The low level of the Newstart (unemployment benefit) payment has become a major source of concern about Australia's willingness and ability to protect unemployed Australians from poverty. Despite this disquiet, there has been little scholarly examination of the implications of living on Newstart. In this article, through the use of a survey and in-depth interviews, we examine features of everyday life for Newstart recipients in the Sydney area, experiences that reveal the scarring potential of low benefits. The article illustrates that for a majority of interview participants, the most basic items were difficult to purchase and many of the interviewees were living in inadequate and even unsafe situations owing to an inability to afford satisfactory accommodation. For some, their lack of disposable income had severe health implications. Social isolation was a common phenomenon, and many of the interviewees found that the low payment made finding employment a lot more challenging.