“How do I budget for large, irregular expenses?” is a question I get a lot. As part of my goal to help 1,000,000 people survive, thrive and where possible, get off Centrelink, I am working with experts to answer these questions and more. You can find all posts relating to Centrelink here. Today, Cath, the founder of Get Money Wise shares tips to budget for irregular, large expenses. Note, there is an ‘affiliate link’ if you use the code contained in the post to get the bonus money.
Budgeting for irregular and large expenses can be a tricky balancing act, especially when on a low income. Most of us, at least once, have had that one bill which snuck up on us when it arrived in our letterbox.
Something we had forgotten we need to pay each year. Like car registration, an insurance premium or our annual check-up at the dentist.
With the day to day outgoings associated with our weekly or monthly budget, these irregular large expenses can be easy to overlook.
The pay check to pay check cycle
I recall a time about ten years ago now when I first moved in with my now husband. He received his car insurance renewal and registration yet had absolutely no money in his account to pay them.
This was a fairly regular occurrence for him. As a part-time chef who got paid in cash, he was stuck in a pay check to pay check cycle.
He wanted to be better with money and not need to ask his parents for a loan when these big expenses came up. He was one of the lucky ones though, not all of us are fortunate enough to have a backup plan of someone else being able to help us out when our income falls short.
He was suffering from overwhelm about how he could possibly afford to pay these large bills on his small wage.
Around this time we had decided as a couple we wanted to get married and save for our first place. So we needed to make sure we were being wise with our money. I was only on a very low entry level wage and my now husband only worked part time as a chef so money was tight.
I had always been relatively good with my money so went to work creating us a yearly budget.
Predictable yearly costs
I knew I needed to include the weekly costs like groceries, petrol and rent or the mortgage. I needed to come up with a way to make sure I also had money set aside for the bigger periodic costs.
These are expenses you know will occur, but only happen once a year or perhaps once a quarter.
They fall into two categories – mandatory and non-mandatory.
Mandatory expenses include such things as insurance premiums, car registration, electricity and water bills.
Non-mandatory expenses are those you do not have an obligation to pay but are things you know you are likely to need money for. Christmas or birthday gifts and kids clothing are what come to mind for me in this category.
How to budget for predictable expenses
Since some of the yearly bills are less memorable ones, to ensure you don’t let one slip through the cracks go back in time one calendar year. Look at all your bank records and note down what the bill was and what month it was paid.
Put in some thought into if you think you will have any new expenses you didn’t have last year but you will incur in the next twelve months. People often overlook this and it can catch you off guard.
I treat my non-mandatory expenses like Christmas and birthday gifts as one-off expenses too, so I save a little bit each fortnight for them. Rather than being left short when the time comes.
Once you have your total yearly expenses, divide it by how often you get paid. I am paid fortnightly so I divide all of the yearly costs by 26 and ensure I put this money aside straight away on payday.
Whilst this can take a little bit of time the first time you do it, it is a total game changer for your money management so it is worth the investment of time. The following years budget becomes a lot easier as you already have a template to work off.
Where to keep your bills money
It’s a good idea to keep a separate bills bank account. I set up an automatic direct debit after pay day with the exact amount I have worked out I need automatically transferred each fortnight.
A high-interest savings account is usually a good place to keep the funds. Whilst the interest rates aren’t amazing, they are higher than your day to day transaction account.
Choose an account which allows you easy access to your funds and includes a BPAY facility to make it easier to pay your bills when they come due.
Find out what works best for your needs in terms of account set up. I have one general savings fund and track what is assigned to each category via a spreadsheet.
Other people find it best to open several savings accounts, one for bills, one for a holiday fund, one for emergencies and so on.
My best advice is to find the approach that makes the most sense to you. That way you are most likely to stick with your goals by following what comes more naturally to you.
(Note from Kylie, I use ING for this banking and split it into a couple of accounts. If you use the code CNW116 we both get a bonus, usually $50 or $100, if you sign up to ING Everyday banking, which is a great kick start to your bills account or savings.)
In addition to your bill account, it is always a good idea to establish a separate emergency fund.
This account should remain untouched except for unexpected events such as managing through a job loss or to pay for a new appliance if one breaks.
Avoid dipping into this fund to pay for your irregular large expenses.
There are different schools of thought as to how much of a buffer you should have in this account. Some suggest starting with building it to $1000. Others say you should look to have at least 3 months living costs saved up.
My approach is to contribute at least a small amount to this account each pay period. But I make sure my bills account is topped up first.
(Note from Kylie – I started with $1,000 and have lots of tips on making money quickly here. My preferred minimum recommendation is $5,000 as that is enough for bond on a house and advance rent if you suddenly have to leave your home, it would cover a decent second-hand car if needed, a few months living expenses for most people etc. Then build it to 3 or 6 months).
Adapting your plans
Even if you implement all of the information above, this won’t necessarily mean you never have an unexpected expense come up again.
We are all human, so be gentle with yourself when things crop up.
If you are armed with a bills and emergency account, you will be much better prepared than you were a year ago.
Cath is the founder of Get Money Wise. She writes about personal finance which focuses on helping others to change their money mindset and create a path to financial independence. The Resources section of her site has some great tools to help with budgeting, as well as some kids activity books to teach your children about money. Find out more at https://www.getmoneywise.com.au
Do you struggle to afford medical care while living on Centrelink or a low income? Read on to learn how to cover some major medical expenses, afford the help you need and what free help is available for those on Centrelink or low incomes. Disclosure, there are a couple of affiliate links in this post for things I use. Any affiliate income enables me to create more resources, articles and options for you.
In May, I had to go to the hospital. My pain levels hit a 9 and 10 (pain more intense than childbirth and at 10 you black out from pain). I lost feeling in my legs, my lower back felt like the muscles were crushing my spine again, I could not breathe and it was terrifying. I spent most of 2015 like this and got no answers then. I saw a neurologist as the doctors suspected with Guillain-Barré syndrome. The neurologist advised me I had either the permanent version of GBS or another permanent condition. I was sent for more tests, physio, acupuncture and other treatments. If I had to pay for all of that out of my own pocket it would have been close to $3,000. There are ways around paying for it all though, which I’ll share in a minute.
Medical treatment is expensive. The ambulance bill alone was $1,200 then the medication, crutches, other tests, more treatment and changes to my home. It added up quickly.
In the past few years I have needed:
4 surgeries (and will have an annual surgery for the rest of my life)
Other treatments such as regular doctors visits, medications, specialists such as a neurosurgeon, gynaecologist and I tried naturopaths, Bowen therapy, basically anything anyone suggested, I did. My daughters required speech therapy, counselling, hospitalisation at one point and other treatments as well.
I know how expensive medical treatments can be and I know how debilitating disabilities can be which prevent your ability to earn to afford the medical treatments. It is a vicious cycle.
I’ll cover the main things I have experience with here from ambulance trips to glasses. I have some experts I am working with to get all this information for you all for future posts, so feel free to leave a comment with specific questions.
First and foremost, check your eligibility for help from the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Many things such as support people, one off items like wheelchairs, connections and more are available and a plan will be tailored to you if you are eligible. Find out more about NDIS here.
