Debt is crippling and once you have some, it can be hard to pay it off and get back on track financially, especially if you are reliant on Centrelink.
When I was a kid, my dad was a debt collector, so he has offered some tips. I have spoken to a few others about dealing with debt collectors and helped various people pay off exteme amounts of debt.
Tips to pay off debt:
1.) Know how much you owe
Don’t bury your head in the sand and deny how much you owe, it only makes it worse. Write down all your debts with their full amount, interest rate and how long they have left to pay off. In the case of interest free loans, write down when the interest free period expires because once that hits, the interest is intense.
Also, make a note if any have massive fees for paying them off early, as you will need to factor them into your payment plan.
This should be part of your budget, but many miss it. (For tips on creating and sticking to a budget, check out this post).
2.) Prioritise your debts
How you pay off your debt is up to you. Some people prefer to start with the smallest debt first and psychologically this works. It makes you feel you are paying off your debt faster when you clear a small one. Dave Ramsey recommends doing it this way.
Financially, it is better to pay off the debt with the highest interest first. Sometimes those debts are so huge it feels like you will never pay them off though. If you are disciplined and can pay them off despite it possibly taking longer to clear your first debt, you may save more interest this way (depending on the interest with your debts).
3.) Debt snowball
Once a debt is paid off, put all the money you were throwing at that debt onto the next debt. Both it’s monthly repayment and any extra you put on it. You pay off your debt much faster this way. Once your second debt is clear put all the money onto your third debt and so on.
Keep making minimum repayments on all your debt, but select one debt to be the one you put any extra money on to get rid of it quickly.
Resist the temptation to splurge or treat yourself once the first debt is clear if you have more to pay off. Focus on getting the debt clear.
4.) Find ways to make extra money
Chances are you’re in debt because you couldn’t afford things, then it got out of control. Many people struggle to make ends meet, let alone pay off debt.
To pay it off, you need to find ways to make more money. I have a few articles on my other site, The Thrifty Issue which might help:
51 ways to make money from home
10 ways to make $10,000
10 ways to make $1,000 this month
5.) Reduce credit limits
As you pay off your debt, you can request the credit limit be reduced. For instance, say you have a $5,000 credit card. Once you pay off $500 you can request to drop the limit to $4,500 and do this until with each step until the credit card is gone.
By reducing the limit, you can’t spend on it again.
Be aware, opening and closing credit cards and other debt will impact on your credit score and borrowing capacity. I still recommend living debt free though. You can check your credit score for free and track it monthly with sites such as https://www.creditsavvy.com.au/
Why care about your credit score? Every application for credit such as a loan or credit card goes on your file. Any bank or company lending you money checks your score and will offer an interest rate based on the credit score. A good score gets you a better rate. A bad score means a higher rate. Each application lowers your score, makes it less likely to get approved and makes it harder to get credit.
Start with your current lender. Asks for a better deal such as reduced interest, no bank fees or similar. Do some research and start comparing providers, then if needed, switch. Be aware though, this will impact your credit score, which in turn impacts your interest rate. Check before applying how likely you are to get the loan and what a likely interest rate is. If you cannot switch, don’t apply.
7.) Save in every area possible
Go over your budget and look at every area you can make cuts, then start transferring those savings onto your debt. For tips on ways to save money, I have 31 ways to save $200 or more here, plus loads of saving articles here.
8.) Save an emergency fund
Dave Ramsey recommends $1,000. Personally, I have usually needed $2,000 in an emergency. This can be difficult to save when trying to pay off debt at the same time. Try to save this emergency fund first before smashing the debt. This way, when you pay down the debt if an emergency happens, you don’t need to put it back on the credit card. It helps break the debt cycle and the mentality that you need a credit card.
9.) Change your thinking
Debt is not essential. Many think you cannot live without a credit card or personal, but you can and you will feel so much better for it. Get used to spending with your own money instead of borrowing money.
Check out 6 ways to easily reduce debt.
