How to prepare and deal with Centrelink’s cashless debit card

There has been speculation this week around extending Centrelink’s cashless debit card program into other areas due to the success in the 2 trial areas of Ceduna, South Australia and East Kimberly, Western Australia, which is understandably of concern to some people. This is currently not the case. If you read the media release it outlines the success of the trial and extension in those two areas, as does the official reports by ORIMA here and here. My goal is to help 1,000,000 survive, thrive and where possible get off Centrelink. I will only share accurate information and won’t participate in feeling rumours.

That said, if you are at all concerned about the cashless debit card from Centrelink coming to effect everywhere or currently live in one of the areas using it, I have some suggestions. Anyone living on Centrelink can use them too, so read it all.

Before I get to specific tips to help you manage on the cashless debit card system with Centrelink, I want to make one thing clear – I am not associated with the government or either party. I simply want to help you improve your life, understand the facts and sometimes, see things from both sides. I have been on Centrelink and understand it. I also rose to be a CEO, so I understand things from the other side too.

The trial had some great results reducing violence, domestic abuse, alcohol, gambling and substance abuse, so overall  the crime rate went down in those areas by limiting people on Centrelink to 20% cash and 80% of their payments going to a debit card which can only be used in certain places for certain purposes. There were lots of positives that came from it. I understand that, however…

When I was on Centrelink, if this had happened to me I would have been screwed. I managed my money well, used it to improve my life, shop frugally etc and these thoughts have been expressed by others who are living on Centrelink. Ultimately, if the government decides to roll it out, we can protest, object etc. but most of the time, they’ll do what they want to do. Given the results of reducing crime, alcohol abuse etc. It is something that can help many people, but I know others will get hurt in the cross fire. I would have been one of them.

I can see both sides of this – the results are great, but it negatively impacts those who aren’t being violent/drinking/gambling etc. Plus it increased debt for those living in those areas because they used payday loans and were preyed on by those companies offering them.

So how can you prepare? How can you manage if you’re already on it?

1.) Get to know your money
Do you know how much money you spend on everything in your life? Do you have a solid budget and stick to it? Do you know where you can cut back if needed?

Write down all your expenses using receipts and bank statements to see how much you are actually spending compared to what you think you are spending. Also, start to track where you spend your money on a daily basis so you can see where it is all going.

Next, work out your income – do you live solely off Centrelink benefits (and if you do, do you get all the correct benefits? Check this list I created here.) or do you have a part time job, freelance business or other means of income? Add up your total income and deduct your expenses from it.

If you are living pay to pay or spending more than you earn you either need to cut back your spending or you need to earn more money.

Look at where you spend your money and compare prices to make sure you are getting the best deal. Check your insurance, banking, phone and internet plans, where you buy food etc. Going over every area of your budget with a fine tooth comb can save you thousands.

Next, look for ways to make more money. As your income goes up, put the extra amounts on any debt you have to get rid of it and put some in savings. Start saving as soon as possible and pick an amount to save each pay, then do it every single pay.

2.) Find other income
Having a job is not the only way to make money, although it is often considered the most stable and is the method enforced by Newstart.

With the cashless card, finding cash jobs or ways to make money is often preferred. ALWAYS declare all income even if you are doing things for cash. Keep accurate records for both how you made the money/how much you made plus how you spent it. This way, you can spend your money wisely and have proof at tax time or when reporting to Centrelink. You can make up to $18,200 a year tax free (this is referred to at the Tax Free Threshold but includes some government payments), some income can be classed as a hobby but to see if yours would be a hobby or business, check the ATO information here. If you are or want to find other income and turn it into a business, check out these tips to get started.

What ways to make money are there?
I have a post of ways to make money while living on Centrelink here. Alternatively, you can download 51 Ways To Make Money From Home to read through as you like.

For cash in hand ways to make money, here are some things you can do (some require qualifications and insurance etc.)
General maintenance – clean out gutters, paint, general repairs
Have a boarder
Check random jobs on Gumtree or post what jobs you can do
Hairdressing, beauty therapy, make up artistry, spray tans, nails or similar
Selling things on Facebook or Gumtree (compared to eBay where sales are tracked and usually through PayPal)
Garage sale or carboot sale
Dog walking or pet sitting
Car washing
Cake decorator
Private investigator
Rent out items
Rent your space
Event planning
Farmhand work

Pretty much any service type work can be paid cash in hand. Alternatively, if you prefer cash that comes in the form of PayPal or money in your bank (which is easier to track and keep accurate records for yourself) you could:
Drive for Uber
Rent a room, your home or a spare caravan on AirBnB
Work for Deliveroo, Foodora, UberEats or similar
Do tasks on AirTasker
Try anything in the share economy such as renting out things you aren’t using, renting space or offering services.
Online surveys at sites such as SwagBucks, Octopus Group, WDYT or PureProfile (there are more, these are the ones I have personally found to be decent. Avoid RewardsCentral and MyOpinions.)
Start your own service business such as freelance writing, virtual admin or virtual assistant work, social media management, graphic design etc.

While there aren’t many part time or flexible jobs for parents, those on disability etc. There are options for making money from home or in hours that suit.

3.) Object
We live in Australia, if you don’t like something you can take action, but do it sensibly. Riots, violence and aggressive campaigns don’t help. Petitions, being clear, concise, accurate, having a definite reason and purpose with clearly defined facts work better than a thrown together protest.

If you don’t like how something is, find out how you can get involved to change it in a positive way. I am all for using your voice, taking action and doing what you can to make the world a better place provided it is done in a smart manner. Violence is not the answer. Aggression and anger are not the answer. Be proactive, get informed and do what you can. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

What are your thoughts on the cashless debit card from Centrelink and how it will impact people (or is impacting you)?

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Which Centrelink Benefits are you entitled to?
My goal to help 1,000,000 million people survive, thrive and where possible, get off Centrelink
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