Possible Debt Consolidation

Hi Everyone, I'm trying to take the first steps to get out of debt. My current situation is this - work full time, divorced and have children in shared care. The only income I have is from my job (80k) about 75k because of salary sacrifice and $350 per month from Centrelink for Family Tax Benefits and Carers Payment for one of the children. After all deductions, I clear $2,020 per fortnight. I do not receive child support even though my ex-husband earns 50k more than I do. Out of my salary, my deductions are tax, superannuation, HECS debt and salary sacrifice for my car. I have 2.5 years left for that then there will be a balloon payment at the end.

I have struggled and had to use what savings I've had to get by each month. I calculated today that I owe 16K. This includes $5,200 left to pay for my son's braces, 6k from a personal loan that I stupidly took out to squash the debt I accumulated when setting up our home. The rest was from an urgent trip overseas to see my father before he passed, then a new fridge, school excursions pre covid etc. I have tried to contact the National Debtline on numerous occasions and get cut off every time. What is the most sensible way forward? One payment would be easier than 10 different payments every month. The interest rate is another problem. I had a direct debt bounce last week and I know this is a terrible place to be. My credit rating is good and at some stage in the future my dream is to buy a house for us but until we're in a healthier spot financially for now it's only a dream. I've thought about trying to get another job but I'm unsure how I could do it when I work 50 hours a week.

I hope someone can share a way forward. Thank you for reading.

EDIT - I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for the helpful links and many PM's reaching out. I'm humbled and also relieved that I'm not alone getting out of this deep hole. I can share one positive outcome for today. I phoned my NBN provider and my monthly internet has been reduced to $65. I was previously paying $75! It's probably not a great deal for some but it's a saving none the less. I need to have internet access for research and planning purposes when I work at night after my children have gone to bed. I didn't consider GEM and GO credit cards because I never used the cards! I made a purchase on each last year and filed the cards somewhere never to be seen again. Anyway I contacted Latitude and have reduced both debts to the minimum until I've seen the financial counsellor next week. I was behind on one of them and had to pay $40 to catch up. The next payment is due next week already. I'm trying to get hold of the bank that has my personal loan to ask if anything can be done there. I have opened two ING accounts as per the Barefoot Investor book and will open the rest tonight. I have to contact ING because I couldn't see how to do it in my account!

Comments

    • +1

      I clear $2,020 per fortnight after tax, super, HECS and salary sacrifice.

    • What sim would that be? thanks!!

      • this deal, if you buy it now I think it is $15/month. full speed up to 5GB then slowed down to 1.5 Mbps. I generally use ~130GB per month

  • You mention that you had super?
    Did you qualify to withdraw some of that during COVID? That might have been one way to pay down debt now (of course, it has an impact on your assets in retirement - but as its your money and its forced savings for a rainy day, it makes sense that when its raining you use it).

    • +2

      Too late for that now. Last applications were accepted up to 11:59pm on 31 Dec.

      • +1

        Hence the use of past tense.

  • +1

    Hi, I do have some superannuation. I didn't think about withdrawing anything during COVID and I doubt I would have qualified. I thought super couldn't be used for debt?

    • +3

      There was a $10,000 tax-free withdrawal available for people who met the "very loose" eligibility criteria, but applications are closed now.

      • That was possibly the most short sighted thing thought out by Frydenburg over COVID, so many loopholes, basically $10k off your income (translates to an extra $3k in your account) if you were smart enough to take out and put back in. And yes Frydenburg has made some very poor decisions.

        • That was possibly the most short sighted thing thought out by Frydenburg over COVID

          Not really - lots of people lost their jobs and needed money. Whichever way you look at it, the money had to come from somewhere so it was either the taxpayers fund it or the people who needed it funded it themselves.

          …basically $10k off your income (translates to an extra $3k in your account) if you were smart enough..

          Someone here was trying to scare everyone by saying that the ATO will target people who take advantage of this 'loophole'. The reality is, they can't do sh*t.

    • +2

      You can still apply to access your super but the rules are very tight. Hardship is one or terminally ill. Call up your super mob to verify this is possible.

  • +4

    If you're keen to go the self help route, grab the Barefoot Investor book for $19 from BigW, Target or your closest store for some straight forward advice on how to eliminate your debt.

    You can also sign up to his free newsletter on his website which gives you a lot of the same info for free (over a period of time).

    • +8

      Or you could check your local library to see if you can borrow it for free.

