Money for nothing

 In Home Loans & Lifestyle

The best things in life are free, especially when money is up for grabs. From government benefits to special grants and shopping rewards, there is plenty of funding available if you know where to look. Here’s our guide to help you cash in. Additional rules and restrictions apply in all cases (and are subject to change). Detailed information about eligibility and participation rights can usually be found online on the provider’s website.

Families

Kids cost, but financial help is at hand from the get-go. The Federal Government will provide Parental Leave Pay for up to 18 weeks to eligible parents who take time off work to care for a new baby or recently adopted child.

Up to $2,056.45 is available in the Newborn Upfront Payment and Newborn Supplement, providing you are eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part A and not receiving the above Parental Leave Pay for the same child. There’s even help for the parent who is not the primary caregiver who wants to take two weeks off to lend a hand.

The Government can also assist with child care costs – up to $205 per week – through the Child Care Benefit.

As kids grow, you can take advantage of Family Tax Benefit Part A (up to $230 a fortnight), and if you are a single parent or have just one income earner in the family, you might also be eligible for Family Tax Benefit Part B (up to $150 a fortnight).

Like most government benefits, income tests apply. Find out more at www.humanservices.gov.au

High achievers

If your child is gifted in sport, academics or the arts, there are a number of government, corporate and community grants up for grabs. The Federal Government, for example, offers 12-18-year-olds participating in state, national and international level sporting championships $500 through its Local Sporting Champions program. In another example, the Queensland RSL has teamed up with Bond University to offer year 10 and 11 students in that state the chance to apply for an RSL Youth Development Grant worth a generous $2,500 or $5,000 to help them pursue their sport, arts or academic dreams.

The internet is your best resource for tracking down relevant grants. Start with a simple search for youth or individual grants in your state and you will soon find one link leads to another. It’s also worth contacting your local council to see if it offers financial support for representative sports, academic competitions or arts achievements.

Home buyers

A stash of cash is still available for those getting into the property market.

Originally introduced in 2000 to help offset the impacts of the GST on home ownership, first-home owner grants are part of a national scheme but are funded and administered by each state and territory, so the amounts and eligibility vary. Visit www.firsthome.gov.au to find out how much funding is available in your state or territory. Most states also offer stamp-duty concessions for first-time buyers, which can be worth up to about $20,000 depending on your location.

You may also get a boost to buy or build a new home. In NSW, for example, home buyers and investors could be eligible for $5,000 towards building, buying off the plan or buying vacant land on which a new home will be built. In South Australia, the Seniors Housing Grant worth up to $8500 is offered to those aged 60 or older who are buying or building a new home, providing they live there.

Seniors

The term ‘pensioner’ often implies financial hardship but you might be surprised to learn a home-owning couple can have up to $1,151,500 in assets plus the home they live in and still access a part age pension, providing they meet income tests. Single seniors can have up to $775,500 excluding their home and receive a part payment.

The age pension currently kicks in at 65 and the access age is already legislated to rise to 67 by mid-2025. There is even a proposal to raise it again to age 70 by mid-2035.

The age pension comes with a Pensioner Concession Card which can entitle holders to discounts on health care, utilities, car registration and more.

Seniors who don’t qualify for the age pension might still be able to get a discount on medicines and health services through the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, providing they meet the income test.

For more information on federal funding for seniors visit www.humanservices.gov.au

Some retailers and service providers give discounts to seniors, regardless of whether they receive a pension. Most state or territory governments issue seniors cards, which can entitle holders to a range of savings, including public transport discounts and special deals on entertainment and groceries.

Super contributors

According to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) around 45 per cent of working Australians have more than one superannuation account1. The ATO is encouraging those with multiple accounts to consider consolidating their super into one preferred account. But be cautious, before consolidating you should look at the insurance cover with each fund, as it will be cancelled once you close the account.

Most of us pick up extra super accounts when we switch jobs. When choosing which fund is right for you, compare administration fees and interest earned on investments, remembering the higher the earnings, generally the higher the investment risk.

Not sure if you have more than one super account? Visit the ATO’s Super Seeker to track down any lost funds www.superseeker.super.ato.gov.au

Low and middle-income earners can also get a government leg-up on their super. If you earn less than $50,454 and make a personal, after-tax contribution to your super, the government will also chip in. The maximum government contribution is $500 (for total income of $35,454) and reduces on a sliding scale.

Students

Young people studying or training full-time, looking for work or needing support because they are sick, might be able to claim Youth Allowance. The payment applies to 16 – 24-year-olds and depends on factors including income, where the applicant lives and whether they are dependent. A single person under 18 who lives at home with parents could receive up to $233.60 a fortnight, while a single person over 18 required to live away home from could access up to $426.80.

If you are 25 or older and studying or training full-time, you might be eligible for Austudy, worth up to $426.80 a fortnight if single with no kids or up to $468.70 with a partner and children.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are studying or training full-time may be able to apply for Abstudy, with payments varying depending on age and the type of course or training. Visit the Department of Human Service for more on what is available and eligibility, including assets and income tests. www.humanservices.gov.au

Shoppers

The trick with any shopping reward is to ensure you’re not spending more just to obtain a kick-back. The best freebies come with your regular spending with no strings attached. For example you can earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points, fuel discounts or retail vouchers through Woolworths and their partners with an Everyday Rewards card or rack-up FlyBuys points for various retail, entertainment and travel offers when you shop at Coles Group outlets.

Join the free Myer One program for free and receive two shopping credits for every dollar you spend at Myer. Once you earn 2,000 credits, you receive a $20 Myer gift card. Points can also be accrued with participating partners, including many Caltex service stations. Swipe your card each time you fill up to earn points faster.

The only catch with these loyalty programs is that retailers learn a lot about you and will often target you with promotions to encourage you to spend more with them.

1 Source: www.ato.gov.au

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