If you are on a pension the ambulance is covered. You will likely still be sent a bill, you call and it gets sorted. Do not stress. If you can afford private health insurance or choose to have private health insurance make sure your policy includes ambulance cover. You will be sent the bill and you process it with your insurer so you won’t pay but you need to do it quickly.
Alternatively, you can get ambulance only cover for under $100 a year for a family or under $50 a year for singles. (Thanks, Jess for the tip!)
This alone can save thousands!
2.) Dental care
If you have kids and get Family Tax Benefit A or a relevant payment, you are eligible for some dental treatments for them up to $1,000. You can find out more here.
For yourself, there is some public dental help available, which varies state to state. Find more information here.
Some private health funds cover some dental care, in my experience, it doesn’t cover much and isn’t really worth it. if you have private health insurance with extras, find out what you are entitled to. If it’s not worth it, compare and see how much you can drop your premium by getting rid of dental.
Prevention is the best option with dental costs. These are tips from my dentist:
– Get an electric toothbrush (they often go on sale for half price).
– Use it for the full 2 minutes (they have a timer).
– Floss properly by cupping your teeth with the string and flossing.
– Use a mouthwash if you want but at the least rinse with water to get the rest of what you flossed from your teeth out of your mouth. Or put sage in water and leave it for a few hours then rinse with that water.
– Do not wash your teeth right after soft drinks or sugary drinks as this can cause more damage. – Limit the sugary, unhealthy foods you consume.
– Drink more water and make sure you eat well as this also helps your teeth.
– If you need urgent dental care such as a filling, root canal etc you can ring to get approximate quotes, see if there are dentists who offer discounts for people on Centrelink or low incomes. Ask if they have ‘cheaper times’ (e.g. some offer a reduced rate on Mondays and Tuesdays, mainly for seniors. I had one in Western Sydney you worked mainly nights, but he offered a discount for day time appointments).
– If you need x-rays and have the time, request a referral to a bulk billing place, go get them done, then come back to the dentist. Not all dentists do this, but it can save money.
Oil pulling is something else some people swear by. I found it did help a little to ease pain, reduce swelling and enabled me to save to pay for the dental treatment I needed years ago. I used coconut or sweet almond oil. However, it’s controversial, so I’d recommend getting professional treatment as soon as you can.
3.) Doctors visits
Look for a doctor who will bulk bill. Not many do anymore, or some only bulk bill on certain days. Ask around. If you have chronic conditions, some doctors may bulk bill some of your appointments for you.
Some tests can be bulk billed, check with your doctor or the lab if needed. Some other tests have a reduced fee when you go back for results too. Find out more here.
Go on the public waiting list as soon as possible, but be aware you may wait years depending on where you live, what treatment you need etc. When my daughters needed speech therapy it was a 2.5 year wait. I paid for private treatment for them and 3 years later I got a call to ask if I still wanted to be on the wait list with no idea of when I’d be able to get in still. That was Sydney. The wait list in Canberra was 6 months. Huge difference!
If you have to go private, shop around and ask for a discount. Most do not bulk bill, I found once I outlined my situation in 2015 (long-term paralysis, surgeries etc.) many waved or reduced their fees. The anesthetists dropped their fees from $900 to $0! Call before the surgery and ask.
Check extra payments or benefits you may be entitled to. With the speech therapy example, because my daughters had other specialists they needed to see as well, I was eligible for carers allowance for them which was just over $100 a fortnight then, and now $124.70 plus you might be eligible for 2 other payments at tax time ($1,000 and $600) which can help.
For physiotherapy and similar treatments, your GP might be able to put you on a plan which provides you a limited amount of treatments either bulk billed or at a reduced rate. Ask them. I know of plans for physiotherapy, speech therapy and psychology, but there are probably more!
Psychology and ATAPS I accessed ATAPS when going through my divorce and getting treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. It cannot be used with the Medicare option, but it has a lot of benefits. Find out more here.
5.) Glasses and contacts
I wear glasses and used to spend hundreds each time I needed to replace my glasses. Now I purchase mine from either Zenni Optical (get $5 off with this link) or Eye Buy Direct (get $10 off your first purchase with this link). I have done this for 7 years, had the prescription glasses checked by an optometrist and they were impressed. I am almost positive Zenni Optical is used by SpecSavers. Their frames for $99 or two for one deals etc are all in the Zenni range. Zenni has prescription glasses from $6.95 plus postage. You can upload a photo of yourself to get an idea of how you will look or try them on in SpecSavers then buy online instead.
What you need to do:
– Get your eyes tested.
– Try on different styles to see what suits your face.
– Ask for the prescription including your PD or pupillary distance. (I have heard some places, especially private ones do not give them to you, so ask before you get tested).
– Jump onto Zenni, upload an image of your face, set the little crosses to your pupils then go through and ‘try’ glasses on that you like. Pick the one you want to order, put your prescription details in and save those details in there to refer to later if you need new ones. Order and wait a few weeks.
I found the quality to be decent. I am more likely to lose my glasses than I am to have them break. In 7 years I have only had 1 pair break and they were not treated well by me and still lasted a few years.
PBS – Some medications come under the PBS and if you have a health care card (or pension card) you get these medications for a heavily reduced fee. This does not cover ALL medications though and the cost of essential medications can be difficult for many. Ask for the generic brand. There generally isn’t a difference except for the packaging. Unless your doctor is explicit about you needing the brand name, ask if generic is ok then get the cheaper option from your pharmacist.
Join reward clubs. Many pharmacies have loyalty programs you can join and collect points whenever you make a purchase which can be redeemed for money off future purchases.
Keep track of it. Make sure you get your scripts before they expire so you needn’t pay for an extra appointment or script from the doctor. Take your medication as instructed or it won’t be as effective.
7.) Educate yourself
Learn about your conditions, what helps and what makes it worse. Keep a diary to make notes for yourself as well. Use apps to track everything. For example, there are health apps to track everything you do, put in your symptoms when you have them etc. This helps doctors when you have to get treatment as you have a record and specific dates for your issues.
In my case, Guillain-Barré syndrome is an auto immune disorder so I went on the auto immune protocol diet. It helped a bit, but didn’t completely enable me to recover (however, a combination of other things did).
For some conditions, certain foods will cause issues. For other conditions, too much or too little movement can impact. Get to know your body, your conditions and what works for you.
For apps, I have the health app on my iPhone but also downloaded an app for periods (I have PCOS so this has helped know when things are wrong). I also have the Medicare app, my doctor has an app I use to book easily and I’ve used apps like My Fitness Pal to track everything.
8.) Watch what you eat
Alcohol, sugar, high acid food and most processed foods can aggravate many conditions, especially ones that have chronic pain involved. Do some research to find out which foods help and which foods make your condition worse.
Right now, I have found the keto or Low Carb High Fat diet has helped significantly.
9.) Stay hydrated
We underestimate the value of water and how it helps our bodies, helps us heal and reduces many issues. Our bodies are mainly water, if we don’t drink enough it cannot function properly. Drink at least 2 to 3 Litres a day. I like to keep bottles of water in the fridge and sip throughout the day.