    • -1

      I think her problems from what I can see go beyond barefoot.

  • +4

    Please read the Barefoot Investor and follow the steps. You will be surprised how quickly you will be debt free given your earning power and debt amount.

    Best thing of all, it will teach you basics in financial literacy that you could build on and chage your life in a very short time.

  • +9

    Not for profit and community organisations such as https://www.lccare.org.au/find-help/financial-hurdles/northe... offer free one on one financial counselling services.
    Forget the national line, they are always over extended and their primary function is to refer you on to the state services like the above.
    Looks you are in the NT? For more info and further options search “financial counselling NT”. Only look at the community organisations not the paid services on offer.
    I’ve worked in a community service that offers this free service and they are professional, incredibly empathetic and most of all, financial experts in sorting out difficult situations.
    Good for you on taking the first hard steps in such a difficult situation. All the best to you and your family.

  • +2

    Some banks/financial institutions have financial hardship areas that can even provide interest free loans in certain circumstances, to help consolidate debt. Often relationship separation is a factor they will evaluate/look at contributing to financial hardship
    I appreciate these areas are probably receiving a lot of calls during covid but you could also look into them

    • +1

      Support this suggestion if OP cannot find a bank to consolidate different debts (at different interest rates).

      Then instead 10 different payments every month, OP can focus on a few and dominos the debts as suggested in Barefoot book she been reading. This probably will provide her with some breathing space.

      I guess the NDH counsellors, if she ever gets in touch, would suggest which of her 10 debts to focus first.

  • +3

    Write down all your weekly/monthly expenses on paper so you can see what money is going where. It's then a lot easier to see which expenses can be lowered or removed completely.

    Eg, shopping, shop at aldi instead of Coles or Woolies. Make food instead of buying it pre made.

    Internet, instead of NBN, there are lower speed mobile services available cheap, there was one on here the other day for $25 unlimited from memory.

    Netflix and other subscriptions, just cut them off.

    It all adds up pretty quickly.

    Not sure why people are recommending credit cards, there is no way banks will be giving you one at the moment. A better option would be a personal loan, preferably with the bank you already bank with, to get it all in one place, so you can see the balance at a glance, and pay it off whenever you have spare cash.

    • +2

      Some great recommendations up there.

      People are mentioning credit cards for the interest free balance transfer, a really good way to game the system/give yourself breathing space as long as you're on top of things.

      And personal loans is definitely NOT a better option or should be one even at the best of times.

      • +4

        Op will not be able to get a credit card. They also possibly don't have the ability to pay it off before the end of the interest free period, which will put them in a much worse position.

        How is a personal loan such a terrible idea in this case? Likely lower interest rate than they are currently paying, much lower than a credit card will revert to, easier to get, and the minimum payment actually pays it off in the time specified, unlike a credit card.

  • +8

    You sound better without him if he’s as you say he is. I would sell everything I have that is of value and replace if needed with cheap as possible gumtree or kerb collection gear. A new fridge is great but old ones work pretty good too. It’s a hard thing to do but with the right mindset you will own more and owe a lot less. Better to wake up and see stuff that doesn’t make you feel ill because they are beyond your means. No disrespect but women tend to nest while men prefer toys like tech and cars to compensate for their small appendages syndrome. Nesting can mean the sofa you sit on will look nicer but do no better job than an older one you got for free. Keep a good record of what he does and doesn’t contribute then seek out free legal advice through community forums. It’s gonna be a rough ride for awhile but if you put in the work you will retain your pride and self respect - and credit rating if that’s really important for the next 5 years. If it’s not then I can help with how to screw all of your creditors like you have been screwed. You are just a dot on their to do list while they are a boiling pot on yours. Even a mouse can eat an elephant one bite at a time. You have taken a huge step putting yourself out here so maybe it’s time to start on that elephant.

  • +5

    Hang on, kids in shared care means their costs should be equally split- this needs to be addressed. 50:50. Very simple concept even for men to understand.

    I can’t stand “men” who abscond from their core responsibility of providing for their children.

    Edited to clarify I’m not being an arse (I’ve now read some replies) and to add condolences for your loss. I’m glad you got to see dad before he passed, that’s so incredibly important.

    • -4

      Crazy how blatantly sexist comments like this get upvoted around here 🙄

      Imagine if anyone posted on here about something being so simple even "women" could understand it. Guaranteed it would get downvoted to oblivion.

