01 Feb This $500 match-your-savings program is changing lives
When Charlene Cerros heard about the Saver Plus program, which matches your savings dollar for dollar to spend on uniforms, books, laptops, classes, TAFE or other educational expenses for yourself or your children, she thought, “Great!” and signed up.
Saver Plus participants make regular deposits in a savings account over 10 months and must complete a series of fun money-management workshops, known as MoneyMinded. When they reach their goal, their savings are matched, up to $500, by ANZ, which developed the program with the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Participants also receive support through the community organisations that deliver the program, including Berry Street, The Benevolent Society and The Smith Family.
Free and funded by the Australian Government and ANZ, Saver Plus is open to families with a Centrelink Health Care or Pensioner Concession Card who have regular work (one or both partners), and who have a child at school or are studying themselves. More than four in five program participants are women.
With four children aged four, five, eight and eleven, all who do music, dance, sport or swimming classes, the Cerros’ extra-curricular expenses were high.
“Education is massive for us because we believe that if anything is going to help you up in life, it’s your education,” says Charlene. “Work ethic is great but that comes from education, especially sticking with extra-curricular activities. We sacrifice a lot to pay for their extra-curricular activities. Now I’m doing a pathway course back into university since I haven’t studied since before the kids were born.”
“I’m setting the example for my children too.”
“When you join Saver Plus, you think it’s going to be easy to save a small amount, but it’s difficult to put it aside when you haven’t got a savings habit. It’s taught me not to access that money unless I really need it. You can go without and the world’s not going to crumble. You don’t think you can and you feel horrible and it can be emotional, but you can do it.”
Charlene use the $500 Saver Plus matched contribution for her son’s trumpet lessons.
“The money came in handy but what I learnt from the classes was more valuable in the long-run,” she says. “The MoneyMinded classes were awesome – learning about compound interest, and ways to save on gas and electricity costs by simple things like closing the curtains or using door snakes that make a massive difference over the winter quarter. I’ve been able to save more money by continuing those habits.”
“There’s a peace that comes from knowing you can do that.”
“Because of what we learnt, we always try to have $2,000 away in an account for emergencies that we can only access by both of us going into the branch. The minute that money’s depleted, we save to get it back to $2,000.”
Of the 36,000 Australians who have taken part in Saver Plus since 2003, 87 percent still save the same amount or more up to three years later, 85 percent have more control over their finances, and 93 percent have better self-esteem.
“It enables people to get out of the cycle of having ‘just enough’,” explains Claire Lindsay-Johns, Saver Plus National Manager, Brotherhood of St Laurence. “It can be life-changing.”
This article is sponsored by Saver Plus. Saver Plus is available in 60 communities in every state and territory, 1300 610 355 or saverplus.org.au