Australian household debt levels are getting out of control. Around 3 in every 10,000 households are now considered to be ‘over-indebted’ & most over-indebted households lack sufficient ‘liquid’ assets to cover a quarter of the value of their debts.


This is a bit scary - the average household debt in 2015-16 was $168,600 with the most common form of debt being credit card (55%) followed by home loans (34%) & student loans (17%). According to (2019), over 70% of Australians own credit cards, there are 15,760,92 cards in circulation (as of June 2019) with a national debt accruing interest of $31.3 billion. In 2018 there was an average balance per credit card of $3211, we’re spending a whopping $27,477,790,515 per month on credit card purchases per month & every year we’re paying about $1.5 million in credit card fees (ASIC 2018). It's time to take back control & budgeting can be your super power.

Budgeting and money super heroBudgeting and money super hero
Managing money and household finances with better budgeting

It seems that many of us are teetering on the edge. We’re possibly too optimistic about the future thinking we’ll always be able to meet our obligations. Things can quickly unravel if money is not managed well or if unforeseen circumstances arise. With Aussies’ appetite for Christmas gift buying on card and “buy now pay later” platforms like After Pay, Zip, Humm or small amount lenders like Wallet Wizard & Nimble, I figured it would be a good time to get you thinking about your money habits & to talk about budgets.


Why Budget?


Rowe Partners Accountants & Business Advisors are your partners. We’re not just here to do your tax once a year, we want to see you prosper. If we can play even a small role in helping you to understand & improve your management of every day finances, we will feel we’ve made a positive contribution. Budgeting is a tool you should master. Learning to budget is a critical life skill that will help you conserve money & save to achieve your financial goals, borrow strategically & avoid the debt trap.


Often we inherit our money habits & financial knowledge from our parents. If you were lucky they had a good grip on finances & raised you with a healthy attitude toward money, spending and saving. I learned how to budget through sheer necessity some 15 years ago. I was still living at home & building my first home with my now husband John. Juggling money became very stressful but I was fortunate that my mum was able to step in & teach me the basics. I found it was surprisingly simple & useful. I’ve been an active budgeter since. But many people aren’t so fortunate. Some households just don’t do money well. There either just never seems to be enough money, creating stress & anxiety or there is always plenty & the adults managed everything. This can result in parents & their kids taking for granted that the WIFI will always work & assuming that there'll always be enough food in the fridge. Then when it’s time to leave the nest reality hits these young people & they can struggle financially, even if they’ve been fortunate enough to secure employment. This is because, no matter how much we earn, income is always a finite number. Spending more than you earn results in debt. How soon you get on top of that debt & pay it down will determine your financial trajectory.


If you do fall into a debt trap, there simply may be no-one around to save you. Depending on your history, banks may not come to party either so we want you to become your own budgeting superhero now.


When to start budgeting?


NOW! For most people, there’s never been a better time to get on top of debt. Interest rates are incredibly low. By being disciplined, you can make a serious a dent in debts like mortgages, credit cards & car loans putting yourself in a much better position for the future.


Anything that helps you even out the highs & lows of income & expenditure will make budgeting easier. If you’re on wages, the income you’re receiving is generally a fixed amount & paid at regular intervals. A budget aims to predict your future expenses against your income & help you to identify areas where you can cut back. Your household income needs to be higher than your household expenses.


Handy tips

Key budget considerations for income should include all your (& your partners) income sources (wages, pensions, subsidies, insurance payments).


High level budgeting expenditure categories should include but not necessarily be limited to;


  • Fun Fund – allow a small amount of free spending if possible. Budgeting is designed to improve your life, not make you miserable. Look for & make a list of low cost & free activities that you can enjoy to avoid slipping into the budget blues or falling of the wagon.

  • Housing – rent/mortgage, rates, utilities, renovations, insurances.

  • Food & entertainment – groceries (plan meals), social events, sports (e.g fees, equipment), pet food, Netflix.

  • Education – school fees, uniforms, books, subscriptions, computers, HECS, further education.

  • Health & Medical – insurances, dental, doctors, pet care.

  • Savings, Investment, Debt Payments – holidays, education funds, life events (e.g weddings, birthdays, babies, retirement).

  • Transport – car purchase, insurance, maintenance, tyres, fuel, bus fees, car parking

  • Clothes


Ready, set, go!


Don’t have goals? Set them. If you have a partner, make sure you set goals together. This could be to pay off debt, save for a house deposit, house renovations & improvements, buying a new car, planning a wedding, overseas holiday etc.

  1. Review the budget regularly – again do this with your partner. You both need to be on the same page, share the same goals & be committed. Celebrate your progress!

  2. Be realistic. Factor the costs associated with achieving your goals into your budget. i.e. If you need $10,000 in 12 months is this achievable?

  3. Think about strategies to help you reach your goals. What more can you do? (work more, cut spending).

  4. Know what your total income & expenses are for the year. Don’t guess! There is no point having $150 a week on food if your family spends $300. You can get this information from your bank statements. With a year or 6 months of bank statements you can fill out the budget planner from money smart.

