Need Emergency Financial Assistance? These Resources Can Help
In an ideal world, we’d never need emergency financial assistance, because every one of us would have at least six months of living expenses in an emergency fund to cover our rent or mortgage, food, and other necessary expenses.
In reality, even when we do save for a rainy day, sometimes the deluge is so strong it can overwhelm us. As emergency expenses drain our savings, we may find ourselves devastated and wondering how we can possibly recover.
Fortunately, resources are available for individuals and families who need emergency financial assistance. We’ve put together a list of those resources here, including free emergency fundraising on our site.
How to find emergency financial assistance
While Australians often pride ourselves on our ability to weather any storm, a 2018 “financial comfort” report by ME Bank found that the household savings ratio was under 3%, meaning that many Australians wouldn’t be able to gather enough cash to get themselves out of financial trouble if needed.
If you haven’t saved for such an emergency, you may quickly find yourself in debt. Sure, you can turn to cash advances or credit cards — but these have downstream financial implications that can often set you up for more financial trouble. Ultimately, high-interest rates and debt burdens only diminish your ability to deal with financial shocks.
To deal effectively with your emergency, gain access to emergency financial assistance and bounce back from any financial stumbles, follow these four key steps.
1. Don’t panic
If you panic, you’re more likely to make bad financial decisions. So the first thing to do is breathe. Look at your situation from an objective point of view and try to think rationally about your next steps. If you’re still not sure what to do, get advice from someone who’s dealt successfully with a financial emergency like yours — perhaps a friend, family member or colleague.
2. Know your priorities
While you probably prioritise your spending already, you’ll need to re-work that based on the emergency situation at hand. It may be time to tighten the belt. Go through your budget item by item looking for ways you can cut expenses to an absolute minimum. Small cuts add up. Does your new budget reflect your new priorities?
3. Spend only on essentials
Your reprioritised budget can give you a clearer view of what you need and don’t need in your life. Spend only on necessities such as food, shelter, electricity, counselling, etc. It all adds up, so eliminating things that may seem like trivial expenses can actually have a huge impact in the end. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need until you’re out of your financial emergency. You may also need to hit pause on non-crucial payments to improve short-term cash flow, remember that many providers will offer this as a relief measure for you.
4. Ask for help
Most importantly, reach out to others when you’re in this situation. It’s healthy to ask for help when you need it, especially in a situation where you can’t face your expenses alone. Though many in your community of friends and family may not all be able to help you financially, they may be able to drive you to work or cook for you once in a while. They may also help you fundraise to get out of your financial troubles.
Keeping these four points in mind, here are some financial resources available to Aussies like you.
Government initiatives for emergency financial assistance
Moneysmart is an initiative of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), which largely regulates Australia’s financial industry. They are committed to helping Australians of all ages and backgrounds to better their financial wellbeing and take control of their money through consumer education in the way of free tools and tips on everything from saving and investing to debt consolidation and reduction.
AFCA offer an impartial and independent dispute resolution service for financial services. They exist to help consumers and small businesses to reach agreements with financial firms about how to resolve their complaints, including awarding compensation for losses suffered due to error or misconduct — this can be huge if there has been wrongdoing on the part of the other party. A list of industry ombudsman and dispute resolution bodies can be found via the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website here.
In addition, you can speak to Services Australia for counselling support, including gaining access to a social worker who can give you personalised help. If you’re a rural small business, speak to the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) who can help you if you have been affected by drought, flood or, COVID-19.
Nonprofits offering emergency financial assistance
The National Debt Hotline offers a free, confidential financial counselling service for people in Australia suffering financial difficulty. It’s a not-for-profit, community-based service that provides people the tools, plans and resources that will help them overcome their specific financial issues and get back on track. For some cases, they may negotiate with creditors on their clients’ behalf, which can be a very powerful tool and save you a lot of stress.
AskIzzy is a website that connects people in need with everything from food, to housing, to emergency financial assistance and family violence support. There are over 370,000 services listed across the country, and it’s free and anonymous to use. If you’re on the Telstra or Vodafone mobile network, you don’t even need phone credit or access to WiFi to use the search function.
Have a look at your local neighbourhood centre, too. Many of them run weekly food and clothing drives to help with the cost of living and ease the burden on families to put food on the table and warm clothes on the back.
What if you aren’t eligible for assistance programs?
Even though there’s help out there, government and nonprofit programs often have stringent eligibility criteria and long application processes — it can take months to receive support. Trying to get financial assistance immediately can be very frustrating. That’s one reason crowdfunding can be such an essential part of your recovery — it can help secure emergency funds fast.
Need help fast? Crowdfunding to the rescue
It might surprise you to learn that not all crowdfunding platforms offer instant access to the funds you raise. At GoFundMe, not only do we provide immediate access to your funds, we also have a 0% platform fee. That’s why our platform focuses on turning compassion into action.
If you’re ready to start raising funds, you can get helpful advice with these fundraising tips and ideas.