How to Survive on Centrelink

Tips to Help you Survive on Centrelink

Surviving on Centrelink can seem impossible but there are things which can help. While it won’t be easy as the payments are low and it won’t be a comfortable lifestyle for most, it can be done.

When I left my abusive marriage, I ended up homeless. I’ve relied on Centrelink in the past and am so grateful we live in a country with a generous welfare system. Many other countries are not so fortunate.

That said, trying to survive on Centrelink at times crushed me. Meals were skipped by me, although I always made sure my kids ate well. Trying to pay rent, food, bills and transport was hard enough. When registration or larger expenses came around it was scary sometimes.

Whatever reason you are on Centrelink, I am not here to judge. I hope the tips below will help you survive on Centrelink. For tips on dealing with Centelink, read this post.

Know What You Are Entitled To

It’s not about cheating the system, this is about knowing what benefits you are entitled to. In a nutshell, according to statistics (read more about the statistical details here):

– Over 5 million Australians rely on income from Centrelink
– Over half of these are on the Age Pension or Veteran Pension
– A further 800,000+ are on disability
– 660,000+ are on Newstart
– The remainder are on parenting payment, carers payment and other payments

Looking at these numbers, the majority of people living on Centrelink are in situations where they have no other option. 

Use the payment finder to see what benefits there are specific to your situation. Many people will be entitled to a pension, possibly rent assistance, if you are leaving an abusive situation there are emergency payments. There are also payments for isolated families, natural disasters and recovery, a mob ility allowance plus so many more.

Take the time to go over it thoroughly, apply for everything but be sure to be 100% honest about your situation. You don’t want to end up with a debt.

Secure Your Discounts

When living off Centrelink, you are likely to be entitled to numerous discounts. However, the discounts vary depending on the payment you are receiving. Those on pensions with pension cards or senior citizens get more discounts than those on a health care card. Find a list of potential discounts here.

You can potentially get discounts on everything from registration (the registration component, not the greenslip) to electricity, land rates, water and travel. For most of them you will need to specifically ask for a discount by calling your provider. The discounts vary from state to state because they are determined by the individual companies and governments, not the federal government.

For medical issues, read how to afford medical expenses while living on Centrelink. It is long but covers everything from glasses to dental that I could find.

Other Ways To Get Discounts

Using Centrelink isn’t the only way to get discounts. Sign up to cash back sites including ShopBack, CashRewards and Honey to get discounts or cash back on all your online purchases. I’ve been using them all for years and can vouch for them.

Read 12 ways to get coupons and discounts in Australia for more tips as well as how to get a discount on everything. Look for freebies and discounts with every purchase.

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    Get Freebies

    How many things can you get for free? You might be surprised. Check out this list of 50 ways to live for free. We also have a list of freebies and sign up bonuses for Aussies, another list of Aussie birthday freebies.

    Anything from accommodation through couch surfing or working onsite to food by foraging, bartering and growing your own or even activities such as hiking. There is so much you can get and do for free to ensure you still live a full life within your budget.

    Reduce Expenses Where Possible

    Go over your entire budget, your bank statements, bills, everything to see how much you are really spending in every area. Then take the time to see how you can save money, compare prices to get a bigger discount or better rate and improve your finances.

    Every year I do an annual financial review. One year I saved/found almost $5,000! This review will show you where you are spending and how to cut back. Use this time to set a new budget. Read how to create and stick to a budget.

    If you haven’t already, switch to fee free banking either with UP (you also get a $5 bonus here) or ING.

    Never renew your insurance. Instead, get a new quote every time it is up for renewal. Insurance companies do not reward loyalty when sending you a renewal. Even getting a fresh online quote from the same insurer is likely to get you a discount compared to renewing.

    Compare rent and see if it would be cheaper to move. If you do, read how to create an unbeatable rental application, even if living on Centrelink for my method to secure rentals.

    Look at refinancing if you own your home. Consider Airbnb or getting a boarder. I’ve done both and made $1,300 in 5 days at Christmas with Airbnb. Find my top tips for Airbnb here and 14 tips for renting a room to a boarder before you do either one. Be aware, this will impact your rent assistance payment.

    Find frugal, filling meals. Most of our meals are vegetarian based with loads of veggies and protein. This keeps my kids fuller for longer, we don’t do snacks and instead have a fairly healthy, frugal life. Check out how to get groceries for free and super cheap.

    Make More Money

    There is a limit to how much you can cut back. At some point, you need to look at ways to make more money. Usually, there is an amount you can earn before it impacts your payments. Once it does start to impact your payments, it is scaled, meaning you do no lose $1 from your payments for every $1 you earn.

    You can earn a specific amount (this amount varies depending on your payment) before your payments are reduced. They will be reduced by 50cents for every $1 you earn. E.g. if you are on disability and earn an extra $300 that fortnight, the first $174 doesn’t change your payment. The extra $126 will reduce your payment by $63. This means you are still $237 a fortnight better off and you still keep your payments provided you still meet the other eligibility criteria.

    But it can be a little bit of a balancing act to get it right, especially if you are in a situation where you cannot work but can do a few of the suggestions I have below. Keep track of everything, be honest with Centrelink and the ATO and it will go much better than trying to hide things.

    How Can You Make Money On Centrelink?

    There are quite a few things you can do to make money on the side while surviving on Centrelink. Some will be classed as hobbies so you won’t have to pay tax but as I said, keep records and be honest.

