Are There Ways To Find Money While Chronically Ill?
The short answer is YES, there are financial resources available. In my experience, before I got sick, I saved money by doing things like, making meals from scratch, hanging up the laundry to air dry, cutting coupons, using cloth diapers instead of paper, etc. If I wanted to save money I had to do more work. Conversely, using products/services that are easier to use always cost me more money. Have you found this to be true for you as well?
However, chronic illness leaves us with less energy and physical ability to do these things to save money. So how can we make ends meet with less income, less energy, and more expenses? Where can we find income to replace our job if we can’t work at all or need to cut back on our work hours? My number one tip is explore all available options!
A Note On Frustration
Be prepared for frustration and angry feelings during this research and application process. When I’ve gotten frustrated with filling out forms and making phone calls, my dad has reminded me that “This is my job now.” Of course, I don’t think he quite understands that taking care of my health issues is a full-time job in itself. So searching for money is really a second job.
There are resources out there. They just aren’t easy to access. I remember feeling so frustrated at how difficult the process was to access government assistance. I wondered how anyone could cheat the system when everything is checked and requires documentation. So much documentation! Enlist the help of a spouse, significant other, friend, social worker, or family member to help you wade through this process.
Strategies To Explore
Your most pressing needs will probably be replacing lost income, and paying for medical expenses, so I’ll focus on those first.
If you’re still working, check with your job regarding benefits like disability insurance, family medical leave, and health insurance. Can you take a family leave? Will your employer allow you to work on a flexible schedule or from home? Eventually you may get to the point where you can no longer work, but try to see if you and your employer can make some adjustments to your work schedule or tasks to enable you to keep working.
My employer was able to offer me a Monday-to-Friday, daylight nursing job, instead of working steady nights. This extended the time I was able to work by two years. If I had the ability to go back and relive this period of time, I would have focused more on saving money for the future. I thought that I would be okay and able to work for years, so I wasn’t as frugal with my income as I could have been.
- Many countries have government programs to aid those of us that are disabled either with medical insurance coverage, disability payments (like Social Security in the USA), housing, etc. Each program has it’s own requirements and limits to what it can provide. Do an internet search for government services in your area or ask a social worker.
- In Pennsylvania, USA an online website, called COMPASS, is available to apply for medical assistance, food stamps, cash payments, and help paying for heating. One application covers all these services. Hopefully, your area has a website like this as it streamlines the application process.
- Gather all your medical expenses, and income before starting your application. In the USA, you have to be unable to work for a specific time-frame before you can apply for disability income through Social Security.
- Research both federal/national government, and state/local programs in your country.
- Prepare to wait for these applications to be processed. It can take months (or even years if your first disability application is denied), to get benefits. Don’t give up.
- Search for local resources in your area. Libraries often have information about local programs, like food banks or senior centers. Or do another internet search for resources in your community. Use whatever resources you qualify for. For example, my county has a monthly food distribution program which focuses on fresh vegetables. Since fresh veggies can be expensive in the stores this helps me eat more veggies on my income.
- Libraries are also great places to borrow books, and movies. In some you can even borrow games and puzzles. You also can use the internet if you don’t have it at home. Take advantage of this free resource.
- Cost sharing. If you cannot afford something maybe you could share the cost with a friend or family member. I got rid of cable television due to it’s cost. My daughter has a Netflix account that she shares with me.
- Buy items in bulk with a friend or family member, and then split them. Check prices first to make sure you really are getting a good deal.
- If you have the ability to shop for gas and electric suppliers do so. You may be able to lower your utility bills that way. I recently was able to decrease my electric bill.
- Check out tips for saving money on your utility company’s websites. Some utilities offer services to help you reduce your energy costs based on your income.
- Many houses of worship have emergency funds/programs that may be able to help you get through a tough spot.
- There are a huge amount of how-to-cut-expenses articles and websites on the internet. Read some of these and put their ideas into practice.
- If you need cash fast, consider selling some of your possessions. Selling your stuff for cash is quite anxiety-provoking in my experience. I try to remind myself to be thankful that I had those things to sell when I need cash, instead of focusing on the loss.
- Cancel subscriptions to goods and services. If you love magazines and feel sad to do without them, maybe someone could gift you a subscription to your favorite one. Some libraries allow you to check out magazines.
- There is usually a lot of room for savings in groceries. This is another topic with a lot of information available on line. Generally, homemade is less expensive, easier to adapt to special diets, and more nutritious. See resources below.
- Use whatever tools you need to make food prep easier, like a crock pot/instant pot, family meal helpers(children/spouse), food processor, etc. Make enough for another meal, when you cook so you have leftovers for the next day or to freeze. See below for ideas to make food prep easier with chronic illness.
Downsizing Your Living Space
Despite your best efforts, you may have to downsize your living quarters if you can no longer afford your home. This may mean selling a large home, and buying a smaller one, moving into an apartment, moving into public housing, or moving in with family or friends to share expenses. Most of the budget information I’ve read says our housing expenses should be 30-33% of our income. To figure out what you can afford in rent or mortgage payments, multiply your monthly income by 30%.
When I did this calculation, I ended up eligible for public housing. I don’t know about other countries, but there is a negative attitude about public housing in the USA. Being forced to move, because you can no longer afford your home is VERY upsetting. Needing to move back in with your parents, is also very upsetting. Moving is right up there with death and divorce as a high stress event.
Once again, research your options, and check your math. I have found that home ownership is too expensive for me, because of unexpected repairs and ever increasing taxes, especially when I add in unexpected medical costs. Since everyone’s situation is different, only you can decide what you can afford, and whether or not sharing housing is something you can do.
I really hope you don’t have to downsize due to poor health and lack of financial resources, but if you do I understand how traumatic it is. You are not alone! I wrote a post last year about the process of downsizing with 10 helpful tips. You can read it here.
Please use what ideas work for you and ignore what doesn’t. Your situation is unique, and requires that you adapt all suggestions to fit your life. If a tip doesn’t work for you, let it go without stress.
https://upbeatliving.net/review-more-than-just-making-it-hope/ (This resource is Christian based.)
Apartment Living has this article on Budget Living: Low-Income Housing Information & Help
How to Negotiate Your Medical Bills Like a Pro
If you found this post on financial resources helpful, please share it so that others may benefit. I welcome all comments, and questions in the comments below. If you have any tips you’d like to share that would be wonderful! If you missed Part 1 you can read it here: https://www.upbeatliving.net/chronic-illness-money-woes/
If you’d like to read Part 3, click here: https://www.upbeatliving.net/chronic-illness-money-managing-resources/
Till next time, Kathy
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