How to deal with debt collectors
If you can negotiate with the people or bank you owe money to before it goes to debt collectors, it is better for everyone. People and companies just want to know they are getting their money back. Work out a payment plan, do not miss payments and do everything you can to show you want to pay the debt off and will. Ask to go to the financial hardship section of the bank if you need and get a brief pause or do whatever is needed to ease up the finances temporarily before it ends up with debt collectors. Your interest will continue to accrue but you will be helped.
If it ends up with debt collectors, here are a few tips.
1.) Get all your paperwork in order
Have all your debt paperwork in one file which is easy to access so you can see at a glance what the terms and conditions are, what can be expected and how much you owe.
2.) Talk to them
Don’t avoid the phone calls. You need to get is sorted and if you ignore it, it will get worse. Debt collectors try to catch you off guard, so when they call, ask for a moment to get your paperwork together or request to call them back (or have them call you) at a specific time when you are available and ready to discuss it with them. Do not do this then avoid the call. You must take it. They will push to get their answers and an immediate payment on the spot. Be calm, clear and keep repeating you will discuss it when you have your paperwork and are ready.
3.) Make a payment on the spot if you can
This is a gesture of goodwill and shows you are willing to pay. If you cannot afford what they push for, don’t agree to it. Agree only to what you can afford to pay. If you can afford to make a larger payment which is close to the total amount, you may be able to negotiate the payment down to the amount you have and get it cleared completely.
4.) Arrange a payment plan
A debt collector will push for the highest amount possible. Do not agree to it if you cannot afford it. If you can afford $20 be firm and say it will be $20 a week for as long as it takes. They can’t get blood from a stone and some money is better than no money.
5.) Get the amount reduced
As mentioned in tip 3, you may be able to get the total reduced. This is often offered when a debt has been outstanding for a long period or you are closer to the end of the debt. I have managed to knock thousands off debts for friends by offering the debt collector a lower amount in full today or asking what the lowest total they could pay would be if they paid in full today. This doesn’t always work and ultimately, you did accrue the debt, so should pay it in full. However, for them, most of the money is better than no money.
What tips do you have for dealing with debt?
You might also like these real stories of paying off debt
$3,000 debt cleared in 1 month!
How we cleared $90,000 (I know these guys personally and they started unemployed on their debt journey. But they prefer to remain anonymous).
“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?
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.
Do you need to beat hundreds of applicants for the house you want to rent?
In some areas, the price of rent and competition for rental properties is fierce. When I left my abusive marriage and needed to get a place to rent, it was difficult. Numerous people turned up each time, I was relying mainly on the single parents pension from Centrelink, along with some self-employment income, child support was nonexistent, basically my finances looked terrible. Add to that no rental history because I had been a home owner (and at another time, homeless), I was a pretty poor applicant on paper when going up against families, or double income no kids couples.
I have one trick that has landed me a house to rent, every time and many agents have commented on it. In fact, when I was moving from Sydney to Canberra, I drove down on the day, inspected the house, gave the agent my file and beat numerous other applicants for a property in an area with a less than 1% vacancy rate.
Here’s what I do.
1. ) Speak to the agent
Before I go to a rental, I check the listing, download the application form if there is one then I call the agent If there was no application online I request one to be emailed to me. Whenever I have gone to the rental property to inspect with all the other potential applicants, the agent knows exactly who I am when I arrive because we have already spoken and it seems they mainly remember me over other applicants because I made them laugh.
2.) Have your application ready
I have the application filled out, I leave the lease term blank and discuss it with the agent. Some owners like 6 months, others 12. If you are willing to be flexible it is more appealing to both agents and landlords.
3.) Letter to the landlord
In my last 3 applications I included a letter to the landlord. In the first paragraph I state how I would like to rent their house, how I understand as a landlord they want someone who will take good care of the property and how I will be that someone.
In the next paragraph I outline the features of the home that make it suitable for my family and specifics of why I want to rent it.
