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Every Centrelink dollar Robyn gets, she loses $2. Now she's only showering once a week

Centrelink payments go up every year, but some Aussies are still slipping through the cracks and being forced to take drastic measures.

The cost of living crisis has forced an Australian woman to cut back on showering and eating so she can afford the bare essentials in her life.

Robyn Nelson used to work as a cleaner in Geelong, Victoria, before she lost her job during the COVID pandemic. The 57-year-old now receives financial assistance from Centrelink and the NDIS to get by.

But, while welfare payments for 5 million Aussies went up this week, Robyn told Yahoo Finance it was not enough.

People standing outside Centrelink in cost of living crisis next to an insert of Robyn
While Robyn receives assistance from Centrelink and the NDIS, she has cut back on showering and eating to combat the cost of living. (Source: Getty/Supplied)

Have you been struggling with the cost of living? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

“For every extra dollar I get from the government to offset the cost of living, my rent alone goes up $2,” she said. “It's just getting harder and harder.”

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Robyn also took aim at supermarkets who keep changing their prices.

“They'll spend thousands on advertising, like ‘We've dropped the price of this and we've dropped the price of that’. [But the items are] a luxury that no one else would buy if you didn't drop the prices because the price of everyday essentials, like a bag of sugar, goes up every single fortnight. You know, 10 cents, 20 cents … it's just ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.”

Robyn has been homeless a dozen times in her life as a result of breakups or being unable to afford rental price increases. She has squatted in empty homes while attending half a dozen inspections a week to find a more permanent roof over her head.

The Geelong woman has thankfully been living in a semi-affordable rental property for a few years, but her recently diagnosed osteoarthritis means she soon won’t be able to climb the stairs every day to get in. Nearly half of her welfare payments are eaten up in rent.

Her power bills have become so unaffordable that she’s decided to cut back her showering from once a day to once a week. She also allocates just two days each year to have the heating and cooling on in her apartment.

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But perhaps most concerning of all, Robyn has resorted to eating one main meal and a snack per day because she can’t afford regular groceries. The 57-year-old also uses her local church’s food bank to get some supplies if hers are getting low.

Despite all of this, Robyn said she felt “luckier” than others in a similar situation.

“I was raised by my grandmother who lived through both the Great Depression and a war,” she told Yahoo Finance. “So, she was very good at making do and recycling and stuff like that. So I've grown up with those skills.

“I think, because I cook, because I have those skills, I think I'm luckier than most people to be able to survive. For years, I've never bought a drink when I'm out. I always take a drink with me. When I was working, I made an iced coffee to take to work every day.

“God knows what the prices of them are now with the prices of groceries and stuff.”

She admits that because she has such little money for food, the products she buys aren’t usually very healthy and her cholesterol has gone up as a result.

In a bid to be proactive with her finances, Robyn has taken up Victoria's Container Deposit Scheme, where she can earn 10 cents for every can or container she picks up. It might not be much, but it can mean the difference between eating or not eating for her.

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