finance

"Waiting for Centrelink to call": 15 women on how their finances have changed since COVID-19.

In our rapidly-changing coronavirus reality, almost nothing about daily life feels the same.

One of the biggest blows Australians are feeling is the loss of jobs and income because of COVID-19. Not since after the Second World War have we faced such widespread unemployment. The latest figures show more than 25 per cent of our work force are now unemployed or under-employed. That’s 3.92 million of us who have been severely financially impacted by this global pandemic.

The picture for those still gratefully employed looks vastly different. Some of us are now saving more money than we ever have because social isolation means we aren’t going out and spending our cash freely. And many sit somewhere between the two, in a limbo of wondering what might happen next.

Below, 15 Australian women share how their money situations have changed because of coronavirus. From those who’ve lost their income or been made redundant, to others who’ve been saving and changing their spending habits, these are their experiences.

WATCH: Your COVID-19 questions, answered. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

1. Jen – “We’re in a difficult position, but aren’t eligible for Government support.”

“My consulting contract was rescinded as a direct result of COVID-19 with no time frame in sight as to whether or not this will be reinstated. My husband’s firm has also mandated a 20 per cent cut in salary. We’re in an incredibly difficult financial position, but we aren’t eligible for any form of financial support. I’ve always suffered from asthma, however it’s been exacerbated recently and I can’t control it. My specialist informed me it’s due to extreme anxiety – what I’m feeling feels similar to an asthma attack, so I’m trying to learn new ways to calm myself down. As I’m high-risk should I contract the virus, my husband and I are taking extreme measures to stay safe. This has been quite distressing for my husband who’s already dealing with the pressure to retain his job so we won’t be thrown into further financial strain. We’re not coping the best.”

2. Sherrie – “I’m waiting for Centrelink to call me back.”

“I’m a vet nurse who was working in medical research at a university. They’re cutting back research projects, which means cutting back staff, and now, I have no income. It’s definitely not a career you can do from home either. Being at home isn’t too bad because I have lots of home improvements I can work on, but I feel slightly cut off from everyone. I’m sure I’ll get a work contract back when this is over, but when will that be? I just got my last pay cheque and I don’t know how long I can make it stretch. I’m waiting for Centrelink to call me back. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

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3. Britt – “Nothing has changed for me and my family.”

“Financially, nothing has changed for me and my family. My husband has a good job and he’s considered an ‘essential service’ so he is secure, and right now, it looks like my job is secure, too. So if anything, we are in a better position because we’re not going out and we’re saving a bit more money. The issue is, I feel guilty about that. I have a lot of friends and close family who have lost their jobs or their jobs have just dried up/ceased to exist. So I feel guilty that my little family isn’t struggling (or even, doing better than usual). When people who I know are struggling ask me how we are doing, I find myself trying to pretend like it’s a big struggle and uncertain for us, just to try not to make them feel worse about their situation. It’s a weird feeling.”

4. Amy – “I’m a single parent and personal trainer, but I had to close my business down.”

“I’m a single parent and I work as a personal trainer. I just launched my business last year but with the current regulations, I’ve closed down and lost nearly all income. I’m waiting for approval for the JobSeeker payment and am looking for work, while waiting to hear about the JobKeeper payment. It’s a slow process and anxiety levels are through the roof. It’s tough, and with two teenage children, I’m trying to remain positive for them so they don’t have to worry. There are a lot of people in the same boat as me and we’ve all got to stand together and support one another, as we will get through it. It’s just these initial stages waiting for funds and to access super that’s hard. I am saving plenty of money on petrol though because I’ve got nowhere to go!”

READ: The $1500 JobKeeper payment has passed Parliament. Here’s everything you need to know.

READ: 80 cents per hour tax shortcut: Am I eligible, how does it work and how do I claim it?

5. Sam – “Retail therapy is making us feel better.”

“My partner and I are both contractors and our jobs are safe, for now. But in the last week, we have spent thousands on home improvements, new computers, a new puppy, five tonnes of soil and 28 plants. I bought a hair straightener, new cushions, a new bed for the spare room… I know, it’s insane. What is it about isolation that makes retail therapy feel so good?”

6. Hannah – “I’m hoping I can use this situation to save.”

“I work in an essential service industry and due to COVID-19, my workload has increased. My seven-hour days are now 12 hours, plus I’m working weekends. I’m hoping I can use this situation to save money from all this extra overtime.”

7. Mel – “Our household is saving so much money.”

“I am on maternity leave and thankfully, my partner still has his job, so our household income hasn’t changed. We are, however, saving so much more money! We are only doing a weekly shop to reduce the chances of making impulse buys. We are eating everything we buy, not wasting anything and becoming very resourceful. I have a coffee percolator coming as I have stopped going to the coffee shop everyday and no social events means no buying new clothes.”