      People who upvoted this comment need to take a look at their bias.

      • -2

        I don’t think you know what the word ‘sexist’ means.

        If you accept OP’s story at its highest, the other parent in the relationship has absconded from his duty as a provider to his children. Unless you also think that expecting a father to provide for his family is “sexist”

      • Dont care if it’s seen as sexist. If you’re a man, and you abscond from your responsibility of raising your kids, you are no man, nor person worth a salt.

        Don’t like it? Quit sticking your dick in a Power point and pissing on about the consequences.

        And mr sooky, I am a man. You’re just looking to be butthurt. If the role was reversed I wouldn’t hesitate to declare the same of women.

  • +2

    Hi,

    When we last "spoke" in June 2020, https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/547059
    I mentioned to you https://somerville.org.au/our-services/financial-counselling...

    I'd encourge you to contact them to work out a plan.

    You may have been eligible for a NILS (No Interest Loan Scheme) to have bought your fridge rather than spend from your available funds, but that is water under the bridge.

    • Hi, I contacted my local office twice and was put on a list for an appointment expected in September. I will contact them again.

  • +15

    I've been in the same situation before with much more "bad debt" than you have now (I'm on a six-figure salary and it was almost 1:1 income vs debt ratio).

    After a while, I realised that I'd stressed over it for so long and my judgement was so clouded that I wasn't looking at things realistically. Every time I thought about it, it felt like it was the end of the world when in reality, it wasn't actually that much. I'd effectively lost touch with the value of money so even $1000 seemed like nothing to me and I'd just spend it thinking that it would barely make a dent in the debt anyway. I think you need a fresh set of eyes (doesn't even need to be a financial counseller) to look at your finances and go through it with you to work out how much you have to play with.

    Instead of an amount here and an amount there, what helped me was consolidating it all and actually seeing the progress of my efforts to pay it off each month. You also need to acknowledge and accept the fact that it won't be fixed overnight and whatever plans you make have to be comfortable/realistic for it can work long term. A lot of people try to make extreme sacrifices (for example, "not eating out" at all, which isn't going to be realistic for most people) and then realise they can't handle it after a month or two. Once they break their "rules" once, it often snowballs and eventually, they're back to square one. It's a vicious cycle.

    It took me a few years, but I eventually got rid of it. Your income vs debt ratio isn't that bad and it shouldn't be that difficult with some outside help and guidance - a close friend, family or anyone you can trust.

    edit: I should mention I also had collection agencies calling me regularly too. That certainly didn't help with the stress of it all!

    • +1

      Thank you, I feel like I don't know what I'm doing and it's exactly as you describe.

  • +6

    I would suggest few things
    - record your expenses in spreadsheet. Review it every week and after 3-4 weeks you will get an idea of where your money is going. Then cutout all expenses which are not required at all eg dining out, movie nights, drinking sessions at bar, kids toys when vising Kmart etc…
    - take membership of local toy library.
    - stop buying things which are not essential.
    - stop all monthly subscriptions which are not necessary.
    - eat at home or home cooked as much as possible.

    Every cent you save will have snowball effect and you should be able to come out as winner but hang in there as this won't be quick win. Good luck.

  • +8

    I've found a lot of people often confuse needs with wants. Necessities with luxury items.
    Take a good look at your expenses and really think if that was a need or want.

  • +4

    Walk around the house and take notes: Do I really need Netflix, Stan, Foxtel. Can some of these lights be turned off. Those toys will last the kids longer. Why are they all one phones and lap tops - maybe I can trade them in. Why not see a solicitor about having the EX pay maintenance. Do I need that expensive car, can I catch public transport.

    Reassess your life and live accordingly.

    • +10

      The car is an absolute necessity. I work 15 minutes drive from home and the kids are in different schools. There is no public transport that would get us to all these places by 7.30. My youngest son has two therapy appointments every week and they are 30 to 45 minutes away. I'm always turning lights and plug sickets off and teach the children to do the same. I'm cancelling Netflix today. I'm contacting legal aide on Monday. Hopefully I qualify for some assistance.

      • +7

        I'm cancelling Netflix today.

        Be realistic with these sorts of things. While it's good to save money where you can, there still has to be some level of enjoyment in life. If you like to sit in front of the TV each night watching Netflix, what will you do every night instead if you cancel it? If Netflix is one of those things, $15-20/month is a small price to pay. Look at the value/return of what you're spending rather than the actual amounts itself.

