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5 ways to get back on top of your finances


Ever felt like you just don't know where your money goes? You're not alone – and here's what to do next.

With so much going on all the time, it can be easy to lose track of what's going on with your money.

Bills add up, job situations change, what you spend money on also changes, and that can lead to some bigger issues.

According to the Melbourne Institute's Taking the Pulse of the Nation Tracker, around 20% of Australians were financially stressed in April 2021. And 33% were just making ends meet.

The good news is that you can take back control of your finances, and it isn't always a hard slog. Let's take a look at some simple ways to get you there.

1. Temporarily block or limit spending categories

Bendigo Bank

Bendigo Bank spending controls. Image supplied.

If you want more control over how and when you use your credit card or debit card, some banks let you put a block on certain spending categories or set limits for how much you can spend.

For example, with Bendigo Bank (pictured), you can put a block on contactless transactions, online shopping, overseas transactions and even specific merchant groups like video gaming or gambling.

So if you wanted to take a break from online shopping or rein in spending on video games, for example, you could put a block on those transactions to help break the habit. There's only so much we can do with just will power, after all.

2. Speak to a financial adviser

A financial adviser smiling as she helps her client.

A financial adviser helps you create a plan to reach your short- and long-term financial goals. They can give both general and personal financial advice, which means you can work through all the nitty-gritty details with them.

Some banks and superannuation companies have financial advisers on their books, so you could look there. If you want someone independent, you could ask colleagues, friends or family for recommendations, or do your own research online.

Once you've got a financial adviser in mind, use the government's Financial Adviser Register to check their qualifications and get some more professional background.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by debt right now, you can also speak to a financial counsellor for free by calling the Financial Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

3. Use a categorised spending tracker

A couple sitting in a cafe with coffee, croissants and a phone to track spending.
This is a quick and easy way to see exactly where all your money goes. There are plenty of apps that let you categorise spending – and some that even do it for you when you've linked your account/s.

This gives you a way to visually see how much you're spending on things like bills, shopping, food delivery, entertainment and more. And once you know that, you can find ways to spend less on things you don't really need (and more on what you do need).

4. Create a budget

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When you have serious money goals in mind, a budget is a tried-and-true way to help you achieve them.

The beauty of budgeting these days is you can set one up in around 10 minutes online or by using a spreadsheet template. And it could be even faster if you've started categorising your spending already.

The key is to include a section for your goals. For example, if your long-term plan is to buy a home, look at how much you can save towards your deposit. Or, if you want to become debt-free, see how much more you can put towards paying off what you owe.

Your budget will even give you an idea of how long it's going to take to reach your goals, which makes it a lot easier to keep your eyes on the prize.

5. Consolidate debt

A woman looking at a laptop screen, with a credit card in her hand.
It's no fun juggling bills, especially if they're for accounts that charge interest or other fees like credit cards, personal loans and even some buy now pay later services.

Debt consolidation gives you a way to roll some or all of your debts into a single account so you have fewer bills to pay. Depending on the type of account, you could also save a lot on interest and fees.

For example, some credit cards such as the Bendigo Bank Low Rate Credit Card might have balance transfer or purchase rate offers which will allow you to save on interest.

This gives you a way to save on interest when you move debt from your current credit cards over to this card (as long as your existing cards are from other Australian financial institutions). Balance transfer offers are updated periodically, so you can keep an eye out for others down the track too.

If you're paying off debts from a few different sources, there are also other debt consolidation options you can look at to help make things simpler.

Pictures: Getty Images

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