10.) Try other options
For starters, most people go to the doctor for sniffles and coughs which are viruses and they expect antibiotics. Most of the time the doctor can’t give you anything and the appointment is a waste of money. Talk to your pharmacist and they can offer some suggestions or tell you if you need to see a doctor.
Call the health line on 1800 022 222 before going to your GP or the hospital, they can often advise what you should do.
Check out medical co ops which have a monthly or annual fee and provide medical care. A list of options can be found here.
Leave emergency or 000 for ACTUAL emergencies. I cannot stress this enough. Rarely, if ever, have I called 000. Even when blacking out from pain I didn’t want to but was advised to and I ended up with breathing issues, requiring injections and could not leave my home without paramedics, so it was the right call. However, if you are not dying, your condition is not life threatening, then do not call emergency. Use the health line, your GP or pharmacist. People die because emergency services are tied up dealing with non emergencies.
11.) Natural treatments
Do this under proper supervision. I have had more success with various natural treatments for ailments of mine compared to traditional medicine for simple issues like throat infections, minor pain, skin issues etc. More recently, I am now walking and not in daily pain after being told my condition was permanent. It wasn’t traditional medicine that helped.
For example, when I have a throat infection drinking a lot of water, having honey with lemon and ginger in hot water for a tea, crushed garlic in everything possible and getting plenty of rest works better than any medications I have used. If your throat is sore, stop talking! I know how hard that can be. I’m a single mum with 2 kids and speak professionally. However, whenever I have pushed myself, I end up making it worse, spreading it to my lungs and taking longer to heal.
Many conditions ease if you eat healthily, get light exercise, sleep well, rest etc. Plus, remember, prevention is always better than cure.
How do you get the money to pay for medical treatment?
If you have been struck down by illness or injury, the medical bills are one problem, the inability to work and pay for everything in life is usually another which adds to the stress making it next to impossible to get better.
1.) Check if you are eligible for Centrelink benefits
If you are going to be off work for a while, change your income status so your family tax benefit, rent assistance and other payments adjust.
Check what else you might be eligible for. Disability is notoriously hard to get and it might not be the right benefit for your situation, but you might be able to get Newstart with a medical exemption if you are partnered, they might be eligible for carers payment and allowance. You can find a list of Centrelink benefits with links to each one here. Also, check this part of the Centrelink website to see if there are any one off payments or assistance available to you.
2.) Private health insurance
I paid for private health insurance as soon as I became single purely because I wanted the peace of mind that if anything happened or we needed immediate treatment, I would get it. It has paid for itself plus provided me numerous benefits where the staff specifically said if I was a public patient it would not be happening.
One example of that is we ended up in emergency for my youngest daughter. They were reluctant to take us in despite my GP and health line both saying she needed to be there. They took me because I was a private patient. Once inside, after various tests, the doctor on call asked if I felt I could look after her in her condition at home. I knew there was something extremely wrong and he was dismissing me. I said no, I am a single mum and we cannot go home with her in this condition. They admitted us because I had private health insurance.
Next, my phone went flat and I didn’t know the phone numbers to call anyone to get my other daughter. I was told, if we were not private patients they would have called children’s services and taken my eldest until someone could be contacted. Instead, as we were private and had a private room, they brought in a recliner and we had a bench, so all 3 of us slept there.
In the morning I was able to get hold of family who picked up my eldest. A pediatrician came and my daughters condition was so severe she was kept in hospital for 3 days and advised to remain home from school for another 2 weeks with follow up appointments once we were discharged.
It sucks, but sometimes, you get further with private health insurance than you do public. If we had been sent home, I hate to think what could have happened to my daughter.
If you already need the assistance, private health insurance probably isn’t going to help. If you have it, check what you can claim and what assistance you can get. Compare to ensure you are on the best deal and that you are covered for what you need. Many private health insurance extras aren’t worth it. Hospital or ambulance can be, especially if you have medical issues or are not eligible for a pension/low income card.
3.) Find alternative ways to make money
A job is not the only way to make money. If you have a condition like I did, where some days the pain is so excruciating you cannot do anything, or where you are paralysed or mental conditions where some days getting out of bed is a struggle, your earning potential is severely limited and most people will not understand. I do and there are options. Aside from Centrelink benefits, it can be difficult to find other ways to make money. I have 51 ways to make money from home in a free eBook here (and feel free to share that eBook with anyone and everyone!)
You can also try options like:
Online surveys – the best ones I have used are here.
Become a freelance writer (tips on how to do that here) or a virtual assistant (tips on that here).
Buy stuff to resell (I made almost $9,000 one month doing that).
Mystery shopping (tips in this article) or market research (tips here) are two options which provide money occasionally.
Also check out ways to make money while living on Centrelink.
How do you afford medical care when living on Centrelink?
It’s no secret my life has been rocky over the past few years with domestic violence, homelessness, health issues and being a single parent.
What I have kept secret is that the past few months have been less than ideal. I don’t want to go into full details about all of it but it has rocked me and been a lot to process. I am terrible at asking for help. I like being the strong person in the room, the one who has overcome my obstacles and can help everyone else with whatever they need. Unfortunately, we can’t be that person all the time. Life throws curveballs and recently, it felt like my world was falling apart again but I have an amazing support network and somehow always manage to have the right people come into my life at the right time.
I have learnt so many lessons over the past few years, especially some coping strategies for when life doesn’t go as planned, as well as things to do to get back on track.
1.) Ask for help
I am hopeless at this. I keep everything inside until I am at breaking point. I struggle to ask, yet whenever I do I am inundated with the help I need.
Be clear about what help you need, be open to offers, trust your gut about who is offering the help and why (while most people are genuine, there are some who help because they want something in return) and be someone who helps others where possible.
Reach out to your community and ask for help.
I harp on about this a lot because it makes such a huge difference. With my current circumstances, I have found a few lessons I can be grateful for and the generosity of total strangers and my close family brought me to tears. No matter what the circumstances are, there is always something you can learn/an opportunity you can find or something good that can come from it.
3.) Take care of yourself
Another element I have not always been fantastic at and as a result, I have ended up in the hospital twice because I was paralysed in excruciating pain. And by excruciating, I mean, if you check the pain scale doctors use an 8 is childbirth, at 10 you pass out not because of blood loss but because the pain is so intense. Very few people ever experience this level of pain. I hit a 10 due to pain in my spine, I lost the function of my legs, went numb and battled to get better. I have had a cancer scare, struggled with mental health issues at some points in my life, my weight has gone up and down, the list goes on.
Often, when life is hard, we put ourselves last and everything else becomes harder, we get more stressed and end up taking longer to get back on our feet.
Take care of yourself by:
– Eating healthy. Don’t succumb to take away or junk food. Eat nutritious food and make sure you eat properly.
– Drink enough water. When you are dehydrated your body suffers and your mind can’t think as clearly. Drinking 2L or more a day will have a huge impact on your body and mind.
– Look and feel good. Get showered, get dressed fully, wear nice underwear, do your hair and makeup. These things might seem superficial, but so many people neglect this when they get stressed or depressed. Take care of yourself and how you look, it will give you a boost of confidence.
– Do something you love. Do a dance class, go out to dinner, hang out with friends, continue your hobby, read a book, whatever it is, do something you love!
