When the news started trickling out of Wuhan about a highly contagious virus, former contestant from The Block Bianca Chatfield had just sold her renovated apartment in Melbourne’s Kew and was thinking about making her next move on the property ladder.

“I had sold a property in December and the first thing I wanted to do was start getting ready to look at a small house/renovation project to purchase early this year,” she told Savings.com.au.

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“But when COVID-19 hit, I had to revisit my budget and really take a step back from making that major financial decision.

Chatfield, who is a former professional Australian netball player and an ANZ Financial Wellbeing Ambassador, said like many people, she has felt the financial impacts of the pandemic.

“The world that I work in either involves sport or working with teams of people, so when COVID-19 hit I was really worried about my income and my future,” Chatfield said.

“New ANZ research has revealed that young Australians are feeling the financial impacts of COVID-19 most, with 44% aged 14-39 saying they had been stood down or had their pay or work hours reduced between March and May 2020.

“I can definitely relate to this. I have always lived a very busy life, mostly taking on freelance type projects - I had a very full schedule at the start of the year, once COVID-19 hit and there was no sport, no speaking engagements etc, I was confronted with a very different world to what I have known.”

She said that using ANZ’s Financial Wellbeing Check-In helped her come to terms with her financial situation and get back on track with her goal of saving for a house by following a few easy steps.

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Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, fixed, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. However, the ‘Compare Home Loans’ table allows for calculations to be made on variables as selected and input by the user. Some products will be marked as promoted, featured or sponsored and may appear prominently in the tables regardless of their attributes. All products will list the LVR with the product and rate which are clearly published on the product provider’s website. Monthly repayments, once the base criteria are altered by the user, will be based on the selected products’ advertised rates and determined by the loan amount, repayment type, loan term and LVR as input by the user/you. *The Comparison rate is based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. Warning: this comparison rate is true only for this example and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate. Rates correct as of . View disclaimer.

Make a budget

When you’ve got a savings goal as substantial as a house, it’s important to set a budget and be prepared to make sacrifices.

“This is even more important during these challenging times so I’ve had to take a good look at my finances and decide what are necessary and unnecessary expenses,” Chatfield said.

“I’m happy to admit I have been fairly naïve in the past and never really sat down and worked through my financial goals.”

She said that when she did, she realised she was spending money on things she wasn’t using anymore.

“Checking in with my budget was something I hadn’t done in quite a while, but when Covid-19 hit, it forced me to revisit my finances, which is when I uncovered a few obvious areas to save.

“For instance, myself and my partner Mark were both paying for individual Netflix subscriptions – even though we live together, as well as Kayo and Stan.”

Cut out non-essentials

Eliminating things she wasn’t spending money on anymore, like unused streaming subscriptions, and instead popping that money away into a savings account has helped her get ahead.

“Simple steps like cutting back on our subscriptions, ordering less takeaway and shopping less online have helped us. I would say we have saved at least a couple of hundred dollars over a month, and then I’ve kept that going,” Chatfield said.

“For me, one thing I could do was funnel a bit of the money saved on takeaway and subscriptions into a small renovation account. 

“I wanted to make sure I was putting a little bit of that money that I was saving from my subscriptions and no online shopping, and then transferring a little bit into a renovation account so that hopefully when I buy, I have that renovation account ticking away and adding up.”

Spend with care

While Chatfield concedes it’s not possible to cut your spending entirely, you can be more careful with how you spend.

“Knowing your non-negotiables like rent, food etc and then having the negotiables that you weigh up on whether you really need it. You can be extra aware of where your hard-earned money goes. It all adds up,” Chatfield said.

“Reducing the cost of your needs doesn’t always have to come with extreme sacrifice if you look for ways to reduce, reuse or renegotiate your essential spending. It’s about spending with care.”

However, she does admit to spending more money on coffee.

“It’s the only reason to be out of the house some days!”

Remember your savings goal

For a former netball player, keeping one eye firmly on the goal should be easy. But Chatfield admits it’s been hard to stay positive during the pandemic.

“I’m sure everyone is feeling that at the moment, but focusing on the things I can control and am enjoying at the moment has helped me with my mindset during the pandemic,” she said.

“Making sure I am in control of what I'm spending and understanding my financial situation has played a really big part in my overall wellbeing.”

She said that setting a clear savings goal has kept her focused.

“It’s about sitting down and going, ‘Okay, this is what’s going to happen. This is what you can control right now and this is what you can’t control.

“I’m getting there, but it’s a process. It’s about taking little steps to take control of your financial wellbeing in order to reach your goals.”

Being realistic about how much money you can afford to put away is also important, particularly right now when many people have either lost their income or had it reduced.

“If I want to purchase a new property, it's going to take some adjustments to my spending and make sure that the properties I am looking at are within my reach and not going to put me under unnecessary financial pressure,” Chatfield said.

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