How to Budget and Save on a Low Income after JobKeeper.

9 minutes
hero image

As new JobKeeper changes take effect, it’s important to learn how to budget and save on a low income.

Three top tips.

  • Focus on the positive.
  • Have a plan.
  • Renegotiate and reduce.

The Australian Government introduced the JobKeeper payment, to help keep Australian workers in a job they may have already lost or be in danger of losing because of the COVID-19 crisis. It’s been confirmed that JobKeeper payments will remain available for eligible employers until 28 March 2021.

For employees of these employers who remain eligible for JobKeeper, the amount paid each fortnight for JobKeeper payments will reduce commencing 28 September 2020 and will be further reduced for the fortnights commencing 4 January 2021, until the JobKeeper scheme ends on 28 March 2021. More information about JobKeeper is available on the ATO website. If you have been impacted by changes to JobKeeper payments, learning how to budget and save on a low income may help you find your place on the path to financial freedom.

JobKeeper payment rates from 28th September to 28th March 2020


Full rate per fortnight

Less than 20hrs worked per fortnight rate

28th September 2020 to 3rd January 2021



4th January 2021 to 28th March 2021



(source: Media Release, Prime Minister Treasurer, Minister for Families and Social Services)

The impact of changes to JobKeeper are likely to be significant. There will be some businesses that will no longer be eligible for JobKeeper and others that whilst still eligible will pay less in JobKeeper payments each fortnight to their employees. For employees around the country, that are currently receiving JobKeeper payments, it may well be a confronting time. In this article, we explore what employees can do to prepare themselves and be more financially resilient.

1. Try to focus on the positive.

The good news is that you can put yourself in the driver’s seat for your financial actions. By taking a step back from your fears and making sure you control your money matters – and not the other way around – it may just be possible to dismiss any negative thoughts you may have. Asking people close to you for financial advice may help you realise that you aren’t going through this alone.

Thinking about the positive aspects of your money management skills is just one way to help you remain calm, be ready to consider your options and formulate a plan. While you may think you know your attitude towards money, with more clarity on your money mindset, you can identify beliefs and habits that impact your ability to stick to or even create plans.

Daily affirmations for what you do have, personally and financially, can be really powerful. Recording these in a daily financial gratitude journal is simple to do. What’s more, the gratitude journal can be something you return to if you feel overwhelmed about your finances.

2. Have a plan.

Your budget is your spending plan that outlines what money you expect to earn or receive (your income) and how you’ll save it or spend it (your expenses) for a given period of time. If you make a habit of saving money when you’re on a tight budget, over time you’ll set yourself up with an emergency fund for the future.

Regular budget checkups are essential, particularly if your income is likely to vary given changes to JobKeeper. Moreover, life, and all its expenses, are rarely constant.

Check the following items off your to-do list to plan effectively, budget and remain calm.

Record: Try recording when you receive your pay, when bills are due and when automatic payments are due. This can help you to identify spots when you may your cashflow could be low during the month.

Review: Check your bills, and make sure your figures are accurate by ensuring that your receipts and bills align with your budget. Of course, some things may fluctuate from month to month because of emergencies and other unpredictable events.

Reduce: Try to ensure that your expenses are less than your income, as going into debt is generally a cause of stress. If your expenses are greater than your income, it may be time to rethink your expenses. With many incomes reduced due to COVID19, we've put together a handy cost-cutting checklist which may help your planning and ease some of the strain on your finances.

Repay: Create a plan to pay off debt, so you know when your credit card balances, student loans, car or personal loan payments are going to be paid off.  A key point to debt reduction is focusing on paying down your debt with the highest interest and fees first.

Revisit: Review your plan on a regular basis so you feel more in control of your finances.

The following scenario outlines what this involves in practice:

 Kym updating her budget.

Kym works in the hospitality industry; her employer is eligible for JobKeeper after 28th September 2020. She usually works 37.5 hours per work and shares a rental property with 2 friends.

Prior to 28th September, Kym is eligible to receive JobKeeper - $1,500 per fortnight (before tax). She has a net income of $1,215.86 per fortnight equivalent to $2,634.37 per month.

Between 28th September 2020 and 3rd January 2021, Kym is expected to be eligible to receive JobKeeper - $1,200 per fortnight (before tax). She has a net income of $999.98 per fortnight equivalent to $2,166.42 per month.