4.) Pick an affirmation or quote
When I was homeless, robbed, broke and had left my abusive marriage, there were 3 quotes which helped me cope:
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ Carl Jung
“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” ~ I can’t find the specific source, it was anon for me.
“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” ~ Seneca
I often repeated these to myself, especially the first one. My life and how it turns out is up to me. I am what I choose to become, what is happening in my life does not define me.
Find some quotes or affirmations that speak to you.
5.) Boost your confidence
When things aren’t going right, our confidence and sense of self-worth takes a hit. Think about what gives you a confidence boost and do it. If you need some ideas check out 20 ways to increase your confidence.
6.) Be Proactive
What can you do to take control of the situation and improve your life instead of letting your current situation control you? Work out a plan of action then follow through with it. You may need to tweak it as you go along but if you do nothing, things will either get worse or not change at all. Neither of those are good options. You can make the change you need.
What tips would you add?
One of the ways I have made money in the past few years has been through freelance writing. Freelance writing enabled me to earn money from home, rebuild my life and be there for my kids. Plus, I made more money writing in 1 hour than I would in a job. In this article I share some of my tips, plus a discount on my favourite writing course with a great Facebook group – Earn More Writing – 20% off until Mothers Day with the code SPRING2017
So how do you make money writing?
You can make money writing being a journalist, writing copy for ads, writing your own books, writing articles for other websites and more. The bulk of my writing came at first as articles and a book then it switched to be more advertising writing.
I started with blogging. I created a finance blog and started writing about my goals including ways to make and save money. I look back at my early work and cringe. I had no experience, no qualifications, hadn’t taken any courses and have since deleted many articles from my early days.
The more I wrote the better I got.
Then I was asked to write a book. Wiley, a publishing house, saw one of my articles and asked me to turn it into a book. This process taught me a lot about writing and I appreciated it (along with the advance and my book in bookstores), however, 6 years on I have changed, my writing has improved and I would do things differently.
Once the book was published, I started doing freelance writing. I could not find anything at the time on what rates I should charge, where to look for work (outside the work that was coming to me), professional networks or anything. I made ok money and hobbled along with the few regular gigs I had.
A few years later I finally had it down. I knew what my areas of expertise were, my writing style improved drastically, I worked out how to charge and what I wanted to do with writing.
What I wish I knew
Years, it took me years to work out how to make decent money writing. I wish I had a course at the very beginning like Holly’s. In the years since I started writing, I have taken various courses. I view them as an investment in myself and a shortcut. Instead of taking years to learn things myself, hours every week making mistakes, researching and struggling, I now select a course, do it and implement it into my business, thus saving me so much time and money as well as enabling me to make money faster.
When I started, I would have loved someone to say to me – here is where to get your dream clients, how to establish yourself as a blog and brand and basically everything you need to know.
Earn More Writing has 8 modules covering:
How to Establish a Blog and Brand
How to Build Your Portfolio and Pitch Clients
Defending Your Workday
Making the Transition from Broke Writing to Rich Writing
Finding (and Keeping) Your Dream Clients
Get More Work by Making Editors Happy
Taking Your Income into the Stratosphere
Get Rich Ghostwriting for CEOs (Standard & Pro Only)
Plus other bonuses and a great group.
Get it for 20% off only until Monday May 15th with code SPRING2017
Ever had someone tell you to cheer up, it’s not that bad? Or tell you so many other people have it worse, you should be happy/grateful?
We all have trials, whether they are big or small, the obstacles in our life can seem impossible and being told to cheer up or someone has it worse doesn’t help.
I have faced numerous obstacles in my life including domestic violence, homelessness as a single mother, parenting special needs kids, robbery of everything including my underwear, rape, Borderline Personality disorder, paralysis, a cancer scare and multiple surgeries, all within a few years (2012 to 2015). Yet, I have also turned those obstacles into opportunities and founded a company, became an international keynote speaker, won multiple awards including 3 Plutus awards and was a finalist for Young Australian of the Year. My obstacles turned my life around and one of the main reasons I was able to do that is gratitude. It’s on of the 10 tips and resources I used to go from homeless to CEO. You can download a free eBook with all 10 here.
Disclaimer: before we get into it, I have had mental health issues in my life and take mental health seriously. If you are depressed, have anxiety or feel you need help with your mental health, an attitude of gratitude is great BUT please see a doctor, speak to someone, use support lines if you need such as LifeLine on 13 11 14. I had a psychologist treat me for Borderline Personality disorder and there is no shame in getting help if you need it. Gratitude was one of the things that helped me a lot.
How can you be grateful when everything is falling apart?
Learning to be grateful in dire situations takes practice. Back in 2012, after leaving my abusive husband I was robbed of everything including my underwear. I was devastated. I felt violated, alone and scared. That night, before the police arrived I sat down and wrote why I could be grateful and looked for opportunities in the situation. You can find what I wrote on that night here.
I included things like we weren’t home, I have insurance, it was just stuff that was taken and I was grateful to have a clean slate as everything I owned which was stolen had connections to my marriage. Now I had nothing.
It didn’t change the situation but it changed how I felt.
If you are facing a bad situation, ask yourself:
– What are the positives that can come from this?
– What lesson do I need to learn from this?
– How can I turn this into an opportunity?
It didn’t change the fact I had been robbed. It did change how I felt about the situation. By choosing to be grateful and look for positives I was taking control of the situation and owning my experience instead of letting it control me.
How do you get into the habit of practising gratitude?
Being grateful, looking for opportunities and lessons in whatever situation you are facing is not going to be an automatic reaction overnight, it takes practice.
1.) Keep a gratitude diary
Make a daily habit of writing down at least 3 things you are grateful for every day. I had a gratitude diary I used for this purpose, but you could start each night with writing in your journal 3 things you are grateful for then documenting anything else you want.
2.) Ask yourself questions
Put the questions above (what are the positives that can come from this? What lesson do I need to learn from this? How can I turn this into an opportunity), in a note on your phone to refer to when needed. When something is happening and you need help, look at it, ask yourself those questions and write down your answers.
3.) Have positive discussions
When you talk with other people, instead of listing out all your problems or complaining about everything, discuss the good things in your life or if you do need to talk to someone about your problems, look for solutions as you do it. We all need someone to talk to and I am not saying don’t ask for help. Talk with whoever you need, look for solutions or ask them to help you look for solutions then take action. Don’t dwell on the negative.
Studies have shown the positive effects gratitude has on our health, career, relationships and life overall. In my life, when I have been consciously practising an attitude of gratitude, I have found it easier to find solutions to my problems, my personal life improves, I secure higher paying clients and get better work opportunities and more. My brain actively seeks out the solutions I want to the problems I face instead of focusing on the problem. As a result, my life improves.
When I am not focused on gratitude and I allow negative thoughts to consume me, I spiral down, things in my life don’t go the way I want/need and I find it difficult to dig myself out of the dark hole I end up in.
Do you practice an attitude of gratitude? What are you grateful for today?
*An attitude of gratitude should not be used to replace medication, your GP or specialist. If you feel the need to talk to someone or get further help make sure you reach out to places such as LifeLine (13 11 14) or BeyondBlue (1300 224 636) or make an appointment to see your doctor and get whatever help you need.