    Online Surveys – $2,000 to $5,000 a year

    Most people I know who do online surveys make between $2,000 and $5,000 a year. This would go so far paying for car registration, insurance, medical bills or other needs. PrizeRebel pays in USD as does Swagbucks. Pureprofile is popular with many but has a limit on how much you can cash out.

    This list of the best Australian online survey sites have been tested by me, many pay in USD and by having a few options, you are more likely to make more.

    Rent out Your Stuff or Space

    If you don’t use your garage or have other storage available such as a shed you can list it on Spacer. Baby gear can be rented out through KinderShare. Your car can be rented out on CarNextDoor (be aware other people will not look after your car in the same manner you do!)

    Sell Stuff

    Buy things to resell, refurbish furniture, refashion clothing or sell for others. You can make good money with any of these but do be honest about your earnings. The ATO is monitoring eBay and Facebook for sales. I did an experiment one year to see how much I could make buying things to resell.

    Month 1 was $2,750 and by month 4 I was making over $10,000 a month. How much you make will be determined by how much you list, what you list, profit margins etc.

    Other Ways To Make Money

    Check out 43 ways for single mums to make money. This list includes what you can do, how to do it, how much you can make and tips to get started.

    How I made $33,277.57 with side hustles in 12 months shares what I did, how much I made and how you can do them. Medical trials, blogging, freelance writing, trolley collection, all of it is in here and more.

    Bank sign up bonuses can be good provided you aren’t getting a bunch of credit cards. With Up you can get $5 instantly plus another $5 when you complete 5 transactions. Sign up here and use the code kylietravers to get your bonus $5.

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      How to get the Family on Board

      If you have a partner who is hopeless with money it can feel as if your finances will never be on track. Maybe your kids complain or don’t understand the situation? Read and apply what to do when your partner is hopeless with money as well as how to get your family on board to save money for tips.

      Other Tips for Surviving on Centrelink

      Large unexpected expenses can be devastating when you are surviving on Centrelink. I share how to handle them in this post. Also, check out how to handle financial emergencies and obstacles. Within a few months, I was evacuated from bushfires, flooded, had 2 family member die within 24 hours of each other overseas, the pandemic closed borders and we were hit with Cyclone Harold. So the tips in there are ones I personally use.

      How to Reduce Your Food Bill

      Most people I know living on Centrelink are whizzes at saving money with groceries. Please add anything you have in the comments for others.

      Be sure to use up leftovers. Knowing how to turn them into something new makes it feel less like you are eating the same things over and over. Read 29 meals for leftover roast chicken, 25 ideas for leftover ham, 20 meals from leftover sausage and what to do with Christmas leftovers for a few ideas.

      How to Reduce Your Transport Costs

      Depending on where you live you might be able to get by without a car. I did in Melbourne, as well as Sydney and the Sunshine Coast for a while but no car in Canberra was a nightmare. You can read about how to live without a car.

      If you do have a car, get it serviced regularly to ensure it runs well. Learn to DIY a few things. For example, my camry had an issue with the headlights. I was quoted a few hundred to fix it. When I Googled the problem, it was likely to be a $2 fuse. Checked it, bought it from an auto store, changed it and no more issues. I saved hundreds!

      Use the 7/11 fuel app and always keep an eye on fuel. Top up when it is cheap so you’re not forced to refill the car when it is expensive because your fuel tank is empty.

      Read more tips on reducing transport expenses here.

      How to Save on ALL Your Bills

      There are lots of little things you can do in your home to reduce the cost of heating, cooling, electricity, gas and water. Check out 19 tips to keep cool this summer, 17 tips to reduce your electricity bill and how to reduce phone and internet.

      Go over every bill you have. Call to check you are getting the best rate, if you have a pension card ensure they have applied the discount and if they haven’t, ask if it can be backdated. Some will do this and you could end up in front on your bills because of it. Compare deals online and reduce what you can.

      Track your usage and make sure there are no leaks for electricity, gas or anything else on your property.

      How to Afford Education Expenses

      Education whether for yourself or kids can get expensive. School fees, uniforms, excursions, book packs, shoes and more. Read this extensive article outlining how to afford education expenses for kids.

      If it is for yourself, you might be eligible for discounts or even an extra payment from Centrelink. Look for alternative options too. Some Tafe’s have free courses right now, Udemy offers reduced courses at times and Coursera has free certifications from various universities. Coursera has free certification from various universities.

      The Real Cost of Raising Kids and How to Reduce it

      Kids can be expensive especially if they have any special needs or certain hobbies. This article goes through different ages and events with tips on how to save in each. What you can do to reduce costs with babies is significantly different compared to teens!

      How to Deal with Debt and Debt Collectors

      My dad was a debt collector and shared his tips with me to help others deal with debt collectors. It can be scary and overwhelming but if done right, you can get your debt reduced, have an affordable payment plan and get it done quickly. Read how to deal with debt and debt collectors here.

      When dealing with debt collectors, they just want to know they are going to get their money. Don’t avoid them. Instead, get your paperwork in order, remain calm and set aside a time to talk to them. Follow the tips in that article and you will likely get your debt sorted faster and easier than you thought.

      In terms of paying off debt, when you are already struggling to survive on Centrelink, debt can seem impossible. Pay the minimum on everything then decide which debt to tackle first and throw any extra money you can at it. For example, choose the smallest debt to clear it quickest. If you have an extra $10 leftover from groceries, put it on the debt.

      Also, consider speaking to a financial counsellor to help with your debts. Most charities can help with this.

      What tips do you have to help others survive on Centrelink?

      You might also like the eBook – The Ultimate Guide to Make and Save Money at Home for only $3.99.

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