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8. Remmy – “I had the next stage of my life planned out…”

“Before COVID-19, I was employed full time, about to sign documents to buy my ex-husband’s share of our house so I can have our kids at home… I had the next stage of my life planned out. I was made redundant, but I have savings and a beautiful home so I’m one of those people who feels guilty complaining as so many others have it worse. I’ve been accepted to receive the JobSeeker payments and am trying not to use my savings to live on because then I won’t have the deposit for my house when this is over. Two of my kids are living at home. My son is in year 12 and has lost his part time job. It’s really isolating and financially stressful.”

9. Lisa – “I’m not sure I’ll have a job when I return from maternity leave.”

“I have just started maternity leave and had arranged for maternity payments to be at half pay for a longer period of time, assuming my husband would have his usual income. His work hours have been reduced by 50 per cent which now makes things difficult. We’ve contacted our bank and have arranged to pay the bare minimum on our interest repayments. We’ve redrawn half of what we had paid ahead on our mortgage just in case we need it. It’s a nervous time. I’m not even sure if my job will be there when I return from maternity leave. I had planned to take a year off with the baby, but I may need to go back sooner to help support our family.”

10. Rach – “I’m a casual nurse and my hours have been cut.”

“I’m a casual nurse who normally works close to full time hours at a major Melbourne hospital. Currently there is very little to no work for me so it looks like I may have to apply for Centrelink. Going off the news, you would think every nurse in Australia would be flat out with work right now, however, that couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I am aware that this could change very quickly in the next few weeks. It’s a stressful time, even for those considered ‘essential’ at the moment. Although not having work for casual workers is good news for our healthcare system, it’s added financial pressure to many who rely on the normal hospital patient numbers in order to survive.”

LISTEN: Mamamia’s daily news podcast, The Quicky, breaks down exactly who can receive Government COVID-19 support and whether you’re eligible. Listen below, post continues after audio.

11. Belinda – “I just moved cities for my dream job, then was made redundant.”

“I quit my teaching job in March and moved to Sydney for my dream job! I was made redundant two weeks later. I now rely on JobSeeker, my roommates (who are beautiful humans) are covering my rent, and I’m battling with health insurance, car payments and all the other bills. I’ve gone from my $2,000 per fortnight teaching wage to $500. Weirdly though, I am definitely saving more money because I can’t go anywhere. It’s a tough situation, I’ve worked since I was 13 and now is the first time I’ve never had a job. It’s an odd feeling, one I’m not comfortable with.”

12. Chantelle – “I was taking financial security for granted.”

“My perspective on money has been completely shaken by this pandemic. I’m fortunate enough to still have a job, and am able to work from home, but it’s taught me you need savings because things can go wrong at any time. I’m used to saving solely with the intention of spending money on travel, but I’m now looking seriously at investing, and making long term financial plans. Even for those of us who are still employed, it’s likely we won’t advance as quickly (financially) in our careers as we might have expected to. So I’m being far more conscious of what I spend. In particular, I’m cooking everything at home, except for a coffee in the morning that I get from my local cafe. I’m using free exercise apps, am not buying clothes or beauty products online, and am intentionally saving all the money I was previously spending on transport to and from work, or on Ubers on the weekends. I’m hoping this will be a really important wake up call for me, because until now, I was taking financial security for granted.”

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13. Jess – “I’ve never been more aware of the fact I have no one to rely on financially other than myself.”

“I live alone and I’ve never been more aware of the fact I have no one to rely on financially other than myself. I do have a decent amount of savings, but in the worst case scenario, I know that would be eaten up very quickly so I’ve really tightened things up. As tempting as it is to online shop right now, I’m not buying anything other than essentials. I’m really noticing the difference now that I’m eating all my meals at home and not popping into Coles ‘for a few bits’ every evening. The gym being closed is another saving, as is the lack of socialising, obviously. As tempting as it is to relax and treat myself, I’m really focused on using this time to strengthen my safety net.”

14. Ashley – “We’re spending our ‘splurge’ money to keep up our spirits.”

“My husband and I are both front line workers with small children. We have been spending our splurge money on treats to keep our spirits up and give us fun things to look forward to. I know we are lucky to be maintaining our regular incomes at the moment, but also, maybe we are silly for spending the little bit of spare cash we do have.”

15. Ellie – “My situation is better than it was before.”

“My money situation is actually better than usual right now. I’m extremely grateful I still have a job and haven’t had any changes to my income, and being isolated at home means I’m spending far less money on coffees, eating out, transport, petrol etc. I just have my usual bills to pay and a whole lot left over, more than I’m used to! Because of this, I’ve been donating money to charities and initiatives supporting healthcare workers like Buy Them a Coffee, spending money at local small businesses in my area who are still operating within the social distancing guidelines and donating to artists and creatives whose work I love.”

Feature Image: Getty. These women are known to Mamamia but have chosen to remain anonymous. Names have been changed to protect their privacy.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If your mental is suffering, please reach out for help and contact Lifeline on 13 11 1 4. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

How has your money situation changed because of COVID-19? Tell us in the comments below.

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