  5. Open more bank accounts to transfer money every payday for savings, bills etc. & set them up so they can’t be accessed easily.

  6. Review your budget at least annually or when there is a change to your income/ expenses i.e. pay rise, having a baby & being off work. Having children is a huge financial change for your household. The primary care giver will be working less at a time when expenses rise. To ease the stress, make a life event plan.

  7. Pay your utility bills regularly. Set up direct debits from your bank or with the supplier. It’s nice to get your electricity bill & be in credit.

  8. With Christmas not far away, when people ask what they can buy you or your kids, choose things that are useful instead of toys i.e. new pjs, bathers, shoes, vouchers, an experience (cinema vouchers, tickets to the zoo, Bounce).

  9. Now is a great time to talk with children who have just finished year 12 & are moving out for university to help them understand finances & work through their income & expenses before they leave.

  10. The festive season can be expensive. Presents can be a huge cost for families & buying for some age groups like teens, will tend to be more expensive than others. Then there’s food, kids holiday programs, decorations, travel, entertainment...

Here’s some ideas that can be a lifesaver, reducing both financial pressure & keeping spending under control so you can relax more easily & enjoy this special time of year!

  • Pre-pay for Christmas hampers.

  • Buy store gift card so you can decide in advance how much you can afford to spend.

  • Setting up separate bank accounts & depositing money into them fortnightly throughout the year will help make sure you have funds when needed & reduce the risk of resorting to credit - one of my best budgeting secrets!

  • If you have children or grandchildren, start them off on the right foot. Teach them how to budget, earn & save too! Teaching them financial literacy today will save them a world of hurt when they grow up. Check out apps like &

Budgeting Apps & Tools


While we haven’t specifically road tested these & can’t vouch for any of them specifically, they look pretty good & easy. It’s important you do your own research to find a a system, app or method of budgeting & of tracking your spending that suits you. Some people are happy to use excel. Others prefer products with a “friendlier” interface. If it’s easy to use, you’re more likely to use it. Check these out.

Want to get your finances under control? Here’s some Important Contacts

  • National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007

  • Australian Government Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) 1800 686 175

  • SA-NT Rural Financial Counselling Service 1800 836 211

  • Rowe Partners Accountants & Business Advisors 1800 04 7693

  • Rowe Partners Financial Planning 08 8397 0000

Happy budgeting!

Phil Cammarano, a Senior Partner, who recently turned 60, shares his personal considerations and approaches to retirement planning…

Well, I’ve made it to the big six zero (60 or 30 x 2 as I prefer to think of it). I’m currently in good health, enjoy seeing clients and the company of my work colleagues but retirement is on my mind and three of the biggest decisions of my life are now in front of me.

1. When will I retire?

2. What will I do when I retire?

3. Have I got enough to retire on?


1. When will I retire?

This question is probably the hardest, it will probably be made when I wake up one morning and say to myself, I’ve had enough ( or win the lotto first!). I’ve been an accountant for a long time. I love my job and I love my clients. I am fortunate enough to work with my son Dylan and with a great team here in Port Augusta. But being the most senior Partner (in age of course and senior sounds better than oldest!), I’ve been asked by the other Partners in the business when was I thinking of taking the step into retirement. Some might be confronted by this type of question but I wasn’t offended at all. Business Succession Planning is a key aspect of the advice we provide at Rowe Partners. We like to practice what we preach. We play a significant role in the lives of many people, helping them to plan and transition their businesses for new management or sale as well as their personal financial affairs. It’s incredibly important to plan and put measures in place to ensure a smooth transition and continuity of service to business customers. In my view, it’s also important as a matter of respect for my colleagues and our staff, particularly in the Port Augusta office to provide adequate advance notice.


When I’ve decided on a retirement date, I’ll give the business 1 to 2 years notice. It will give me plenty of time to prepare client files for handover with a smooth transition to my trusted co-workers and of course time to say goodbye to my wonderful client base, many of whom I’ve worked with for over 20 years! Fortunately, Port Augusta is a tight-knit community and retirement will give me more time to see people out and about in Port and at the Footy Club.


2. What will I do when I retire?

What to do when I retire surprisingly is the easiest question for me to answer. I want to do some more travel and some volunteer work but generally, I just want to relax and not have the day to day work-related pressures. I’m not planning to work part-time.


3. Do I have enough to retire on? Have I got enough money to retire on and how much can I live off it is the biggest and most complex question I’ve had to consider. The answer to this question is unique to individuals and understanding those individual circumstances and aspirations are critical to good planning. One of the good recent decisions we made as a business was to establish Rowe Partners Financial Planning to help in situations such as mine.