        • +18

          All the free to air TV channels have apps now - Netflix isn't really needed, there's plenty of free shows to choose from at the click of a button. If you have to watch a particular show that is only on Netflix because all your friends are talking about it you can obtain it through a certain Bay.

        • +2

          you do end up finding something else to do, but it is hard breaking old habits

      • +1

        You can see if you can share Netflix with another household. Not strictly allowed but it can be a way of sharing the cost. Also Apple TV and Binge have had 12 month free trials if you meet certain criteria. The deals are already listed on ozbargain.

  • +5

    Your local library might have the Barefoot Investor book so you don't have to spend money buying it, if you don't have to wait to long to get it from the library.

    www.simplesavings.com.au is a budget/money saving website but it costs to join. But you can join their monthly newsletter for free.

    If you buy takeaway coffee, try to stop/cut down. Make a coffee at home before you go to work. Bring your lunch/snacks to work if you don't do that already.

    If you don't have an Aldi, go through the supermarket brochures and plan your meals around the weekly specials, particularly the half price specials to save money.

    I'm buying Woolies giftcards at 5% off from RACT in Tasmania. I don't know if your automotive club has an office near you where you can do the same if you shop at Woolies?

    I also have an HSBC debit card where I get 2% cashback from all purchases under $100 (not govt services). But I've used it at the post office to pay for stamps and my Telstra bill, as well as a $100 giftcard from RACT so I pay $93.10 (after cashback) and get a Wish gift card worth $100. The only catch with the HSBC debit card is you need to deposit $2k per month to get the cash back, but you can withdraw it whenever you like, I've found.

  • +5

    Keep an expense diary for literally everything, every cent you spend goes in your diary. To keep it simple use an app on your phone or if you cant find a free one, use notes. Do this first and be diligent with it, this will show you where your money is going.
    Next incur no more debt, so no spending on your card or borrowing more money, if you literally have no money for food there are charities that will help.
    Keep trying the agencies for help, don't give up just keep calling.
    Use libraries (online are great) for self help books.
    You sound so cut up about you having to bare all the cost of raising your children but there isn't much you can do here just accept that it will be your cost to bare, it sucks and it is totally not fair but what else can you do? Try to put it behind you and move on.
    Good luck, honestly I wish you every success with getting yourself out of debt, it can be all consuming. If you have people chasing you don't duck and weave take the call and be honest with them, most will work with you for some sort of a payment plan. If you have debt collectors where the debt has been sold on to them negotiate down what you owe and be tough and honest about what you can pay.

    • +5

      Thank you. I found my Barefoot Investor book today and I've just started reading chapter 1. I know that the debt won't be gone tomorrow but I will try my best to get out of it.

      • +3

        Stick with it. It will be a slow slog. But it will work.

        I feel like i should be in the cult of barefoot but I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for my finances. A $12 book of basically all the things we already know, but he puts a great, easy to follow structure to it.

    • +2

      Agree with robbyjones suggestion. It is important to find out how much and where your income is being spent on while you meet those repayment. You don't need to use excel spreadsheet if you are not comfortable with, pen and paper is find. Build a really good picture over the next few pays. It will be tiring doing this on top of your 50 hours but there is a way out.

      GL, and don't let the trolls get to you!

    • +1

      good points. you should be recording every single cost to do with the kids. Yea it sucks, but it may help you financially when needed.
      you may be able to go back also with receipts bank statements etc

  • +1

    maybe financial counsellors - free - might help with advice. maybe me bank or some other might be able to offer you loan consolidation at lower rates. maybe a loan comparison site might show you a better loan currently. maybe vinnes etc might be able to give you an interest free loan for part of your debt and then you could pay off the highest interest loans first. first get advice from a financial counsellor with your actual debts etc. check with child support if they can review your circumstances again.

  • +1

    Hi @AussieDolphin - contact Moneycare or Wesley mission financial counsellor. Some people including NDH going on about contacting a financial counsellor like its a brush off and it can seem that way, but I can assure you it will be the best step you take, they are not there to profit off you either. Please call and make an appointment and see if its for you. The trick is to get to them before your situation gets worse. Also, going straight to them you will save yourself a lot of time in the NDH system.

    • Thabk you for telling me about those organisations. I've just tried calling Wesley Mission but it's out of hours. The recording says they're based in Sydney. Does it matter if I'm based in the NT? I'll try again tomorrow. In the meantime I have an appointment with a financial counsellor next week. Another few nights of no sleep.

