By Nicola Field
Nicola Field is a personal finance writer with 20 years of industry experience. A former chartered accountant, who holds a Master of Education degree, Nicola delivers expert, commonsense commentary as a regular contributor to Money Magazine and Canstar.
There’s no magic solution for coping with the reduction in JobSeeker and Jobkeeper payments from the end of March, but there are steps you can take to ease the financial squeeze.
Jobkeeper ends on March 28. Companies relying on it will no longer be able to pay full-time employees the federal government’s JobKeeper wage subsidy, $1000 a fortnight and part-time employees $650 a fortnight, which could result in some job losses.
As for Australia’s 1.4 million JobSeeker recipients, 31 March is crunch time. That’s when the fortnightly Coronavirus supplement will end entirely, taking many families back to the pre-COVID grind of trying to make ends meet.
On the plus side, the Federal Government has permanently upped JobSeeker by $50 per fortnight, starting 1 April 2021. But it’s a no-brainer that $3.50 per day doesn’t stretch far.
It’s not great for families relying on JobSeeker, or needing to rely on JobSeeker should they lose work due to Jobkeeper ending. And while there is no silver bullet, there are steps you can take that make it easier to get by on a reduced income.
Draft a budget
Adjusting to a higher income is a breeze. Learning to live on less is hard, and that’s exactly what JobSeeker recipients are being asked to do from 1 April.
Trimming budgets – where there’s not much fat in the first place, is never easy. However, drawing up a new household budget will help you see where spending can be dialed down, hopefully without too much impact on your lifestyle. It will also provide clear spending guidelines for your family to live within.
Ensure you are maximising your Child Care Subsidy
If your children are in care while you look for work, up-skill or go back to work, it’s worth ensuring you are getting the most out of your Child Care Subsidy (CCS). The CCS is complex and often confusing, and this creates plenty of scope for families to miss out.
By considering flexible hours, including every hour of approved activity, and thinking in some clever ways, you can ensure the effect is not so drastic on your budget. Click here for six ways to maximise your CCS in 2021.
Seize discounts at every opportunity
JobSeeker recipients may be entitled to a range of discounts on everything from car rego to public transport. Don’t be shy about taking advantage of the savings.
It’s also important to explore other ways to save. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Use Google Shopping to find the best deals before hitting the shops
- Consider price comparison apps like ShopSavvy that let you scan a barcode to know if the same item is available for less at a different store.
- When you’re shopping online, use browser extensions like Honey that show in a flash where you can buy the same item for a cheaper price.
- Cashback shopping sites Cashrewards and ShopBack are free to join, and you can score discounts of around 5% when you buy online at participating retailers.
Pay big bills a little at a time
Making ends meet on JobSeeker is no mean feat, and it can be a real struggle when big quarterly or annual bills start rolling in.
Instead of coping with one budget-busting bill, spread the cost over time. Contact your energy provider or insurance company, and enquire about setting up regular direct debits that let you pay small amounts on a regular basis. It’s a simple way to avoid bill shock further down the track.
Renew your job search
Take heart that the job market is picking up. In January 2021, an additional 34,000 Australians found work . That follows on from 30,000 new jobs created in December .
That can make now a good time to renew your job-hunting efforts. Remember, plenty of jobs aren’t advertised. So, reach out to friends, family, recruitment agencies and other contacts who may be able to point you in the direction of a job opportunity.
Join the gig economy
The gig economy is not just big – it flourished during COVID, and gig work is now worth over $6.3 billion nationally . That means plenty of opportunities for you to get a slice of the gig action, and boost household income.
Think about signing up to become an AirTasker – no skills are required. At the time of writing, you could earn $180 just to clean a 1-bedroom apartment or pocket $100 to move a bunk bed from one room to another. Easy money! In fact, AirTasker says some of the top Taskers can earn up to $5,000 each month .
If you have specialist skills, sites like Freelancer can help you land lucrative gig roles. Or if you have a spare bedroom, consider listing it with the likes of AirBnB and Stayz to put extra cash in your pocket.
The end of the JobSeeker COVID Supplement can mean some belt-tightening. But rather than hit the panic button, explore every option to get more from your money. It can help your family find a path through a financially tough time.
We can assist with working out how to maximise your Child Care Subsidy. Our Family Support Team is ready to help – contact them on 1800 314 517.
Alternatively, click here to find our Child Care Subsidy guide.
Please note that information provided in this article is general in nature and does not constitute financial advice. Before making any decisions, families should take into account their individual circumstances and consult with their professional advisors.