budget tips on making ends meet

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Timaru Budget Advisory Trust coordinator Don Macfarlane offers The Courier readers some tips on budgeting:
Budgeting is about making ends meet, seeing to the priorities and living within our means. While good budgeting makes sense for all incomes, the following suggestions are made with those who are struggling or looking for some cuts in mind. – Shop around for phone contracts, there are some very good deals available and it is possible to save dollars by seeking out the one that works best for you. Be sure you know what is free and what costs with your phone and avoid anything you have to pay for over and above your monthly $20 or so. Beware of the ‘‘free’’ fancy phone deals that ties you into a 24-month contract. These can prove very expensive indeed. – There is a wide range of internet deals available too. Find the one that suits you best. – School uniforms are a predictable item and a big one when changes of schools are on the horizon. Putting a little away towards uniforms is worthwhile, as are lay-bys. If the school has a second-hand uniform sale, be in early. Work and Income can assist with these, too, and there is other assistance we are happy to talk about. – Talk to the school about setting up a weekly automatic payment of a few dollars. This will pay for books, course costs, activities, camps etc and avoid those big bills. – The price of petrol continues to rise, so use of the car becomes more and more costly. Try to work out the trips that have to be made and plan to manage them so that one trip can serve two or three purposes. Petrol isn’t the only cost for the car but it is the most immediate pain in the pocket. Paying the registration once a year is cheaper than shorter options and is another item where putting $5 a week aside is going to cut the cost. – Assistance from Work and Income is not just for those on benefits. Families and individuals on lower incomes can often access such things as accommodation supplement, Oscar subsidy, special needs grants, childcare subsidies, assistance with glasses, health costs and others. We are happy to talk to you about this as well. – Waimate has a community garden which is a great idea. Fresh vegetables are free in return for some gardening work. Community gardens are great and so is growing your own vegetables. Once your garden is established it is a real saver, providing fresh veges all year round. Another big plus is no pesticides and other unknown sprays. – Many of our clients are really sharp ‘‘op-shoppers’’ using the second-hand clothing outlets in town for good-quality clothing at bargain basement prices. It is another case of ‘‘shop around’’ but well worth it. Quality lasts. – Assistance is available to landlords for heavily subsidised insulating of properties which has immediate benefit for tenants in reducing electricity costs and improving health. Full insulation retrofits are available for eligible homeowners through the Healthy Homes project about which both we and Senior Citizens can provide information. – Homeowners who are lowincome earners or beneficiaries, including pensioners, are usually eligible for a rates subsidy. Applications are now due. Inquire at your local council office. These subsidies have to be applied for annually. – If your freezer breaks down and the items in it thaw, all is not lost. If the meat thaws, cook it. It can then be refrozen and used when it is wanted. Things like mince and stews are obvious and easy but it applies to all meats and cuts. Sausages can be boiled and refrozen then browned in a pan once needed for a meal. Even a roast. Cook it, slice it, refreeze in meal-sized lots. It can be used as cold meat or reheated in gravy when needed. – Take a look at bank fees. Many people we see are paying too much. Sometimes it is the type of account and sometimes it is not using it properly. An ordinary eftpos account should be no more than $5 per month. A major cause of blowouts on bank fees is ringing up for balances too often. Most accounts have six free calls a month. It pays to check. – Don’t ignore debt problems, they won’t go away. An important part of our role is assisting with affordable debt solutions. All you have to do is ask. – For free, confidential advice and guidance phone us on (03) 688-9383.