In this scenario, the following assumptions have been made:

  • Superannuation contributions of 9.5% are deducted from Kym’s gross income.
  • The Medicare levy is payable. The calculated Medicare levy assumes Kym is single with no dependants.
  • Does not include the low-income tax offset and low- and middle-income tax offset.
  • Kym does not have any debt. She also pays for her expenses using a debit card and does not have a credit card.

Kym looks at her current budget and plans what expenses she can modify after 28th September.



Expense Type

Pre 28th September

Post 28th September



Phone Repayments




Living Expenses




↑ by $100







Renter’s Insurance










Public Transport Fares





Health Insurance















Share of Internet Usage




Lifestyle Expenses

Eating Out



↓ by $100





↓ by $150


Personal Spending 



↓ by $100


Streaming Service Subscription



↓ by $50

Total Expenses




↓ by $300






Net Income





Net Income – Total Expenses

Retained Savings



↓ by $167.95

Kym has decided that she is likely to spend more time at home after 28th September and so increases her food budget but decreases her budget for entertainment and eating out. She decides to reduce some of the money she spends on personal spending and streaming services.

Kym knows that it’s likely that her retained savings will significantly be reduced over this period unless she can reduce some of her other expenses.

3. Renegotiate and reduce.

It’s worth looking at your large expenses and asking yourself – can I reduce them?

For example, looking at the scenario above and Kym’s situation, she and her two housemates could ask their landlord to reduce the monthly rent by 20%. Alternatively, they could see if alternative accommodation with lower cost rent is available.

Let’s imagine they opt to ask their landlord to reduce the rent for the next six months and the landlord listens to their suggestion of a 20% reduction and counteroffers with a 10% reduction, which Kym and her housemates accept.

The outcome of this decision for Kym is that her share of the rent will reduce from $1,050 per month to $945 per month. This means Kym saves an additional $105 per month and $630 over six months.

Kym may decide that she’s best off retaining the savings of $105 per month in her savings account.

Buoyed by the success of renegotiating their rent, the housemates might decide to have a conversation with their utility providers. For example, they could ask their electricity or gas provider whether hardship support is available to them. The key here is to ask for help.

If you ask for help and your energy providers can’t give you more help, you can always switch providers to try and save money. It’s important to confirm you're on the best energy offer for your household’s circumstances. The Australian Government has a site to help people reduce their energy bills. You can also compare energy suppliers to make sure you’re getting the best deal, using the Government’s Energy Made Easy website. What’s will help you to save money, is to keep a close eye on your utility costs and reduce them where possible. You can often lower your utility payments by making sure you turn off lights and unplugging power-hungry devices.

Other help available.

From the Australian Government:

Australians on JobKeeper payments can claim JobSeeker to top up their income when the JobKeeper payments are reduced on September 28, 2020.

To claim JobSeeker, Australians must meet the income test, which is a maximum income of $1257 per fortnight, as well as residency requirements, assets test and mutual obligations (these are tasks and activities recipients agree to while receiving certain government payments, for example attending appointments with an employment services provider).

Someone who is receiving JobKeeper at a rate of $1200 per fortnight (before tax) may be eligible for a part-payment of JobSeeker of about $276 per fortnight (before tax, including Coronavirus Supplement), bringing their total income to $1476 per fortnight (before tax). Visit Services Australia, to find out more about the eligibility criteria for JobSeeker payments.

If your income has been affected by COVID-19, you may be eligible for income support payments. Centrelink has created an online tool to see what payments and services you may be eligible for.

From the Davidson Institute:

Learning more about personal finance with Westpac’s financial education expects, the Davidson Institute, will provide you with the confidence to handle difficult financial situations in the future:

  • Budget Planner takes you through a simple step-by-step process to help establish a budget that suits you.
  • Cost-cutting checklist has a set of thought-starters you can consider to reduce your costs.


This information is general in nature and has been prepared without taking your objectives, needs and overall financial situation into account. For this reason, you should consider the appropriateness for the information to your own circumstances and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. 

©Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.

author thumbnail image

Lali Wiratunga

Lali Wiratunga believes in encouraging positive financial behaviours to boost people’s financial confidence. He also advocates for the role of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship in helping people and organisations deliver social impact and financial sustainability. In 2016, Lali was recognised for creating a positive impact through Pro Bono Australia’s Impact 25. Following a career as a corporate lawyer and management consultant in the UK, he's had 14 years experience in roles across financial services in Australia. His volunteer roles include a seat on the Board of TAD, a disability services organisation, and is a member of the Alumni Advisory Board at UNSW Business School, where he mentors students and advocates for the value of business education.

Was this helpful?