Next, I talk about why I am a good tenant. I am clear that I am a single mum of 2 daughters, but I also work from home, I don’t smoke, I don’t have pets, I don’t drink or throw big parties etc.
The next paragraph is where I outline my income, although it looked small on paper I manage my money well and have other sources of income (which I outlined). I discuss how I keep my bills below average and how I source things for free. (I include copies of my bills to back this up, which I will discuss in a minute.)
My closing paragraph recaps why I love their property and how I will look after it.
4.) Create a file
With the application and letter in hand, I create a file. I get a folder or even a plastic sleeve to put in the following:
– My filled in application
– Letter to the landlord
– Photocopied id: Actually, I scan and print mine, front and back – my licence, debit card and Medicare card. I have previously photocopied them at the library when I couldn’t use my scanner.
– Electricity and gas bills: These are included to prove identification and because mine are lower than average it makes my overall financial situation look better. My water bills for 5 people living in a home were lower than your average one person household, the same for my electricity. This shows I am frugal and my expenses aren’t as high as others. If you need some frugality tips check out the complete list of things you can use y our pension/healthcare card for, along with my save money category which has all my money saving posts in it.
– All income documents: I included child support documentation even when I didn’t get it, carers allowance for my daughters (when I left my ex my daughters had severe expressive and receptive learning disorders requiring extensive help. This meant I was entitled to carers allowance for both of them), my self-employed income (I include my tax certificate to prove income plus a recent bank statement to show how much and where money comes from as that is higher than my tax shows due to deductions.) A statement or letter for each income source is included. (If you need ways to make money, check out ways to make money while living on Centrelink, 29 ways to make money travelling, even as a family and financial resources here. financial resources here.)
– Letter outlining income: I do this because I am self-employed and I receive income from my royalties, public speaking, financial mentoring, blog advertising and more. I list the various incomes, how much I get for each and how often on average. If I worked for a wage I wouldn’t bother about doing this letter.
I put all of these papers together in a folder and label it – Kylie Travers xx address (whatever the address of the property is).
With this in hand, when I go to apply it’s easy. I look at the house and leave my application with the agent on the day. It’s easy for them because everything is ready to go and in order. Time is money – this saves them time and it means they just hand a file to the landlord as well, making it easier on everyone.
Most agents tell me they have never seen anyone so organized and prepared with their application which made my application strong already. With the application for the Canberra home the agent even gave me his card in case I wanted to look at the property again over the weekend. He also said I should know Monday, but that file, with an *extra offer I included made my application very strong. And if the managing agent didn’t ring me Monday (he was not managing that property, but doing a favor for another agent), then to call him.
One final thing – when I look at rental properties I dress in business attire. Looking like a professional makes me stand out. I know at each open home I have been to I have been the only one dressed this way and the agents tend to talk to me for longer. The agents are the ones who recommend you to the landlord so building a rapport, looking professional and being friendly really helps.
What are your tips for securing a rental?*The extra offer was more than 2 weeks advance rent. I always offer this, but am never taken up on the offer. It gets their interest though, because it proves I can save and am in control of my finances. Testimonials
A version of this post originally appeared on my old site. Some of the comments from others who implemented my steps were:
“Hi Kylie, I just wanted to thank you. Thank you thank you thank you!!.
I read this post when you write it and filed it away in my mind for future reference.
Last week I needed to move, quite unexpectatedly and urgently. I am a single mum, studying, with 4 kids. I didn’t think anyone would rent to me.
I followed your post, put in an awesome application, outlining why I was the best tennent, including financials to prove I was capable and course enrolment details and a goal timeline outlining my plans for employment within the next 3 months.
Application went in Friday. I got a call Saturday to say the property was all mine and they were impressed with my application.