I get asked all the time how I did it. How did I go from homeless, single mother because of domestic violence to multiple international award-winning CEO?
It was not easy, there were many steps involved, it took time but I was determined. I have put together this guide which includes everything from attitude and mindset, ways to make money, budgeting, goal setting and more with links, resources, books I loved and anyone at any stage of their life can apply these tips to their life.
Dealing with Centrelink was possibly one of the hardest things I had to do in my life. When you get to the point where you need help from them you probably already have a number of stresses in your life such as job loss, relationship breakdown, health issues (physical or mental). It literally pushed me to the brink of suicide and I know I am not alone in those thoughts. If you have never had to deal with Centrelink, especially at a time of crisis, you won’t understand. It is not an easy process, many genuine claims get denied, over 20% of debts being issued are incorrect plus you usually wait on the phone over 1 hour if you’re lucky. You might also be cut off, or not be able to get through at all.
That sounds all doom and gloom. I’m not going to tell you I have a magic solution to make dealing with them easier. I do have some tips to make things go smoother, possibly get sorted sooner and have ample proof of what you have done so if you need to prove you don’t owe them money or that they were supposed to do something, you can and you can take it further if needed.
1.) Get a Centrelink notebook or file
Buy a notebook or create a file on your phone to record EVERYTHING you do with Centrelink. Every phone call including the time you rang, how long you are on hold, who you spoke to, what was discussed, the receipt/record number and how long the whole phone call from when you called to when you hung up was.
Do the same for every time you have to go into the office or deal with their employment agencies or they send you mail. Any contact with them, document it. My preference and recommendation is to upload everything to a DropBox folder (www.dropbox.com) it is free for up to 2G of storage.
So, document everything yourself, plus for anything they send you if it is sent through MyGov, download it and upload a copy to your Dropbox folder, plus if you want a hard copy, print one.
It might seem like overkill but I had them lose my divorce certificate 3 times, at one point they tried to tell me my second daughter was not mine (despite her being a few years old and registered since birth!) plus they lost numerous other forms I handed in. Cover yourself and document everything!
If you are uploading documents to MyGov or anything similar, you can screen record yourself doing it. This way, if it crashes or later doesn’t show up even through you uploaded it, you have proof you did it. If you have a Mac you can use QuickTimePlayer, click on File then select New Screen Recording and click to record. Upload this to your DropBox folder and keep a copy on your computer. Alternatively, you can use VLC which many computers come with.
2.) Dealing with Centrelink via phone
Try to remain calm. I know, it is next to impossible. However, Centrelink staff are people. They are also dealing with an outdated system which is so large and the call centre staff often aren’t experienced in what you need help with. The whole system needs an overhaul and they need better training. As with all government departments (in my experience), they don’t spend the money or fix things like this which would actually help, they spend it elsewhere, but that is a whole different article! Your anger/frustration should be at Centrelink/the government, not the person on the other end of the phone (despite how incompetent they may seem to you, it could be their first day).
As hard as it is, try to remain calm. Speak in an even tone (a happy one if you can muster it, I always got more help and even had staff call me back to help, which they technically weren’t supposed to do when I was cheerful and extremely grateful. It was not easy!)
If you have to call them, take a deep breath. Write down what you need to ask on a piece of paper so you have it in front of you. Take notes if you need to while speaking to them (for example, if you think of a question but need to hear the rest of whatever they are saying first and you don’t want to forget the question, scribble it quickly on paper and ask them to repeat anything you missed if you need).
Thank them for their help in a nice tone, even if you don’t feel like it. Be polite and appreciative even if you feel like you want to punch the phone, yell or scream. To be clear, while I tried to be positive and polite, I was not 100% successful at doing it but when I was, I got more help and things got sorted. In fact, they became super helpful and went out of their way to get back to me or assist as much as possible.
Here is how I did phone calls with Centrelink:
– Wrote down the questions I had/information I needed
– Called first thing in the morning as the wait time was not as long (in theory!)
– Took a deep breath
– When I called, I put my phone on speaker and had tasks I could complete while waiting (because we all know it will be at least an hour, if not 2 before you get through). This included folding clothes, ironing, cleaning the kitchen, responding to emails, applying for jobs etc. Anything that did not require noise so I could hear my phone when someone picked up.
– Be polite and upbeat if possible. I generally said something along the lines of “Hi xyz (whatever their name was), thanks so much for answering, you must be having a full on day! (or something similar, basically acknowledging their job can be hard and you sympathise with them).
Next, say “I was just wondering if you could please help me with ……?” (and ask your question). Be polite, ask them to repeat parts you don’t quite understand, speak calmly and slowly if you need to and ask them to slow down if you need.
Once you have the information you need, thank them for their time and get the receipt number for you personal records (more on keeping records in a minute). I often said “Oh, thanks so much, you really helped. Have a great day!” or similar. If they couldn’t help, ask to be transferred to someone else (again, do it politely, don’t demand and yell). Repeat the process until you get the information and help you need.
Once the call has finished, save all the details in a document and upload it to a dropbox folder so it is all in one place.
The wording is gushy but if said genuinely, they respond so much better than when we are frustrated. I used to try to get myself in a good headspace, not angry, tried to remind myself they are people and their job is hard, they are not doing the wrong thing, the government/Centrelink are the problem, not the person I am talking to.
2.) In Office
I dreaded going into the office. It was often busy, understaffed and half the time I got referred to the phones or self-service. My local office lost my paperwork 3 times so I ended up going to an office which was further away but they were way more helpful and got things processed.
Do not let this discourage you. Take a deep breath, remain calm and the staff are usually more helpful.
Before you go, be prepared. Have your details ready – any forms you need completed, have them ready. Have your reference number out or memorised and any extra paperwork your forms might need such as id, pay slips etc. I also packed a drink bottle, snack and something to do such as a book to read or my phone.
I found as soon as they opened was the best time to go. I arranged for someone else to take my kids to school and got in there immediately so I was one of the first in line. If you have a specific appointment, get there before the appointment time to make sure you don’t miss it.
If you are handing paperwork in, you might be able to do it immediately instead of having to speak to someone at a desk. Be clear about what you are there for and the first staff member can usually assist a little. This could save you a lot of time.
While you are waiting, if you have to go to the bathroom or anything, let them know and be as quick as possible. Be patient, listen for your name try to keep yourself occupied.
When you get to speak to someone at a desk, be clear, calm, polite and cooperative. From my experience, they are as frustrated as you with the system and quite limited with what they can do. Again, ask if you can record it. Document everything, take notes while you are there, get a receipt number for your records and note down the time and date you were there, what was said etc.
The Centrelink debt issues at the moment are a mess. 20% of the people who have been hit with debt do not owe it. That is a ridiculously high number. 1% is too many, but 20% is over the top and needs to be addressed!
If you get lumped with a Centrelink debt, first check your records to see if you do owe money or not. Next, ask them for all documentation on it and check it thoroughly.