Having seen how our Senior Financial Planner, Blake Halligan, has been able to assist some of my clients to plan for and make the move into retirement I intend to sit down with him. If you’re like me and are not sure if you’ll have enough in retirement, you need to think carefully about the lifestyle you’re hoping to achieve. What do you want to do in retirement? I considered travel, wanting to make sure I enter retirement debt-free, have spare funds for my hobbies like making sure I could get to the big AFL games, doing things around the house, have a bit extra to spoil my kids and leave them something in my will (after all they’ll be choosing which nursing home I go to so I had better be nice!). You’ll have different hopes and dreams. It’s important that your plan reflects your own aspirations and is developed after a full and comprehensive assessment of your own circumstances.


Luckily, I’ve invested wisely into my super in middle age and was able to make extra contributions once the kids were off my hands (not that they are really off our hands). On reflection, I probably should have made contributions at a younger age when I had no financial commitments. Being of Italian heritage my parents didn’t charge board. I wasn’t going to argue with that! I was determined to enjoy life to the full. I didn’t leave home until I was in my early 30’s I didn’t realise how lucky I was at the time. I had disposable income but I didn’t think I needed to consider saving then. I wish I had put extra funds away when I was in my 20's and 30's and got some good financial advice early on. As my expertise is in tax, I’ve asked Blake to provide some tips for those worried about their retirement.


From Blake Halligan, Senior Financial Planner, Rowe Partners Financial Planning


As Phil suggests it’s important to start now. With investments, time in the market is one of the critical success factors. We should never be too busy to plan for important stages of our lives. Having a plan helps give you set goals, priorities and gives you direction. Even though the Government keeps moving the goalposts for retirement age, pension access criteria are tightening and there’s quite a bit of volatility in our financial markets, with a good, robust financial plan and appropriate insurances in place you’ll know you’re adequately prepared. What you accumulate for retirement will dictate your ability to live the life you have dreamed of.


Why not rely on the pension? One saving grace in this wonderful country of ours is that we have decent social security that will pay you a pension (or part pension) if you meet the certain tests off course! It’s a good safety net and most Australians will have access to quality health care and housing etc. but pensions only cover the basics. It won’t give us the little luxuries of life that we should all be able to look forward to after a lifetime of hard work in our jobs or businesses, service to our communities and/or raising our families.


Remember it’s never too late to plan for retirement!


Don’t feel bad if you’re off to a late start with planning for your retirement. I’m an accountant and I didn’t prepare perfectly. I should have started my retirement planning earlier but as mentioned, I prioritised other things and always seemed to be too busy!! I’m lucky to have made some good financial investment decisions along the way.


I've still got a bit of time to go yet before I hang up my boots so for now, I’ll keep working hard and looking after my clients to the best of my ability and put a little bit of extra money away.


Now it's back to completing these tax returns!



We have only provided general information about the benefits associated with planning for retirement. It is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to be, nor should it be read as specific personal investment or risk advice. It provides an overview only and should not be used as the sole resource to design your retirement plan.


Some of these ideas may not suit your own circumstances. Before acting on any of the information contained in this guide you should obtain personal advice from a specialist investment professional and seek specialised taxation advice. Both can provide you with appropriate advice tailored to your specific investment needs, objectives and financial situation.


Updated: Sep 10

Tradies are certainly not afraid of getting in there and getting their hands dirty, but can just struggle to find the time when it comes to the bookwork .


Cloud-based accounting and integrated services certainly help to reduce the need to sit at the desk; giving time back to focus on growing the business or even to get out and enjoy life!

As long as you have internet – you have Cloud-based services!


These services are designed to be user friendly, provide seamless integration and flow through of all aspects of business life including the first contact of ‘please help’ right through to ‘thank you for your service’.


No need to be tech savvy. Cloud-based software provides a user friendly platform which can be tailored to business individual needs including customizing users and access levels. This can include employees, business managers and external parties such as Banks.


Other key advantages of cloud based accounting are -


No more double handling – No more having to transfer information from Quotes, Invoices & Timesheets. This can all be easily entered, consolidated and integrated into one easy to use system.


Quote and Invoice Onsite – Within a few clicks you can impress clients with ability to issue professional and accurate quotes or invoices straight to emails before leaving the premises. Speed up cashflow but having ability to track when quotes accepted or invoices viewed – reducing the good old ‘never received’ excuse and establishing automatic reminders for those sneaky invoices that exceed due dates.


Better collaboration for job management – Users can access software to log on and off of worksites, track and add information (such as photos) to job cards, monitor employee site locations, job scheduling and even have automatic reminders sent to clients.


Production & efficiency gains – Have real time vision and the ability to ensure all aspects of the business are running on maximum efficiencies with staff performance monitoring, stock control with parts/materials allocated to job at point in time, regular and timely invoicing procedures and better communication channels with clients on job stages.


No more paperwork – EVERYTHING can be done and stored electronically. No longer have information stored on personal computers, sitting in filing cabinets or even at the bottom of the work ute.


Automatic banking – by connecting bank transactions to software, have a clear understanding of cash in bank against in-going and outgoing payments.


If you would like more information on how cloud accounting can support your business, please contact us at Rowe Partners 1800 04 7693.