More than 120 Greater Dandenong families joined a savings-matching scheme to help cover their children’s back-to-school costs in 2020.
Under charity Berry Street’s Saver Plus program, families make regular savings deposits over 10 months and complete four financial education workshops.
They are then awarded $500 in matched savings, which must be spent on educational items like laptops, uniforms, shoes, backpacks and stationery.
In 2020, 3400 participants enrolled across Australia. They saved more than $2.1 million, and were paid $1.45 million in matched funds.
Hemavathi, a mother of two, said the scheme helped her develop a savings habit.
At the time, she was studying a childcare course at TAFE while trying to save for her daughter’s school expenses in 2021.
“I learned an interesting concept in one of the workshops which is to pay yourself first – which encouraged me to always save first instead of struggling to save left over money from expenses.
“The concept stuck with me.
“I realised that consistently saving, even if it’s a small amount each time, was going to help me save for my daughter’s school uniforms.”
Hemavathi said the lessons learnt “saved us during Covid”.
“Saver Plus has been a lifesaver.
“Had we not had the finance skills we learnt through Saver Plus we would have struggled a lot as my husband lost some of his work.”
Dandenong Primary School principal Daniel Riley said he’d been amazed by parents who’d enrolled in the program.
“It’s been wonderful to see these students benefit from the matched savings and start the school year with a renewed sense of hope.”
Saver Plus coordinator Wendy Mawoyo said it was an “easy way to start saving for next year’s school costs”.
“Parents want their kids to start the new school year on the right step, and budgeting for school costs right after the holiday season can be tough.”
Independent research by RMIT University found 83 per cent of participants reported the matched savings made a positive impact on their child’s education.
Saver Plus is funded by ANZ and the Australian Government. It is delivered in 60 locations in Australia by charities, including Berry Street in Greater Dandenong.
Participants must have a Centrelink Healthcare or pensioner concession card, eligible income and a child in school or starting next year.
Details: saverplus.org.au or 1300 610 355.