So thank you. Without this post I would have put in a standard application and probably still be looking and getting quite stressed about it all!
and this from Elise
“Lol your file sounds like my file. My agents practically kissed my feet when they asked for an up to date rates notice and I pointed out that the reason I only had one from last July is because it was paid up a year and a half in advance back then and I won’t get another one till this July. I think that cinched it for me as we got the first property we applied for too”
Do you need to make extra money while living on Centrelink?
I have relied on Centrelink a couple of times in my life for various reasons, each time my expenses were more than I got from Centrelink, yet my circumstances were such that a full-time job wasn’t doable. Many people I speak to who are currently accessing Centrelink are in similar circumstances, unable to work full time, yet also unable to live on Centrelink alone. I’m trying to create some useful resources, if you currently live on Centrelink, I’d appreciate you taking the time to do this survey to help me create the right content and resources for you.
Here are some ways you can make money to help you get by, while still living on Centrelink.
1.) Online surveys
When I was a single mum I started with online surveys because they can be done anytime, even from your phone. Payments vary drastically, but overall it can be an extra $1,000+ per year you get doing surveys. Most have apps you can use on your phone to so you can do a survey while sitting in the drs office or waiting for the bus or anything else. The best sites I have found are:
SwagBucks – you earn points through doing surveys, using their search tools instead of Google, participating in team competitions and doing daily tasks. You can redeem the points for PayPal cash, gift cards or items.
PureProfile – do surveys in the newsfeed and get paid in cash when you reach the payout amount of $25. You are matched to surveys based on your profile and if it happens that after a few screening questions, you aren’t quite a fit, you still get paid 5cents or 10cents.
WDYT – earn money for shopping, doing surveys and updating your profile every now and then. Cash it in at $20 intervals.
2.) Start your own business
Centrelink has the NEIS scheme, there are loads of business grants and many ways you can have a business from home. It takes a lot of work, marketing, knowledge and sometimes cash to get it all happening though, so not an easy option. Depending on the type of business, you might be able to do it part time or be classed as a hobby (according to the ATO at least) and if it’s not something you plan to pursue full-time, the extra income a business brings in might help. Check out this post to help you set up and market a business.
3.) Sell on eBay
Selling what I had, along with selling items for others then buying things to resell was the difference between being able to afford my daughters speech therapy or not some weeks. Selling on eBay is relatively easy – find things to sell, take good photos, list them then post once sold. Check out how to sell on eBay or read how I have made over $10,000 in a month buying things to resell.
You can take the photos with your phone and upload them to eBay through the app. Make sure you write clear descriptions and calculate the correct postage for the items you want to sell. I have bought clothes for $2 which I have sold for $100, books, Tupperware and other items. I do a quick search in completed listings to see if the items I am looking at selling are actually selling, then I list accordingly.
Buy/sell/swap groups on Facebook, GumTree and CraigsList are all places you can sell items as well. Personally, I found branded clothing, Tupperware and books sold best. For more tips on how to sell books, I have a free guide you can download.
4.) Sell at markets
When I was a single mother, living in a garage, I made aprons and other items to sell at markets. It didn’t make a huge amount of money at the time, but in the lead up to Christmas I made a reasonable amount of money which I was able to use to buy my daughters Christmas presents.
I haven’t personally been an Uber driver, everyone I know who has enjoys it though. If you have a relatively new car and time, it’s an easy way to make some money if you don’t mind driving around.
AirTasker is a platform where people can list jobs they need others to do such as clean, deliver items, set up furniture, do social media or admin tasks. You join, place bids on tasks you are interested in doing then if selected you get paid once you have completed the job.
You can look for similar tasks on GumTree and many online job boards.
7.) Rent a room
I used Airbnb with great success when renting out a room. The room rented for more than twice the price of what I would have got if I had rented it weekly. At other times I listed a spare room through Facebook and Gumtree to get a boarder.
With Airbnb, the guests were short term and had higher expectations in terms of hospitality and expecting treatment like a hotel. They paid more though. Check out renting a room on Airbnb for more details.
