If you’re experiencing financial difficulty – if you’ve taken some hard knocks – then you’ll know how quickly things can spiral. In this story we look at five ways you can take charge; in our second story we look at what NAB specifically offers our customers who are battling.

Give me the main points

  • Talk to a free government-funded Financial Counsellor.
  • Get in touch with your bank ASAP – talk to their financial hardship team.
  • Don’t let things drift – work out a realistic budget.
  • Set some financial goals (however humble).
  • Start saving towards these goals. First one is to establish a ‘buffer’.

Here are five practical steps you can take when things don’t go to plan.

Talk to a Financial Counsellor

There are government-funded financial counselling services available in every state and territory. They come under the umbrella of Financial Counselling Australia (FCA). Their motto is: “Without fees. Without bias. Without judging. We're on your side."

A financial counsellor will help you take stock of your financial situation and regroup. Their free, independent and confidential services might include:

  • Help with budgeting.
  • Mapping out sustainable repayment plans.
  • Talking to your creditors.
  • Looking into government assistance.

To find the nearest financial counselling service, go to the FCA website. You’ll find heaps of good info there, and they also have a freecall number—1800 007 007.

Contact your bank

Another site worth looking at is Doing it tough? (from the Australian Bankers Association). It notes: “The majority of customers don’t call their bank if they’re feeling like they’re losing control of their finances or experiencing financial difficulty. This is a mistake.”

The site has a wealth of resources, including links to the financial hardship teams at each bank or financial institution. While it can be hard to make the call, you’ll usually find your bank will be receptive and reasonable.

They’ll look at your individual circumstances and work on a plan. It might be a short break from repayments. Or perhaps a debt consolidation loan (at lower interest). The important thing is to talk to someone before it’s too late.

If you’re one of our customers and you’re having a hard time, please read Struggling financially? How we can help.

Work out a budget

When you’re battling, it’s easy to let things slip. Spend money you don’t have.

Working out how much money is coming in—how much you’re spending, and where it’s going—can help you take charge of a situation. Take control back.

If you’re not sure how to start a budget, read our article, Budgeting 101: Working out your income and expenditure.

Set goals

Once you’ve sorted out your budget, you’ll be in a better place to set some realistic goals. This might be to pay down your credit card, or to save for a washing machine or better car, or a house deposit.

Setting goals, however humble, is satisfying.

Start saving

Once you’ve got a budget in place, set goals, and mapped out a financial plan, you can start saving. Most of us know the basic saving rules—how the secret is to make it a habit and start today (or tomorrow if you must). It’s true—a dollar here, a dollar there adds up: it’ll do wonders for your morale if you see your debts dropping, and your assets building.

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