How to prevent running out of your NDIS budgets too soon
Keeping track of your budgets is one of the most important parts of the NDIS journey. If you don’t manage your budgets properly, you risk running out of your funding and having to pay for a support out of your own pocket or not receiving it at all.
In this article we share some advice about how you can protect yourself against 'overspending' and look at some of the tools that are out there to help you.
The budget basics
Your NDIS plan outlines how much money you’ve been allocated for each category of supports. Usually these budgets cover a 12-month period and can only be spent on their specific support category (except for most Core Supports budgets, which are flexible).
How to manage your budget
The NDIS puts you in charge of the supports you receive – which means you’re also in charge of ensuring those supports are paid for. Actively managing your NDIS budget is vital if you want to avoid running out of your funding before the end of your plan. Here's how to best do this:
1. Plan your budget:
Divide your budget into smaller chunks to see how much money you have to spend each month, fortnight, or even week. Remember that your spend might not always be the same throughout the year. For example, you might require additional supports during the holiday periods.
2. Track your budget:
Once you’ve broken your budgets up and worked out how much you have to spend on each support, you’ll need to stick to it. So keep a close eye on your service providers’ invoices and track your total spend. If you notice you’re overspending one month, you’ll know that you have to try and spend less for the next month. If you have Plan Management in your plan, your Plan Managers can help you track your spending. Plan Partners provides Plan Management too, find out more here.
Staying on budget can be tricky, but there’s lots of handy online tools that can help. The Plan Partners Dashboard - also available as an App - is one such tool that was designed to help our Plan Management customers easily stay on top of their budgets. This Dashboard shows how much of each support category’s funds you’ve spent and how much you have left - all in a simple, easy to understand table. You can also track the payment status of each of your invoices as they move through the payment process with the NDIS. On top of that, we also send our customers a monthly overview of their spending in each category, so they’re reminded about the status of their NDIS plan.
A safety net
To avoid the nasty surprise of a larger than expected invoice, we recommend setting up a service agreement with your providers that outlines an agreed upon budget. With a current service agreement in place, the Plan Partners team can make sure your spending is aligned to this budget, giving you a safety net against any accidental overspending – a first for the sector.
Exceeded your budget?
If it looks like you’re going to run out of money before your NDIS plan ends, don’t panic – there are still some options available to you.
Firstly, explain your situation to your service provider and see if there’s anything they can do to help ensure your supports aren’t interrupted, or explore cheaper services that you can cover with your remaining budget.
Failing that, contact your Local Area Coordinator to see if it’s worth requesting a review of your NDIS plan in which you can ask for additional budget. Be mindful that this can be a lengthy, evidence-based process and isn’t always successful, so you should never rely on it – and if you do, you should ask for one as early as possible and not wait until the final months of your plan.
Another risk – underspending
It’s not just overspending that can put your supports at risk; underspending is also something you need to protect yourself against.
When you get your NDIS plan, establish which supports you can receive under each category and then estimate how many hours of each you’ll need.
Actively track your spending and how much you have left to spend – don’t just guess.
Track each support category separately, as most budgets in your NDIS plan can’t be transferred between categories.
Online tools, such as the Plan Partners Dashboard, can make it easy to track your budgets and see how much you’re spending.
Plan Managers can help with paying your invoices and tracking your budgets. Support Coordinators can support with understanding your budgets and organising your supports. Plan Partners offers both. If you don’t have these services in your NDIS plan, you could consider requesting a review to get them included.
Before they provide a service, agree with your service providers what services they will be providing, for how many hours and for which price. Ask to set up a service agreement to get this clearly covered.
Service agreements are also a handy tool to protect you against overspending. At Plan Partners, we can use them to create a ‘safety net’. This basically keeps an agreed upon amount of funding aside for a specific service, which gives you and your service provider peace of mind.
If you do think you’ll be overspending your funds, you could consider requesting a review of your NDIS plan – but don’t rely upon this, as you might not be successful.