With renting it to a boarder, each agreement was different. The weekly amount was lower, however, less was expected of me and it was usually for at least a month or in 3 to 6 month blocks. Read 14 tips for renting a room to a boarder before you look into this.
8.) Freelance writing
I was already writing because of blogs I owned, which meant people approached me to write for their sites. If you are just getting started there are many sites that will pay you for articles.
Blogging is not a short term income solution. You need to create the site, have unique content and a point of difference, get traffic, be active on social media, work out how you want to monetise it such as through sponsored posts/side bar ads/affiliate links/your own products etc. You need to write regularly, create graphics for each post, share the content, be active in groups and be committed.
To get started with blogging, I recommend going with a self hosted wordress site. I use SiteGround. You can find out more about setting up a blog and making money from it here. Also, I have some monetisation resources and tips here.
At home childcare is an option either as a proper business (for which you will need qualifications, registration and insurance), or you can do it on a casual basis as a babysitter or nanny. The going rate I see tends to be around $20 per hour with some people happy for you to do it in your own home, others want you to do it at theirs.
11.) Party Plan
Almost every product imaginable now has party plan attached to it from kitchenwares to beauty, from linen to appliances. If you enjoy sales, like to host parties, have time and don’t mind either paying up front for a kit or working your first few parties to pay for your kit, then party plan can be a great option. Many let you do online parties now too.
Any domestic work such as cleaning, ironing, gardening, mowing lawns, cleaning gutters, walking dogs, feeding animals and so on is outsourced by many people and the pay can be between $20 and $50 per hour depending on where you live and what is required (are you supplying your own tools or are they?)
Don’t forget, if you currently live on Centrelink, please do this survey to help me create more resources to help. Thank you!
These are just some of the things I did to make extra money while living on Centrelink. What have you done/do you do to make ends meet?
You might also like this complete list of discounts and everything you can use your pension/healthcare/DVA or seniors card for.
*Always declare your earnings to Centrelink. You don’t want to get caught out having to repay Centrelink because they overpaid. How much you can earn each fortnight before it affects your payments depends on which payment you are on. The lowest amount I saw on Centrelink was $164, meaning on some payments, anything over $164 would start to reduce your payments. Other payments have higher thresholds.
What help such as discounts can you get with a pension or health care card in Australia?
Instead of concessions being consistent Australia wide, each state has different concessions based on the type of card you have and it is not determined by Centrelink, rather it is at the discretion of local providers. The PBS is about the only consistent discount across the country with everyone who has a consession card whether it be a pension card, health care card, senior card or DVA card entitled to a discount on medicine.
All other potential discounts on services such as transport, electricity and rates are decided by the local providers and governments in each state which is why it can differ so much.
I have attempted to compile a complete list of all concessions I know of for people who have a pension, healthcare, seniors or DVA card with links for each state at the end of the post for you to check for yourself what you can get in your local area. Remember, it pays to ask your providers if they will offer a concession based on your circumstances. They might not always have a program in place to give concessions for you but they might be able to reduce your fees, give you a different discount or find a better plan for you. Never be afraid to ask for a discount or better deal. Also, if you are interested, I have written about ways to make money while living on Centrelink which might help you make more money at the same time as saving money with the tips below.
Side note: I am creating resources such a 1 page articles and documents you can download and keep to help you survive, thrive and where possible, get off Centrelink. I have a quick, anonymous survey I am doing, with the answers being shown to NO ONE else, all tracking is switched off and it would really help me create the exact resources you need to live on Centrelink. Click here to do the survey. Thank you!
Medical discounts for concession cards
As mentioned, all Australian concession cards entitle you to a discount on health care and prescriptions. This includes ambulance, optical such as subsidised glasses, free hearing tests and dental work. The discount is relatively small sometimes and not all prescriptions are included, but the majority are. Also, if you have kids, check your eligibilty for the $1,000 dental scheme for each child.