  • +2

    not sure if its too late, but I'm with citibank and they have a product called the readycredit account. Essentially it is a lending card that gives you a maximum limit and you can choose to draw out fixed payment options (loans) up to 80% of the maximum remaining value of the card. I had a separation recently that led to some required financial expenditure, with citibank's readycredit I was able to get a loan at 6.9% to refinance the existing owing amount and borrow more and spread it back over 5 years. I am aware that in the long run it becomes more of a financial burden, but in the short term it has reduced my repayments to a more manageable amount until I can build a bit of a buffer and pay back rapidly.

    • isnt this the opposite of what shes trying to do?

      • +2

        It's one possible way of consolidating all their debt into one repayment per month. And depending on the what interest rates are on each of the loan, this may be a way to lower the interest rates. The fixed payment option that citibank offered me was 6.9% unsecured, which is a lot better than some banks were willing to offer me on a secured loan.

        In the grand scheme of things, no loan is better than having a loan. But having one loan, with no hidden monthly fees, a low interest rate and just one annual fee, may be the better option than having numerous loans with potentially worst interest rates and monthly upkeep fees. I'm not a financial consultant or anything, I don't know of too many other offers that OP may be able to get, I'm just sharing the option I've chosen to get my life back on track. I was able to refinance a 20k personal loan down from 14% interest unsecured with 3 years remaining to 6.9% unsecured with citibank with 5 years, as well as borrow a little extra to get some essentials sorted out when I moved out. Because of the lower interest rates and spreading the loan over a renewed 5 year period, I was able to lower the monthly repayments by around $290 per month before factoring in the extra borrowed amount. That $290 saved per month adds up, and it might just be what the OP needs to get things back on track.

        This does depend on a lot of factors though, as OP would still need to get approved for the card and they would have to offer OP a lower interest rate than what OP's paying with all their loans. OP's best bet is to talk to a financial consultant and discuss what option is best for their situation. They may even need to go through a broker if they've got too many loans to consolidate.

  • +2

    The first thing is knowing what you need each month to live and how to budget what you have effectively, YNAB (You Need A Budget) is fantastic for this and has a free 1 month trial, and a heap of free help and training and webinars, I also highly recommend UNDEBT.IT once you have your budget in hand, as a means to pay down your debt and is free. YNAB is what got my wife and I out of the debt and the paycheck to paycheck cycle, I wish I had known about UNDEBT.IT at the time. The second thing i would mention is, it will take time to recover from your position, in our case it took years to clear our debts and finally get ahead, joining likeminded communities on facebook and other social media can help to stop you becoming overwhelmed.

    • Thanks for these suggestions. I'm looking at your links now. All the best moving forward.

  • +2

    1) increase your income, which is hard to do in this climate, given covid, 3 kids and you working 50 hr a week already.

    2) write down all your weekly/monthly expenses to see where you can cut down reasonably. For example:
    * choose a good mobile phone plan then you can cut your internet connection and tether your phone instead
    *reduce take away,this generally contibutes a lot in a month since it is only $4 here and there for coffee, bottle of soft drink etc but we normally ignore it
    * there will be few places where you can get free grocery or necessities distributed by churches or non profit organisation

    3) start a gofundme if it is not beneath you. You'll never know, sometime communities ( real or virtual) can rally behind a cause

    • +1

      Lovely ideas, thank you. I've thought about a Gofundme but as I'm responsible for the mess we're in I need to get us out somehow. The public, in general, is very helpful to worthwhile causes, not a debt I don't think. I've supported many over the years myself.

  • +2

    Take him to small claims court over half the braces! Half the total cost, not the balance.

    • +2

      All up including extractions, x-rays, and checkups prior to fitting they cost 8K. I didn't realise this kind of matter could be taken to the small claims court! Googling that now. Thank you.

      • +2

        Let me know what you find out. It’s cheap to file so even just to send him a bailiff will be good haha

        • I found the information for the NT https://nt.gov.au/law/courts-and-tribunals/small-claims/how-...
          I don't know if braces would fall into either category. I really hope so. I'm owed thousands but if I were to at least get 4k back that will go straight to my depressing debt balance.

          • +1

            @AussieDolphin: Is there anything in your divorce decree to say who is responsible for education, medical and dental expenses? I doubt it would be 100% your responsibility

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