If you do not owe the money, you can dispute it. They say it takes a few weeks, in my experience (which was before this debt fiasco) it took months, but eventually, it was sorted and I was back paid. It took a lot of back and forth, proof their records were wrong, proof I had provided accurate information and in the end, what got it reviewed is when I said I was going to the ombudsmen because dealing with them had made me suicidal. It should never, ever get to that point, but for many it does. You are dealing with them when you need help the most and debt can be the straw that breaks the camels back especially when you don’t actually owe money!
When dealing with them, be clear, be polite and know how much you can afford to repay if it ends up being you do have to repay because you were overpaid. Do not commit to more than you can afford, they have to take your circumstances into account. It is usually direct debited from your payments so you do not need to think about when or how to pay. They try to push for higher amounts to get it paid quicker. Do not agree to this. State what you can afford and they will eventually agree.
It is easy to get overpaid, for example, if you don’t notify them your circumstances changed such as how much rent you are paying if you got someone renting a room from you, if you partnered etc. Tell them asap everything so your payments can be adjusted accordingly. Keep accurate records of what you tell them and make sure your payments are updated so you do not get overpaid.
However, as I said, if you are one of the 20% lumped with debt you don’t owe, fight it!
5.) Report correctly
It is up to you to make sure you report everything correctly to accurately reflect your relationship status, how many kids you have, any employment or payments etc. Once you have lodged your forms, check to make sure the right information has been added to your file. I have lost count of the number of times my paperwork was put into the system inaccurately and I had to chase it up, get it changed and had the proof they put it in wrong as I had copies of the original forms.
6.) Keep accurate records yourself
Any form you have to give Centrelink, keep a copy for yourself. As mentioned above, keep a notebook or file on all interactions with Centrelink, all forms, all conversations and get record numbers for everything you do. This will help you immensely should anything bad happen and you need to dispute anything with them.
It is a lot of work keeping all the records, it will benefit you in the long run.
If you have issues with them which are not resolved and you have pushed for reviews, gone through the process and things are still not done correctly, you can report them to the ombudsmen here. It might seem useless and it will take a long time, but they have to respond and do something about it.
What tips do you have for dealing with Centrelink?
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It can be extremely difficult to work out exactly what Centrelink benefits you are entitled to, plus the other payments and assistance available such as rent assistance, health care or pension card, one-off supplements, no interest loans, payments for children and more. Here I have attempted to compile a list of the most common Centrelink payments and extras. Read through all of them as you never know which ones will apply to you and in some cases, you may be eligible for small annual supplements on top of your fortnightly payments.
To compare rates, you can use the Centrelink Rate Estimator as a guide and as a way to compare your circumstances. It is not definitive but definitely helps. Alternatively, there is the payment finder which steps you through questions to find out what you are eligible for.
Depending on your circumstances, for example, if you are leaving family and domestic violence, you may be entitled to a crisis payment.
General ‘pensions’ or income payments from Centrelink
Here are the main fortnightly benefits or income supplements/pensions I found on the Centrelink site. Each link has extra resources and possible payments at the bottom of it:
Age Pension: applies if you are 65 years or older plus are below the income and asset limits. If you are eligible for this you may also be eligible for the Age Pension Loan Scheme and other payments (see further down) such as rent assistance, mobility assistance, a seniors or Commonwealth seniors card and more.
Widow Allowance: for women born on or before 1 July, 1955 and have become widowed, divorced or separated after the age of 40 with no recent work experience and meet the income/asset requirements.
Disability Support Pension: is notoriously hard to get. It is for those age 16+ who meet requirements.
Sickness Allowance: is a temporary payment for those unable to work due to medical issues for a period of time between the ages of 22 and 65.
ABStudy: is a payment for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians who are enrolled in an approved course or undertaking an Australian Apprenticeship and not receiving other income support payments.
Austudy: for Australians aged 25+ who are studying.
Parenting Payment: can be paid to either partnered or single couples, depending on income and age of children.
NewStart: is payable to job seekers between the ages of 22 and 65, provided you meet certain requirements.
Parental Leave Pay: is financial support for up to 18 weeks to help working parents care for a newborn or recently adopted child.
Youth Allowance: is for 16 to 24-year-olds who are full-time students or apprentices, looking for work or sick.
Carer Payment: is paid to those caring for someone who is disabled. There are numerous other payments you may be eligible for here.
Remote or rural payments: if you are remote you may be eligible for Remote Area Allowance and if you have children might be eligible for the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme if your child cannot attend school because of geographical isolation, disability or special needs. There are also payments for farmers and more assistance here.
Double Orphan Payment: helps with the costs of caring for orphaned children or children who are unable to be cared for by their parents.
Help for Visa holders: if you are in Australia on a visa, there are some payments available to you.
Supplements, one off payments and other benefits from Centrelink
Aside from the standard ‘pensions’, as in single or partnered parenting payment, carers payment, age pension, disability, Newstart etc, there are numerous other benefits you may be eligible for.
Rent assistance: if you rent or pay board, you may be eligible for a fortnightly payment to help with the cost of renting. If you own your own home, no assistance is available.
Family Tax Benefit: if you have children in your care you may be eligible for Family Tax Benefit A and Family Tax Benefit B.
Child Care Rebate and Benefit: these payments help with the cost of childcare and have limits, but can help significantly reduce the cost.
JET: is extra assistance for child care depending on your circumstances.
Carers Allowance: if you care for someone with higher needs, you may be eligible for the $124.70 fortnightly payment. For example, my daughters were diagnosed with an extreme learning disorder requiring a speech therapist and other treatment. I had to get their GP and 2 specialists (speech therapist and paediatrician) to fill in the forms then the payment was approved. It is not means tested.
Carers supplement: if you get the Carers Payment, Carers Allowance, Wife Pension, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Partner Service Pension with Carer Allowance or Department of Veterans’ Affairs Carer Service Pension, you may be eligible for a payment of up to $600 paid in July each year.
Low income family supplement: an annual $300 for eligible households.
Education Entry Payment: if you are on certain payments and start an approved course. The amount is $208, paid once a year.
Mobility Allowance: for those on disability, under certain circumstances.
Dad and Partner Pay: 2 weeks pay for dads or partners caring for a newborn or recently adopted child.
New Born Upfront Payment and NewBorn Supplement: this varies depending on your income and circumstances when you have a new born.
Pension Supplement: is paid to those on certain income support payments. It is between $35 and $65.10, depending on your circumstances.
Pensioner Concession Card/Health Care Card/Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: there are various cards which provide benefits depending on which payment you are on. A pension card offers the most discounts with things like registration, travel, electricity and more discounted or free, while a health care card often only offers reduced health care/medication. Check this post for a complete list of everything I know of you can be eligible for in terms of discounts and freebies. Not all apply to every card, it is worth asking each provider though and seeing if you are eligible. The post is a few years old and is being updated soon.
Student Start Up Loan: this loan is an interest-free loan for studying and you can get $1,035 twice a year, which must be repaid.
Child Dental Benefits: $1000 in dental assistance, under certain circumstances and for specific dental work like check-ups.
Continence Aids Payment: for anyone over 5 years of age with bowel and continence issues, under specific circumstances.
Stillborn Baby Payment: if you have a stillborn baby and earn under $60,000 you may be eligible.
Fares Allowance: a payment to help tertiary students travel to and from school.
Child Disability Assistance: an annual payment of up to $1,000 for each child in your care with a disability.
