Family budget check: new savings and costs to consider from July 1

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With a new financial year fast approaching, many Australian businesses and government bodies have announced changes to their laws, taxes, fees, and benefits, many of which could affect you personally. Here’s the good and bad news of everything you need to know for your household budget.

Good news! Better cash help for families

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Rising cost of living pressures have squeezed millions of families this year, but relief is on the horizon. 

From 1 July, the Australian Government will increase Centrelink benefit payments for families with young children. The change targets households receiving the Family Tax Benefit (Part A and B) and will lift payments over 2022-2023.

For families with children under 13 receiving the Family Tax Benefit Part A, the benefit will be increased up to $204.40 over the next year, while payments for families with children aged 13-19 will be capped at a new maximum of $255.50 per year.

For families entitled to the Family Tax Benefit Part B:

  • Households with the youngest child under age 5 will receive an increase of up to $164.25 more per year.
  • Households with the youngest child between 5-18 will receive an increase of up to $116.80 more per year.

In addition, combined families* will now be included in the higher Child Care Subsidy from 1 July. If they were eligible for the higher subsidy between 7 March - 1 July, they will also be back-paid the higher subsidy starting from July. 

*Both members of a parenting couple receive the Child Care Subsidy for different children in their family.

Bad news: new changes to Jobseeker

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As part of the government's large overhaul of Centrelink, the Jobseeker program will also get a makeover after 1 July. Workers on the dole will now have to navigate the new system to keep their payments in a time of increased living costs. 

Basically, Jobseeker recipients will have to meet new obligations to get their payments. Instead of applying for 20 jobs per month, they’ll be switched to a points based system. 

Under this new system, Jobseekers will need to get at least 100 points per month doing different job-ready activities. In addition to completing a minimum of five job applications (worth 5 points each), they can choose to participate in a selection of 30 other tasks and activities, such as:

  • Attending a job interview or fair (20 points each).
  • Getting a driver’s licence (20 points) or putting in driving hours (5 points for 5 hours).
  • Receiving a work licence or certification (15 points).

Jobseekers could also receive different point totals per week depending on whether they participate in the program full-time (at least 25 hours per week) or part-time (at least 15 hours per week). Some of the tasks will also only be available for Workforce Australia Services participants. Points can be reported online via the Workforce Australia Services homepage or mobile app, or by contacting your provider.

While the changes aim to help make recipients ready for employment, there’s a lot of concern over how smooth the online roll-out of the new program will be and how much people will have to do to receive their payments. 

“It's stressing a lot of people out and a lot of people are really scared," said a single Victorian mother in a comment to the ABC, “especially people with health issues and people with children.”

Those who don’t meet the new 100 points per month requirement could face a payment suspension and a demerit. Those worried about meeting the points target are advised to tell their provider ASAP.

Good news! Stronger financial hardship protections for credit card borrowers

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Doing it tough but worried about missing repayments and hurting your credit score? There’s massive good news: a brilliant new credit reporting change will finally kick in after 1 July. 

Under the National Credit Code, if you fall on hard times because of reasons outside of your control, you have the legal right to ask your lender for hardship assistance. No matter if you’re making repayments on a credit card, home loan, or personal loan, your lender is required to work with you to reach a viable solution. Some factors that can cause financial hardship include:

  • Losing your job, salary, or hours.
  • Divorce.
  • Death of a loved one.
  • Illness or injury.
  • Natural disasters.
  • Global pandemic.

If any of these have affected your ability to make loan repayments, you can negotiate with your lender to reduce your repayments temporarily, vary your loan period, and so forth. 

Before the law change, asking for hardship assistance meant your lender would report a series of missed or incomplete repayments to credit reporting bodies (CRBs) like Experian or Equifax, which could hurt your credit score and make you seem like a risky, irresponsible, or unethical borrower. 

Now, the Australian government has stepped in to protect your credit score by changing how it wants lenders to report financial hardship information. The three key takeaways?

  • Instead of recording ‘blank’, varied, or missed payments, your lender will use special codes to let the CRBs know you’ve fallen on hard times and have entered a financial hardship agreement.
  • Details of your hardship agreement cannot be used to help calculate your credit score. 
  • After the hardship period ends, it will be wiped from your record and repayments will be reported as normal.

These changes help the CRBs distinguish customers doing it tough from those who simply stop making payments and fall into arrears. Instead of perceiving struggling customers as bad or risky investments, future lenders know the customer proactively took steps to manage their finances. And that’s deserving of good credit!

So if you’ve fallen on hard times, don’t be shy about asking for help. Fortune – and the law – favour the bold.

Bad news: energy bills continue to climb

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Energy bills have already become one of this year’s biggest headaches, but they’re set to worsen as we head into winter. The Australian Energy Regulatory (AER) has announced it will hike the benchmark power price after 1 July, which will cause energy bills to surge between 9-20% across the country.

While investment in renewable energy is coming, it won’t come soon enough to avoid eye-watering costs. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to make sure you’re getting the best price for your circumstances by comparing energy providers.

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Good news! Almost everyone gets super now

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Great news for your retirement fund: the government has broadened superannuation requirements for businesses. From 1 July, the $450 per month super guarantee (SG) threshold will be removed, meaning employees can be eligible for super no matter how much they earn. 

The SG rate will also bump up to 10.5% after 1 July. The new rate will apply to any salary payments you receive from 1 July, even if the pay period covers work done before the EOFY. Thankfully, this also isn’t the last SG rate rise we can expect, since the government has mandated an increase to 12% by 2025. Yay!

In light of the increase, now’s an excellent time to do some superannuation housekeeping so that your fund works best for you. If you’re thinking of switching, here are some of the best super funds of 2022, as recommended by your fellow Aussies.

Bad news: mobile and NBN telcos dialling up costs

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Due to surging demand, Telstra will be upping its mobile plan prices from July 2022 in line with the consumer price index. The price hikes will add:

  • $3 to its $55 monthly basic plans.
  • $3 to its $65 essential month plans.
  • $4 to its $85 premium tier plans.

Additionally, Optus announced it will be upping its NBN prices from August 2022. The changes will add:

  • $10 to its $60 NBN plan.
  • $5 to its $70 NBN plan.

There’s been no news yet from Vodafone on any price changes.

RELATED: What's the difference between the big three telcos?

Now more than ever, it’s important to compare your monthly plans and see if you could be better served by making the switch. Browse some of the hottest mobile and NBN deals below.

Good news! Medicare levy reduction and other tax breaks introduced

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Lastly, some sweet relief to Aussies this tax season. In addition to adding a whole bunch of COVID-19 and work-from-home related costs you can claim on your taxes, the Medicare levy threshold has been reduced for low-income earners.

  • If you’re single and earn less than $23,226 per year (or $36,705 for eligible seniors and pensioners), you don’t have to pay the Medicare levy. 
  • If you’re single and earn between $23,226 - $29,033 (or $36,705 - $45,881 for eligible seniors and pensioners), the amount of Medicare levy you have to pay has been reduced.

Additionally, the Medicare safety net for PBS medications will be lowered to $244.80 from July. Once eligible concession card holders meet the new threshold, they can get their PBS medicine for free.

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