Discounted electricity, land rates for home owners and water rates
Some states offer a discount on electricity, land rates and water rates for all concession cards, even low-income health care cards. It is not automatically entered into the system, you need to call and inform them.
You might also be eligible for a clean energy supplement from the government plus an energy audit. In some states the energy audit is government run, in other states energy providers offer it. The audits generally include advice on how to save money on your energy bills, power boards, energy saving light bulbs and sometimes adapters, vouchers or draft stoppers, all of which help you save money on your bills.
Education discounts and payments for concession card holders
Fees at Tafe (CIT for Canberra) can be halved for eligible cards and courses. Apprentices and trainees are eligible for health care cards but not for half price course fees. Some preschools, primary and high schools offer discounted fees for pensioners if you ask.
On top of this, depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for an extra payment from Centrelink for studying.
Movies and entertainment discounts
Most movie theatres will offer discounted tickets to all concession cards, but I found years ago that with the health care card it depended on who was on the counter.
Almost all shows, attractions and events have concession rates as well. Not all of them include the parenting pension concession card or the healthcare card though, so check the fine print.
Free and discounted travel
Public transport can be used at a discounted rate for most states on all cards, some states health care cards alone are entitled to discounted transport. You are also entitled to 4 free train trips within your state to the border. You pay a booking fee still and if going past the border you pay the concession rate for the remainder of your trip in whichever states you travel.
Mail redirection and stamps
You are eligible for a reduced rate on mail redirection but only if the redirection is from a home address to home address, not PO Boxes. Australia Post also offers discounted stamps for concession card holders. You get 5 free stamps and up to 50 discounted stamps at a rate of 60 cents instead of $1, purchased in books of 5 for $3.
Registration and licences
Car registration is waived in most states with only the compulsory third party needing to be paid. It doesn’t matter when you start on the pension either. For example, if you have paid 12 months registration then after 6 months end up on the pension, you can either go in and get a 6 months refund right away or when you go to renew if you are still on the pension you will get the previous 6 months refunded then.
Drivers licences are free in some states, as are licence renewals but not the actual drivers test.
Pet registration is heavily discounted as well.
Banking for concession card holders
Numerous fee free banking options are available for holders of various concession cards. Just ask the banks, some even offer free money sessions to help you sort your finances. You can read about Catherine’s experience here.
Bonus saving accounts are offered for either those who save a certain amount it will be matched by the bank or those who get a loan, repay it and then apply for a saver account and save a certain amount will have it matched by the bank. Usually $500.
Interest-free loans are available for certain items such as whitegoods or furniture usually through charities.
Some states or territories such as the ACT offer free rubbish removal to pension card holders. Some councils offer free pick ups as well for everyone.
Many hairdressers, some supermarkets, chemists, mechanics and other places that offer a service have a pension discount day. It is up to the provider if the discount only applies to seniors, veterans or all card holders. Kmart does it on the first Wednesday of every month and have for 30 years.
Check the discounts you are elibile for with your pension, senior, DVA or healthcare card below:
The total value of any of these concession cards has been placed at tens of thousands of dollars. The discounts can be significant. The reduced prescriptions and doctors appointments, free registration, reduced public transport and discounted energy rates are worth thousands on their own.
Do you have a concession card? What do you use it for? Have you ever added up how much money it saves you?
You might also like ways to make money while living on Centrelink, this complete list of Australian VIP/loyalty/reward cards (on The Thrifty Issue) which shows places that offer sign up bonuses, birthday discounts as well as the buy 5 get your 6th free type deals. Also, the best Australian online survey sites which you can earn $1,000 on (tested and confirmed by me). Every little bit helps!
If you are on Centrelink and need help to survive, make your money stretch, want more resources to know how to manage better, what services are available etc. Please do this quick, anonymous survey which will only be viewed by me, no government departments, not even my assistant! The survey will help me know what help you need so I can create articles, resources and everything else you need to survive and thrive living on Centrelink, then where possible, get off Centrelink. Thank you so much! You can do the survey here.