Catastrophic event/trauma/illness of a child under 7: if something happens such as a car accident, poisoning, cancer diagnosis etc. You may be eligible for up to $10,000.
Cleft lip or cleft palate: you may be eligible for assistance until you turn 28.
Energy Supplement: is paid automatically if you get an income payment, family tax benefit or are on a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
External Breast Prostheses Reimbursement Program: if you are a woman who has had breast surgery you may be eligible for reimbursement.
Pharmaceutical Allowance: is paid with your regular income allowance.
Telephone Allowance: is paid quarterly to those receiving certain payments.
Utilities Allowance: applicable to those on disability support pension (and under 21 years old), partner allowance or widow allowance, it is paid automatically each quarter.
If I have missed any Centrelink payments, let me know. Each situation is different, this is designed as a guide to inform you of payments, supplements or extra assistance you might be eligible for and was correct at the time of being posted. As things change I will endeavour to update this page.
It’s my goal to help at least 1,000,000 Australians survive, thrive and where possible, get off Centrelink. I’ll be sharing weekly posts, as many resources as I can, plus the exact things I did to go from homeless on Centrelink as a single mum to multiple international award winning CEO, speaker, author and charity ambassador. If you’d like a monthly update with resources and tips around Centrelink and rebuilding your life, sign up to this newsletter.
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Centrelink Tips – all the articles and resource I have to survive on Centrelink, make extra money and more.
I had the privilege of chatting with Bek from Unashamedly Creative, through her group Freelance Jungle (which you should join if you are a freelancer!). We discussed knowing and charging your worth, how I did it going from homeless to CEO, but surprisingly we also covered mental health as a freelancer and how depression has impacted my business.
It was a live interview, so I may have waffled in some parts, but you can check the recording out for yourself here. Also, I personally want to thank all those who asked questions, especially Mark. He asked some pretty brave stuff, especially about depression at the end of the recording and I am so grateful he did because mental health needs more awareness and the stigma needs to go. I am totally open in my response, how even as recently as 6 months ago I saw a psychologist and do whenever I feel the need, how I have been suicidal, right down to having the details planned a few years ago.
I do a lot of interviews, I talk a lot about my experience, but this interview is possibly one of my favourites, ever. It covers my love of creating a lifestyle for yourself, charging your worth, tips to back yourself, run your freelance business as well as domestic violence, homelessness and especially mental health.
Some of the key points, in my opinion, are below:
Why I got into freelancing
I left an abusive marriage, ended up homeless with my daughters, both of whom had learning disorders requiring extensive (and expensive) treatment. I fell into freelancing because a 9 to 5 job wasn’t possible in my situation. I had to support my daughters and myself. Freelancing provided flexible options both financially and with my lifestyle. This enabled me to afford the treatment for my daughters along with be there to provide extra assistance as needed and now they are above average when the original prognosis was they’d need help with tutoring etc for life.
Freelancing also enabled me to leave an abusive relationship and start over. It’s given me the lifestyle I love, I met my partner because of it and while it has it’s ups and downs, I can’t imagine ever not freelancing in some way, shape or form.
Where does my drive and motivation come from?
My daughters have been my motivation and the desire to improve our lives as well as ensure no one else goes through what we did are my drive for everything I do.
How do you price freelancing work?
I did research and checked what the going rates in my industry were then charged accordingly. I have more information on charging as a freelancer here.
I also shared a little formula to work out your ‘hourly’ rate. I cannot remember where I originally saw it and this isn’t verbatim, but you get the idea.
1.) Work out how much you want to earn a year. E.g. $100,000.
2.) Add superannuation, tax, business expenses such as site hosting, insurance, design, advertising, courses and events you want to participate in, self-care etc. This likely brings your $100,000 up to $150,000.
3.) Work out how many days you will be working, it’s not 365! Start with the 365 days in a year. Remove weekends (104 days), public holidays (11 in Australia), holidays (20 days if going for the 4-week standard) and sick leave (10 days is standard, however, all more if needed). This brings you down to 220 days.
4.) Work out how many hours a day you can actually work. Most mums I know have school hours only, this means 5.5 hours max (after school drop off and pick up) or 1,210 hours a year for the 220 days they can work.
5.) Divide $150,000 by 1,210 hours and you get $123.96 per hour. Let’s round that up to $125
6.) Charge accordingly! If you charge $200 for an article which takes you 1 hour to write, you are in front and that is great. If you are charging $200 for an article which takes you 3 hours to write, you are behind. However, if your goal is less or you can work more hours this changes.
Don’t charge hourly!
While I have just stepped you through a formula to charge hourly, I don’t recommend charging hourly. I create tailored packages which take into account how long I think it will take, cost of outsourcing aspects of a project if needed and a buffer in case things go wrong. On the odd occasion, I charge hourly and the above exercise is great for knowing what you need to be earning per day, per project etc.
How do you get over mental blocks of charging what you are worth and clients objections?
The capacity to charge what you are worth comes down to confidence (as well as skills, qualifications and experience to back it up). Work out why you lack confidence then formulate ways to increase your confidence levels. I have 20 tips for confidence here. One of my favourites is the superhero pose. If I am about to send a quote I feel nervous about, I stand tall, legs apart, hands on hips, shoulders back, take a few deep breaths, remind myself I am worth it then hit send. These body movements send confidence signals to my brain, automatically increasing confidence.
Next, if they want to work with you, they will pay your rates. Do not apologise, say sorry or use the word just. Be factual, back yourself and be clear on what you will and won’t do.
RUN!!!! If your gut is screaming at you that a client will be painful (especially if they want a discount/won’t pay your rates), run like the wind! Hightail it out of there. You are worth more!
What if you have a lean month and are super tempted to take lower rates?
I’ve been there. I was homeless, remember? You don’t get leaner than that! I have found every time I discounted my rates, I was not valued and the client was more work than they were worth.
Start saving asap. Take a percentage from each client and put it straight into savings. This way, when you have a lean month, you have savings to back yourself.
Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. I have found (and read in numerous psychology/human behaviour books), about how our mind works, the conscious with the subconscious. If you have a scarcity mindset and are fearful of not getting more income, your mind will only look for low income and will create what you fear. If you have an abundance mindset, telling yourself you have more than enough, your mind looks for better opportunities. This doesn’t mean you won’t get pitched crap, you will. You will be of the mindset you don’t need it and open yourself to what you really want.
Also, keep in mind, if you take on the lean clients, then when you get pitched a good client, you may not have the capacity to take on the work you truly deserve and get the income you want.
If you have a lean month, take care of the clients you have. Hustle like crazy, pitch everywhere possible, network, get involved in groups and provide value (don’t just pitch yourself), go to events, pitch online to anywhere you hear of or find looking for freelancers. If you have 5 hours a day and no clients, you have 5 hours to pitch! Be proactive when times are lean and focus on your goals.
There is so much more
We covered tips on leaving an abusive/unhealthy relationship. I have how to get the money to leave an abusive relationship here.
We discuss mental health, I share some of my Borderline Personality Disorder experience and what helps here.
I have articles on domestic violence (the scourge we are enabling covers a chunk of my personal experience, how to rebuild after leaving an abusive relationship and more on homelessness here.
