Not much has changed since ABBA sang in 1976 “All the things I could do, if I had a little money.” Money – or the lack of it – has been giving people headaches and causing stress since we first started using it.
In our report Making the invisible visible, 65% of respondents reported that they’d experienced financial stress due to having a musculoskeletal condition. The most common causes for this were:
- cost of specialist appointments: 50%
- cost of allied health appointments: 46%
- cost of medications: 39%
- cost of surgery: 19%.
Living with a musculoskeletal condition – or multiple conditions – can be expensive. Medications, healthcare appointments, time off work (or not being able to work), exercise classes, complementary therapies, and aids and equipment, are costly on top of everyday expenses.
When you add a global pandemic into the mix, and the problems it has caused in terms of work for so many people, financial stress is almost inevitable.
Wow, that’s grim. But fortunately, there are things you can do if you’re in this situation. And it starts now.
Acknowledge the situation. This is the crucial first step. As much as we’d like to bury our head in the sand when we feel anxious or worried about anything, it won’t solve the problem. We need to look it in the eye, acknowledge it exists and start to deal with it – one step at a time.
Create a budget. This may sound daunting, but you need to know where your money is going. You need to be able to track what money is coming in, and what you’re spending it on. MoneySmart is an Australian Government website that has lots of tools and resources to help you manage your money. They have a section on budgeting to help you create a budget that works for you and your circumstances.
By understanding where your money’s going, you can start to see where you can make some savings or cut some costs. It will also put you in a better position when/if it comes time to talk with your bank, utility companies etc.
Know your rights. When you’re struggling and stressed it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But there are laws to help protect you if you’re suffering from financial hardship. The National Debt Helpline has information to help you understand your rights and protections.
Seek help. If you’re finding it challenging to create a budget, or find a way out of your financial problems, contact the National Debt Helpline and talk with a financial counsellor. They’re free, confidential, and independent. You can use the live chat function on their website or you can call them on 1800 007 007 weekdays 9.30am-4.30pm. They also have a huge range of other resources to help you if you’re struggling with debt or getting your finances under control.
Talk to your bank. If you’re having difficulties paying your mortgage, personal loans or credit card repayments, talk with your lender about your options, such as making smaller repayments over a longer period or pausing repayments.
The Australian Banking Association has some useful resources on their website, including information about your rights and what your bank can do to help you.
Talk to your utility companies. If you can’t afford to pay your water, gas, electricity and phone bills, contact your supplier. But first, check out this information from the National Debt Helpline about how to do this.
Be wary of buy now, pay later schemes, payday loans, and consumer leases. If you’re under financial stress, these options may seem like a convenient way to pay for things you need. However, they’re also an easy way to get into even more debt. Read this information from MoneySmart to find out more about the potential problems with payday loans, consumer leases, and buy now pay later schemes.
Talk with your doctor about GP management plans. Living with a chronic condition (or multiple conditions) can cost a lot of money. Discuss accessing a GP Management Plan and Team Care Arrangement with your doctor so that you can get coordinated care to manage your health condition. You may also be eligible for Medicare rebates for certain allied health services. You can find out more on the Department of Health website.
Talk with your doctor and pharmacist about safety nets. They exist to help lower the out of pocket medical costs for people who, due to their health condition/s, spend a lot of money on:
- out of hospital services, such as seeing a doctor or specialist and some tests and scans (e.g. blood tests and CT scans), and
- Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) medications.
Your doctor and pharmacist can give you more information about these safety nets. You can also find out more by clicking on the links above.
Find out about government allowances and benefits. The Australian Government provides a wide range of allowances and benefits you may be eligible for including:
The Australian Government’s Services Australia website provides a lot of information about these payments (and others), including information about eligibility criteria.
You can also talk with our nurses on the MSK Help Line if you’re having trouble navigating your way through these social services schemes. Contact them on 1800 263 265 weekdays or email email@example.com.
Find out about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS helps people under the age of 65 with permanent and significant disability get care and supports. It pays for reasonable and necessary supports that a person needs to live and enjoy their life. The NDIS also provides information and connections to local services to people who aren’t eligible for funding. Find out more about the NDIS.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel. When you’re in debt or dealing with financial hardship, it can seem like there’s no way out. But there are a lot of organisations and services available to help you. This article has just scraped the surface of them. There are more for you to explore in the links below.
If you need help with debt, or if you just want to learn how to manage your money better, I would urge you to look at MoneySmart, National Debt Help Line and The Salvos. They really provide excellent, easy to understand resources on a wide range of issues relating to money.
Contact our free national Help Line
If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via Messenger.
More to explore
- Keeping your medicines costs down
National Prescribing Service
- Making the right financial moves during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak
Choice, 7 April 2020
For free tools, tips, and guidance to manage your money and take control of your finances.
- National Debt Helpline
For free information and advice to get out of debt and manage your finances.
- Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS)
Free confidential service for rural people experiencing, or at risk of, financial hardship.
- Save money on medicines
Choice, 7 March 2016
- School costs
MoneySmart and National Debt Helpline provide information about paying for school expenses.
- Services Australia
For information about government payments and services.
- The Salvos – Financial assistance
Provide free information and resources to help you manage your money. Includes You’re the Boss, an award-winning financial-skill-building program, financial counselling, financial coaching, webinars, no interest loans, and more.