Bank Balance Confessions: The 34-Year-Old Freelancer With Health Problems

Here at The Cusp, we believe that talking about money empowers us to make more informed choices – and that tracking your spending can be revelatory. Here’s the latest instalment in our series exploring the income and expenditure of young Australians. Want to get better with money? We can help you there, too.

I am doing well with saving – I’ve always been quite frugal, and I’ve never had debt. That said, I feel like all of my expenses are continuing to increase lately, and really rapidly, and my earnings have never kept pace with that.

I have chronic health problems and that is my biggest expense, and at times that makes me really angry – because it isn’t equitable, and it isn’t fair, and so many of my expenses aren’t covered, or are inadequately covered, by Medicare – and the depth of this disadvantage just isn’t realised by anyone who has never been chronically unwell.

I try not to opt out of things entirely, but I do have to consciously keep money aside for rainy days and big-ticket expenses. And it does mean that all of my furniture is IKEA chipboard and many of my groceries are home brand.

I’m a freelancer, so I don’t have a salary. Having a variable income is tricky – I think it means that I have to be a bit more conscious of what’s coming in, and I do have a tendency to get a bit panicky and line up too many jobs when the money flow is slow.

I’ve had times where I’ve had invoices for over $10k out in the world, and less than $200 in my account while I wait. I’ve never had to borrow money, but it does make planning and especially celebrating difficult.

This week was a strange one for me. My tangible income was $150, although I really earned about $1100 – except that was all in invoiced work, and I still haven’t been paid for those jobs.


  • $3.80  Morning coffee – this is breakfast today
  • $277  Passport renewal – I’m travelling for a work conference this year, but have to cover these costs myself because I’m self-employed.
  • $19.47  Hardware – Because I’m moving house this week, these materials are to repair minor damage and make sure we get the bond back.
  • $68  Three weeks’ supply of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics

= $368.27


  • $3.60 Morning coffee
  • $34.57 Groceries – mostly ingredients for two friends’ birthday cakes
  • $220 Weekly appointment with my psychologist
  • $691.71 Car insurance. Last possible day to pay this – I had to transfer money from my savings, because I’m waiting for five different organisations to pay my invoices.
  • $7.50 Drinks for a friend’s birthday

= $957.38


  • $22.80 Breakfast with my boyfriend.
  • $11.20 Knitting needles – I broke one last night while making a present for my sister’s impending baby.
  • $35.40 Groceries
  • $3.80 Soft drink. I’m an addict and I don’t care.
  • $3.80 Newspaper. This is my Saturday treat.
  • $24 Went out for drinks and had more than I intended because I was horribly anxious.

= $101


  • $3.50 Coffee – catching up with a friend who’s having a hard time at the moment
  • $3.50 Another coffee, this time with my new housemates.
  • $3.80 Soft drink. It’s so hot today!

= $10.80


  • $250 Removalist. I’m moving house today!
  • $26.50 Breakfast with my boyfriend, who helped me move.
  • $3 Baking paper, because I forgot to get this for the new house.
  • $3 A mixer for a friend’s party.

= $282.50


  • $10 Breakfast
  • $22 Groceries
  • $52.98 Petrol. Had to drive to my casual job in another part of town.

= $84.98


  • $27.80 Bought Mum breakfast for helping me move.
  • $25 GP visit. This was the gap payment.
  • $32 Finalising the cleaning of the old house
  • $38.80 – New medication
  • $2.10 – Bus fare. I’d normally walk, but my illness is making me feel faint and weak today.
  • $191.90 – Health insurance. This is my monthly premium – I need top-level cover because no other level pays for psychiatric hospitalisation.

= $317.60

Total weekly spend = $2122.53

I don’t normally track my spending, but I do tend to keep a vague idea in mind of what’s coming in and going out. I don’t really like thinking about money – I spent a lot of time without much of it at all (because I was studying, because of my industry, because of my health) and when that’s the case, having to keep an eye on cashflow becomes really boring and stressful. So now that I’m a bit better off, it’s nice to be able to relax a little.

That said, keeping track for the week wasn’t as anxiety-inducing as I thought it would be. It was a very expensive week, because of the move (which was something forced on us – the owner of our previous rental was selling), but life costs money, and that kind of life event is the exception, rather than the rule.