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Bill shock: Why 2.4 million Aussies are caught out financially

A woman clutches her hands looking at a laptop and a pile of Australian money
2.4 Australians are suffering from bill shock according to a new survey

A significant proportion of Australians struggle to manage their financial obligations, recent research has revealed, with 2.4 million Aussies saying they don’t know when to expect regular bills.

Finder money expert Sarah Megginson said it was concerning that so many Aussies had their heads in the sand about their money and expenses, which could lead to late fees and financial stress.

“These blindspots can add a lot of financial stress when an unexpected bill arrives. With the cost of living spiralling, households need to be managing their expenses carefully, and the first step is getting a clear picture of your overall budget,” Megginson said

Finder's nationally representative survey also revealed men were almost twice as likely than women to be caught by surprise by a bill. Queenslanders were the most prepared, with 64 per cent always aware of when bills were due.

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Despite many Australians saying they didn’t want to know when they were going to receive a bill or saying they only had a vague idea of when they would be expected to pay bills, Megginson said it was easy to get the information to plan for those costs and, in many cases, to dictate when those bills were sent.

She said that by calling lenders, utility companies and any other groups that issued regular bills, it was possible to arrange that those bills came in at the same time or could be staggered so householders could plan in advance and not be caught short.

“You can call … and request a due date change so your bills line up with your payday. You can also try to set up regular automatic payments to break down your big bills into smaller, more manageable fortnightly or monthly payments,” Megginson said.

For Australians struggling to make a payment or in financial difficulty, contacting the company issuing the bill should be the first step, rather than ignoring the payments and ending up with late fees. Defaulting on payments can also affect credit scores for up to five years.

Most companies can assist with financial distress, and work out a reasonable repayment plan for customers.

Megginson said the new year was a good time for more Australians to get more oversight of their spending, saving and financial obligations so they weren’t caught out.

Her top tips are:

  • Track your spending - from a spreadsheet to apps, it’s easy to see what is coming in and going out

  • Create a budget

  • Prioritise expenses - make a list of your essential expenses (rent, groceries and bills) and non-essential expenses (entertainment, dining out) and focus on cutting back on non-essential expenses first

  • Shop around for the best deals - compare prices on essential services and look for sales or discounts to ensure you aren’t paying more than necessary

If you are experiencing financial distress contact the Financial Counselling Network for free and confidential assistance.

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Smiling women and piles of Australian cash
Smiling women and piles of Australian cash