I have business and marketing resources here.
I am open about my experiences in all areas of my life from mental health through to business, so feel free to ask me anything either in the comments below or via email (admin @ kylietravers.com.au) or via social (Facebook is the best platform to reach me).
I also offer one on one mentoring, do freelance writing, speaking at events and for groups, plus more if you want any of those services too. You can find them on my homepage or in the menu.
“Your doctor needs you to come in immediately about your blood test results.” – My doctors office.
This post focuses on changes I have made or am making in my life regarding health. I have had significant health scares in the past 18 months and major changes is happening. Due to the nature of what I do, I have had the fortune of being gifted some of the things needed to make these changes. Before being gifted them I was already researching and had made some selections. I mention specific products and my thoughts because these are what I am using. All opinions are my own.
As soon as I published a post on self-care the other day my doctors office called me to come in immediately about blood test results which it turned out had tested positive for blood clots. I was immediately sent for a CT scan because other health issues indicated the clots were in my lungs.
In the past 18 months I have had:
– Paralysis issues and they still don’t know why, it has been suggested I had Guillain-Barré syndrome, but not confirmed. I do have a bulged disc from when I was 15 and disc degeneration too.
– Cancer scare, specifically the cancer my mother died from. I now have annual surgery for this because I have a rare and controversial condition. Some medical experts say it’s classed as cancer, others do not. Either way, current treatment is surgery.
Female health issues which I won’t go too much into this as it has been ongoing for months and I see a specialist next month about it.
Allergic reactions to everything. About 5 weeks ago I started to get itchy on my arms and legs, it spread across my stomach but oddly has not effected anywhere underwear sits or my face. It got so itchy I felt like I wanted to rip my skin off. After 2 weeks of this, I developed some red dots down my arms, not raised or anything so I went to the dr. I was given cream and antihistamines. After 2 weeks I was still itchy, the red dots come and go, never being too severe or obvious, but I had issues breathing now to the point where if my breathing got heavier I would have a coughing fit and pain in my lungs. I assumed they were connected to allergies, my blood tests showed blood clot issues (hence the beginning of this post and the CT scan for clots in my lungs.)
Blood issues including being diagnosed with neutropenia (my body doesn’t create enough neutrophils, the white blood cells which fight infection) and yesterday blood clot issues. Good news = no lung clots. Bad news, my blood is messed up and they don’t know why.
Important steps for health
I know I have neglected many areas of my health and I know that part of how unhealthy I am is because of stress. I have worked to sell some parts of the company and reduce my workload this year. I’ve focused on getting financially healthy and reduced stress in some areas of my life. However, without facing my fears, anxiety and stress remains. In order to heal myself, we have made some changes in our home and I am working on the rest. I know what I need to do, I don’t always implement it and that is the issue for me. As with other goals, I have had the most success when I put it out there like this. So here is what I know needs to be done for a healthy body.
1.) Sleep in a bedroom that is an oasis
Until recently, I have been sleeping on a terrible mattress. We moved into a furnished apartment and the mattress is clearly the cheapest thing they could get. We tried mattress toppers for a while, but neither of us were sleeping well. A little over a month ago I was asked to try a new mattress and it has done wonders! My sleep isn’t perfect yet, part of that is due to other health issues, not the mattress. My sleeo has improved drastically though and both our bodies feel significantly better sleeping on a supportive mattress. I have the
I have the iGravity by Sensus from BedsOnline. It’s $999 delivered and it’s the best mattress I have ever had. I’ll do a full post on it properly later, but in a nutshell, because of my previous back issues my chiropractor recommended certain things in a mattress and when I sleep on a mattress that doesn’t have full support I end up in pain. The iGravity has firm support without being stiff as a board (which is how my partners mattress felt when we moved in together) and I highly recommend it.
We were already shopping around for a mattress and had tried quite a few. I have previously had a chiropractic mattress worth $5,000, however I prefer the iGravity to that one and it is one fifth of the price.
Plus, for me, since we couldn’t get rid of the previous mattress due to it being part of the furnishing for the apartment and not owned by us, we had to put my new iGravity mattress on top of the old one and it’s like sleeping on a high princess bed every night! My partner prefers to call it a fort bed. In my head, it’s a princess bed. My kids have said they want the exact same bed when they grow up!
I cannot wait until we are rid of the old mattress though and have only the iGravity on the bed. It will be the ideal height for me.
Aside from the perfect mattress, I have also got a bedspread I love (not pictured, I just bought it), threw out stuff we weren’t using, added a scent I like and have made it a room we can relax in. I am banning myself from working in there too. My bedroom needs to be an oasis for sleep.
2.) Throw away the scales
I have written about the 4-hour body and why weight is irrelevant because at 78kgs I have been a size 10 and a size 14. Even being similar weight and dress sizes my body shape has been different. Yet, when I step on the scales, if I have put on weight I feel awful. It’s completely psychological and often the weight fluctuation coincides with my period or it’s water weight and a few days later I am back to normal.
Instead of focusing on weight, I am focusing on fat percentage. I had a DEXA scan recently and will have another in March. A DEXA scan measures the fat percentage in your body and gives a more accurate account of your body compared to jumping on the scales.
The scales need to go. I started the year at 76.2kgs, my weight has gone up and down all year and I am sick of it. Health is my focus. Even with the weight fluctuations and weighing in at 81.6kg this morning, my actual body shape is better than before.
To be specific about my ‘size’ to compare properly later:
Fat percentage: 33.08%
Dress size: 12 (one average). This really depends on brands, summer vs winter lines etc. For example in JeansWest winter jeans I am 12, in their summer jeans, I am a 10. Cue clothing I am between a 12 to 14. Right now, I am going to say I am a 12.
3.) Regular exercise
With my lung issues, I am limited to certain exercises like swimming, gentle yoga etc. Prior to that I had started a simple gym routine which was making a difference.
For the next few weeks, I am away in Vietnam. Once I am back in Melbourne it will be swimming 3 times a week and yoga 3 times a week, minimum. As my health improves and my doctor gives the ok, I will go back to the gym routine I had which included cardio and weights.
4.) Reduce alcohol
I was raised Mormon and for a while after the church I didn’t drink. My partner likes to drink and my alcohol consumption has definitely increased. In general, I rarely drink. My drinking is low enough doctors put me down as a non-drinker. I don’t drink every week or even at every special occasion. I don’t think there is much benefit for me drinking
5.) Drinking 3L water a day
I drink a can or two of Pepsi Max a day lately and nowhere near enough water. I used to use an app to remind me to have a glass of water. It is incredible the health benefits that come from being properly hydrated. 3 Litres is my daily goal, especially once I start exercising properly.
I have mentioned the 4-hour body a few times on my site. I am moving away from it next year. I may need to do an elimination diet, work with an allergist and tweak things while my health is sorted.
The basics will be:
– No sugar
– No wheat
– No dairy
Everything else in moderation and a lot of trial and error to find what works best for my body.
Making health the goal
I know if I take care of my healthI will get back to a size I am comfortable with. I want to reiterate to myself consistently that I love myself, I have a strong body and I want to focus on my health, not my weight.
What are your health goals?