Hello, my name is Carlatina Urquhart and I am 21 years old and I used to be in foster care.
I believe that the hardest part about having a foster care experience is the transition from care and one of my biggest troubles has been finances.
This year has been the most stable I have been with money since living independently but I thought I might start with discussing my journey from when I finished foster care and talk about how I overcame these and some tips to ensure that you are ok with your finances and how to live on low income.
I started to live on my own when I was 18 years old, I moved out four months after I had finished foster care. I had a casual job where I would earn $50 a week and I was studying my Certificate III in Children Services at Launceston College. One of the advantages of living with a care experience is you receive money until your 25 years old to assist with finances. However my issue was that I used the money for furniture for my new place and it didn’t arrive until four months after I had moved in. However there are people who are not fortunate enough to have funds for furniture or white goods and these are few things that I did until my furniture arrived that may help you.
- *I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor
- *I hand washed my clothing
- *I kept my food in an esky.
Because of the struggles over moving out on my own, I was unable to perform to the best of my ability and I was getting behind at school and work and I lost a job opportunity. By this time I was living on $200 a fortnight, I was young and foolish I would spend $50 on myself a fortnight for groceries and then I would waste it on DVDs, and clothing because I had started this habit when I was living with my foster mum and I didn’t have to worry about anything else.
I would beg all my friends for money for the bus, but other than that I would not beg for food because I was too proud.
Because of my spending habits I had put myself in a bad position. When I obtained a vacation job in a vacation care centre I spent $200 on birthday dresses and again the $50 on my groceries. This left me starving a week before my 19th birthday and I was forced to eat play dough because that was on the only ingredients that I had in my house and I was broke.
It was disgusting, but from this I had learnt my lesson and since November 2013 I have not starved or have been broke since. I learnt the hard way.
Whilst on the topic of groceries, I used a suitcase to grab my groceries because I didn’t have my driving license and it was helpful carting them to and from the grocery store.
From March 2014 things started to pick up, I obtained a job as a Child Care Educator in a Child Care Centre and I moved closer to my school to study my Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care, financially I was great. I did spend money on DVDs every now and then and because it took nine months to go back to school and I had nothing else to do but watch TV all day.
However smooth sailing didn’t last long I ended my lease because my neighbours were involved in gun violence and because my place was infested with rodents because of the land it was built on. If it was just the rodents I would of looked for a place to live whilst staying at this place of residence however because of the violence I got ready for school the night it happened and caught a taxi to the 24 hour McDonald near my place and then caught a bus to school.
I couldn’t concentrate at school because I was scared for where I was going to spend the night.
My first idea was that where I was at school offered $20 a night accommodation, I spent three nights there and then ended my lease but financially I had to go back to my place until they leased it to other people. I shared the place on facebook to help the process. Once my leased ended I returned to the school accommodation. I was relieved until I found out that there would not always be booking and feared were I would stay each night so much so it made me sick. I eventually found a place but had to wait four weeks or so before I could move in and luckily I had a friends place to stay when I was not at the school accommodation.
Financially this was hard because I was at school and I didn’t have any other jobs but how I managed was through budgeting and making a list of how much I ate a day and ensured that I bought enough to eat. Food was my main concern and I ensured that I had enough for food and bus money.
Another few tips and some don’ts!
When I was technically homeless I didn’t have any washing detergent so I washed my clothes in conditioner and shampoo to ensure that the same clothes that I wore smelled nice, luckily there were washing machines and dryers at the accommodation.
A don’t would be—and I always laugh at this—because the dryers cost money to use I put my clothes in the oven to dry and they went hard and snapped. Use a rack instead!!
By September 2014 I was moved into my new place, I had obtained a weekend job for two hours taking care of children whilst their parents are in worship at a church and financially it was great. I saved my money and money was no issue to me. Even if it were where I live we did cooking lessons every week and would keep the food and we would have free food on offer.
I am writing my story at Christmas time, unfortunately due to events this year I didn’t have enough money to splurge on all my loved ones for Christmas. I am back on my feet thankfully now that I have returned to work after finishing school and obtained new work, asked my friends for Coles vouchers for my birthday in November and thanks to budgeting I was able to get back on my feet.
What I did to survive whilst money was short was go to the Salvation Army and places that offer free food. In Tasmania there is a place called CARM near the Door of Hope and they offer free food and hampers for $10 with a bunch of food I was very grateful to have a lot of food.
For Christmas gifts I looked at items that I had at home that I no longer needed or wanted. For example I had a lot of school supplies left over from school and I do not intend to return to school now that I have received the highest level of qualifications in my field so I wrapped them up and gave them to my little sister who is attending year 12 at college next year.
I made homemade gifts for my loved ones such calendars, pictures and food that I didn’t want. I wrapped up and I went to a store that sells things for three dollars each and set myself a $15 budget for my loved ones, I used congratulation paper for wrapping paper as well as newspaper as I had this lying around the house.
I now tell my stories and experiences to young people in foster care as I am a Young Consultant for the CREATE FOUNDATION who advocate for young people in care and out of care.
As long as you budget, are prepared, don’t over spend your money and know what organisations are out there you should be fine. And one last tip: don’t ever be proud. When I went hungry when I was 18 I never told anyone and I regretted it. Always, always tell people, I always do now and I would be lost without their help.
I hope I helped, to hear more about my story feel free to contact the blog and I will get back to you.