When you’ve taken some hard knocks, you’ll know how quickly things can spiral. To help you get back on track, let’s look at five practical steps you can take when things don’t go to plan.

1. 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 states: “Without fees. Without bias. Without judging. We're on your side.” If you need help, FCA is a great place to start.

A financial counsellor will help you take stock of your financial situation and regroup. Their services are free, independent and confidential, and 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 can also call them for free on 1800 007 007.

2. Contact your bank

Many people don’t get in touch with their bank if they’re struggling with their finances. It can be hard to make the call, but you’ll usually find your bank to be receptive and reasonable.

Another site worth looking at is Doing it tough? – from the Australian Bankers Association. It has a wealth of resources, including links to the financial hardship teams at each bank or financial institution.

Your bank will look at your individual circumstances and work on a plan. It might be a short break from repayments, or perhaps a debt consolidation loan.

The important thing is to talk to someone before it’s too late. If you’re one of our customers, please read our article, Struggling financially? How we can help.

3. Work out a budget

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

But 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.

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

4. 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, save for a washing machine, buy a better car, or work towards a house deposit.

Setting big and small goals isn’t just satisfying – it’s a great way to stay on top of things too.

5. Start saving today (or tomorrow)

Once you’ve got a budget in place, set your goals, and mapped out a financial plan, it’s time to start saving.

Most of us know the basics – a dollar here, a dollar there, make a habit of it, it all adds up, and so on. But it’s true (and it works). Plus, it does wonders for your morale to see your debts dropping and your assets building.

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Important information

The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only. It has been prepared without taking into account any person’s objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this information, NAB recommends that you consider whether it is appropriate for your circumstances. NAB recommends that you seek independent legal, financial, and taxation advice before acting on any information in this article.

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