“Ask Martha” – Creating an effective NDIS budget

4 tips for effectively budgeting out your NDIS plan funding

When you first receive your NDIS funding, it can look like you suddenly have quite a lot of money to use. But remember — this needs to be effectively spread out across your entire plan, which could be 1 year, 18 months or even 2 years for some participants. You’ll quickly realise that it’s going to take some careful planning and budgeting to ensure you can gain as many benefits as possible.

For some, it’s going to take some work to ensure you don’t run out of funds too early. For others (particularly those living in regional areas) it may actually be difficult to spend your entire budget, which isn’t ideal either.

This is why it’s important to budget your NDIS funding carefully — particularly your Core Supports and Capacity Building categories.

As someone who manages my own plan funding, and also someone who’s been a Support Coordinator for others, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks in this area. So in today’s post, I’m going to share some of these tips that you may find helpful in making sure you’re pacing and spending your funding as effectively you can.
Remember: planning well is the best way to take ownership and feel empowered about the goals and outcomes you want to achieve!

1. Set aside some contingency funds within your plan

First, check how much budget you’ve got to spend under your Core Supports and Capacity Building categories. Set aside some budget in each category for emergencies or unexpected needs that might pop up. This is funding that ideally you won’t touch, unless you really need to. I normally recommend setting aside around 5% within each category of your funding.

If you don’t end up spending these emergency funds by the end of your current plan, simply explain this at your next plan review meeting.

2. Divide your budget into weeks and months, depending on the category

This is a system I still use myself, and you may find it helpful too. I use a basic spreadsheet, but a simple document on your computer can work well.

Core Supports: divide your budget into weeks

In general, Core Supports tend to be things you’ll spend money on regularly (weekly or even daily) such as support workers, consumables, transport, and meal preparation and delivery.

That’s why I find it handy to take the total amount in my budget for Core Supports, and divide it by the total number of weeks in my plan, to get an average weekly budget.

Capacity Building: try dividing into months

Capacity Building on the other hand, usually covers things like appointments with physios, occupational therapists, speech therapists, or dietitians. These may happen fortnightly or monthly, rather than every single day or week.

For this reason, you might find it helpful to divide this area of your budget into the total number of months you have in your plan. You’ll then get a better idea of how many specialists you can see, and how often.

Remember that for many allied health services, you’ll also need to have an initial assessment, and a report written at the end of your plan. So keep some funding aside for those too (providers will generally let you know how many funding hours are required for these.)

Note: Capital budget covers things like assistive technology, equipment, and home or vehicle modifications, and is always agency-managed, so there’s no real need to “pace” this. You’ll just decide what you’d like to spend funding on in this area, and the NDIA will pay providers on your behalf.

3. Take a look at your own schedule over the next year or so

When calculating the above figures, look at the year ahead to see what you’ve got coming up. Try to think: do you have any weeks that you’ll be away, on holidays, having planned surgery, or otherwise won’t need supports or services for whatever reason? Be sure to exclude those weeks or months when you’re doing your calculations.

Similarly, some people like to allow for a spare week or two of funding in case their plan review runs late. For example, if your plan is for 1 year, you may divide your core supports budget by 54 weeks (instead of 52 weeks). This will spread your funding out to cover an extra couple of weeks, just in case.

4. Plan and research well to get more bang for your buck

Some service providers may be cheaper, while other services may be more expensive, but provide a better quality service. You should always aim to get the best quality support that you can afford. But, there are always ways to think outside the box and get more for your money.

A few questions to ask yourself might be:

  • Look for group-run sessions
    Is there a provider near you that runs group sessions for a particular service, where you can attend 5 of those, instead of just 1 private session? You’ll enjoy the added social benefits at the same time.
  • Seek out services that are offered online
    Could you find a provider who offers services online, meaning you don’t have to spend your funding on clinician travel time? Virtual health services delivered via online therapy can also help you access services and specialists that aren’t even physically located close by to you. This means that even if there aren’t a lot of providers in your area, you can still utilise as much of your funding as possible, with less of it going to waste at the end of your plan.
  • Find more efficient ways to access meal support
    If you have funding for meal preparation and delivery, could you find a healthy home-delivered meal service that services your suburb? This can save on the costs of having a support worker shop, prepare, and cook meals for you.
  • Choose which days of the week you access services
    Certain services are priced differently on different days of the week. For example, hiring a support worker on the weekend can be twice as expensive as during the week. Do you need to go out on Saturday and Sunday for 2 hours a day, or could you go out twice during the week for 4 hours a day instead?
  • Look for services which consolidate multiple health assessments into one
    The issue with using multiple allied health services is that each one generally needs to conduct their own initial assessment with you. But some companies provide a consolidated service (Kinela’s Kick-start for example) which will assess you in multiple health areas at the same time — using much less of your time and funding.

Again, it’s all about getting creative and ensuring your funding goes further — or ensuring that you’re actually using your funding in its entirety!

Budgeting your NDIS funding may take a bit of research and planning to get the right balance. But with some practice and careful thought, you’ll feel much more in control of your goals. 

You’ll also be able to use your funding effectively and consistently throughout your plan, to get the best outcomes possible.

Tell us in the comments – what tips do you use to ensure you’re pacing your budget over the course of the year? Are there any tricks you’ve learned when it comes to stretching your budget that little bit further (or spending extra when you need to?)

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