Joy Bulmer

PEOPLE who participate in a local financial education and matched savings scheme say there are many provisions for hardship available that are not widely known about.

Joy Bulmer and Ivana Dunstone, two participants in the Brotherhood of St Laurence-delivered program, and facilitator Carol Gledhill said they would have accessed hardship provisions offered by utility companies, telcos and schools, if they had known about them.

Their message is to always ask if they are available, and how to qualify.

They now factor into their budget discounts or savings available to them as they work to save for education expenses.

The Saver Plus program challenges participants to save $500 in 10 months, a sum that private sector bank ANZ will match if it is spent on education.

For tertiary student Ms Bulmer, the goal is a new laptop to replace the old one that is getting slower as she moves into an important last six months of her undergraduate social work degree.

Ms Bulmer said living independently while she studied meant she budgeted down to her last dollar.

She also documented everything she spent.

“If you are spending $20 a week on takeaway (food), it adds up,” she said.

Another method she used was to separate her savings from money for everyday expenses, putting her savings into an account that paid higher interest and cost of living money into a low fee or no fee account.

ANZ opens an initial savings account for use during the 10-month program, but Ms Gledhill said there was no condition that participants kept the account when they had finished.

She said the bank was not allowed to promote products to the participants.

That was a common misconception of people who were considering joining the Saver Plus scheme and often kept them from joining, Ms Gledhill said.

Ms Dunstone said she was financially literate when she joined the program because she worked for a bank, but she learned specifically that she qualified for assistance for the Victorian school excursion levy.

“I had no idea about that,” she said, but the provision has helped with the costs of sending her eldest daughter to school in the prep year.

“For me, it has always been about saving for education expenses and now I am ahead and don’t have to worry about next year’s.”

Ms Dunstone said she was able to save more than the $500 minimum required for matched funding and she intended to keep adding to her savings.

For further details, call Ms Gledhill on 5434 3908.