Back to school doesn’t have to mean budget blow-out

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MANY families struggle to afford back-to-school costs, particularly after the expensive summer holiday period.

Gillian Williams, a sole parent from Rowville, Victoria, said she always dreaded facing back-to-school costs for her two sons. That worry has lessened since she became one of more than 20,000 Australians to take part in Saver Plus, a matched savings and financial education program where every dollar saved is matched by ANZ, up to $500, for educational costs.

“I saw an opportunity to help me save, with a great big bonus at the end,” Ms Williams said. “I had recently become a sole parent and visited Centrelink for the first time in my life. I saw the Saver Plus brochure and thought it was a no-brainer.

“I managed to save $50 a month. At first it was hard to save. Where could I find that extra money? But the program taught me a lot, especially about budgeting,” Elizabeth said. “I did it, and I’ve continued to save. Being in control of my finances has completely boosted my confidence and I feel like I can do anything now.”

ANZ’s Head of Corporate Sustainability and Financial Inclusion, Jane Nash, said having a savings buffer is crucial to helping families manage back to school costs and other expenses.

“The $500 that we offer through Saver Plus helps parents ensure that their children don’t miss out on educational items and opportunities,” she said.

An initiative of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and ANZ, Saver Plus was first piloted in 2003 to support lower income earners develop a savings habit. The program is now delivered in more than 60 communities across Australia. Saver Plus encourages participants to set a savings goal, save up to $25 a fortnight and attend financial education workshops. When participants reach their savings goal after 10 months, ANZ matches their savings up to $500 towards the participant’s nominated educational costs.

The Brotherhood’s Senior Manager of Financial Inclusion, Tony Robinson, said Saver Plus helps families prepare for the future by building their financial skills to save small amounts over the long term, using techniques like budgets and spending diaries.

“We see the positive effects Saver Plus has on our community, empowering participants to build their financial future,” he said.

Independent research by RMIT University found that 87 per cent of past Saver Plus participants continue to save at the same rate or more, three years after completing the program. Participants also reported an increase in their satisfaction with life after developing the ability to save on a regular basis, having more control over their finances and by reducing their debt level.

To join Saver Plus, you must have a current Health Care or Pensioner Concession Card, be at least 18 years old, have some regular income from work (you or your partner) and have a child at school or be studying yourself.

To enquire about Saver Plus call or SMS 1300 610 355; email saverplus@bsl.org.au; or visit the website www.bsl.org.au/saver-plus.

Source: Brotherhood of St. Laurence

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