By Claire Matthews
Brisbane families can receive assistance to get ahead of school and university costs, through a financial savings program called Saver Plus.
Saver Plus is Australia’s largest and longest-running financial education and matched savings program. ANZ rewards participants’ efforts by matching every dollar they save with another dollar (up to $500).
Participants can use the program to help pay for extracurricular activities like sport and music, laptops, textbooks, uniforms, excursions, and apprenticeship expenses, for school university or TAFE.
North Brisbane Saver Plus coordinator Stacey Allerton said Saver Plus includes a financial education program that builds participants’ financial skills, knowledge and confidence.
“It’s a good opportunity to refresh people’s knowledge of budgeting principles, and to improve their knowledge and understanding around banking products and superannuation.”
Ms Allerton said the program aims to help those on lower incomes to build strategies for saving money.
“Saver Plus is a behaviour change program, in that we try to reinforce the value of a regular and consistent habit. I really enjoy helping people to develop new and healthy savings habits.”
Saver Plus helps tackles the cycle of disadvantage that affects many people on lower incomes, said Ms Allerton.
“People who are on lower incomes are sometimes excluded from accessing banking products that are safer and more affordable… We promote the idea of managing your money well enough so you can build a savings buffer.
“…Then, in a challenging time in your life, you can access your savings buffer and therefore not need to access financial products that keep you trapped in debt.”
Saver Plus participant Tiiu Collings said the financial knowledge she gained from the program was invaluable.
“The program was actually really incredible. I learnt heaps and heaps of tips and was given so much information on ways to get cheaper items for schooling and how to budget better.”
Ms Collings said participating in Saver Plus helped her to afford to buy an iPad for her daughter’s schooling.
“I’m a single mum with a brain injury, so I couldn’t work full-time, so finding out about the program and the matched funds was awesome. I bought an iPad for my daughter; she requires one next year in school.”
Saver Plus participant Percy Gallagher said the program allowed him to focus more on his studies and manage his finances.
“So it reduced the monetary burden, because I’ve got the matched funds, and then also could budget for my education expenses a bit better. It just meant that I could focus on my education rather than having to focus on work.”
Mr Gallagher said he strongly recommends the program, to anyone looking to gain a better understanding of how to handle finances.
“It’s just such a good program that teaches you how to deal with your money, and it’s a fantastic life skill that I’m going to take with me for the rest of my life.”
Since 2003, Saver Plus has reached over 40,000 Australian families. Independent research shows that 87 per cent of participants are saving the same amount or more after completing the program.
“Across the Northside, we have probably supported close to 280 families now, which is really rewarding to see,” Ms Allerton said, “We are an Australia wide program, and we have supported over 40,000 people over the past fifteen years to develop a savings habit.”
Participants must have a Centrelink Health Care Card or Pensioner concession card, a child at school or be studying themselves, receive an eligible Commonwealth social security benefit, allowance or payment and have a regular household income.
The process for interested families to join the program is easy, said Ms Allerton.
“So, they can go to the Saver Plus website and fill out an online enquiry form, that will give them a bit of a sense of what the eligibility criteria are. Or they can call us on 1300 610 355 or visit the Saver Plus website, saverplus.org.au.”