Ways to #Save #Money, Especially if you’re #Disabled

I’ve been researching articles related on how to save money while on disability. But, I haven’t really come across anything that provides much information. Perhaps I’m just not entering the right searches, but, thus far, I’ve not been successful in finding any resources. I absolutely love Suze Orman’s advice and rarely miss her Saturday night show on CNBC. But, I haven’t found any advice from her regarding people who are disabled. I suppose that the advice for saving and budgeting while on disability isn’t much different than someone who is working but making a minimum wage or barely making ends meet. Thankfully, there are some resources to help those of us in tight financial situations.

Once you’re approved for disability, you’ll find that your income is no where near what it used to be while working. Granted, if you receive social security disability, the amount you receive is related to how much you’ve worked over the past 15 years. If you don’t have enough work experience, then you would receive social security disability insurance, which is money provided through tax payer dollars, which the current amount is roughly $674 a month. How anyone can live off of that, I have no idea. Well, I do, I worked as a social worker prior to becoming disabled. My clients were all born with their disabilities, so they were receiving this small amount. Many of my clients worked at a workshop, which is like a factory for people with disabilities. They made less than a dollar an hour, which was good because it wouldn’t jeopardize their benefits. Most of my clients lived with their parents or roommates, they simply could not live alone on this amount.

For those of us that find ourselves in a financial crunch because of disability or low income, I’ve researched and the following are ways to help you manage.

1. Create and stick to a budget. What good is a budget if you don’t adhere to it? Start with all of your fixed expenses, which include rent, utilities and car payments. Then include your variable expenses which include fuel and groceries. For most of us, we have little to no money left after this point. If you do have money left over, it should go towards paying off any debt, as well as savings. There are a lot of free budget sheets online to help you keep track.

2. Look for programs that will help with your bills. If you’re disabled, you can apply for Section 8 housing, however, the last time I checked, there is a two year waiting list, at least in my state, Missouri. But, the sooner you get on the list, the quicker you’ll qualify. This service will allow funds from the government to help pay your rent in specified apartments or houses that will accept your voucher. However, some of the housing available is not in the most desirable of locations. Unfortunately, you may live in what might be considered bad neighborhoods, so you have to consider that when looking at housing. Not all Section 8 approved homes are bad, just a heads up. This is just my personal observation from my years as a social worker. If you cannot afford your rent, naturally, this would be the best option for you. There are also programs through the phone company to get you a reduced phone service called, Lifeline. It will allow a home phone for roughly $12 a month, last I checked, that will allow local calls and 911 service. You can also sign up for budget billing with your utility company, so that you’re not surprised by a large bill. It will average out your bill through out the year, so you pay a typical flat rate each month. Be aware, if you don’t pay your bill, you will then receive a large bill the following month.

3. There are programs available to help with food expenses and personal care. You can apply for food stamps, if your home income is within the poverty line, then you may qualify for food stamps. I’ve seen people receive upwards of $500 a month for a family and as low as $10 a month for an individual. I don’t know the formula that’s used, but know that you can’t make much, otherwise you won’t qualify. If you receive disability benefits and have medicare/medicaid, then you may also qualify for in-home services of a personal care attendant. The PCA would be able to assist you in keeping your home clean and help with personal care, such as bathing and nail care, etc. Based on the formula used by your local social service office, they will determine how many hours you’re eligible for. However, if you live with an able-bodied person, you will most likely not qualify, as they will assume your roommate can handle the cleaning.

4. When I became legally disabled, one of the first things I did was complete a form to have my student loan dissolved due to disability. It took about 3 months and I finally received my approval. But this cleared up one expense that I had, that I would have had a very difficult time paying. In the meantime, you can apply for a deferment due to financial hardship. This will delay your payments for a year, while interest continues to accrue.

5. I’ve heard many, many times that we should pay ourselves first. Meaning, when we receive our checks, we should put away 10% or whatever amount you decide, into savings. However, when you’re on a very limited income, with no opportunity to earn more, since you can’t work you don’t have the opportunity to pick up extra shifts etc. However, it is very important for those of us on disability to put back anything we can because we will always run into some kind of medical expense, it never fails.

6. Because it’s hard to get out of the house most days, I have found the wonderful world of online ordering. Recently I bought some things from Walmart and they offered shipping for just .97 cents! I also have used Amazon online and although they charge more for shipping, they tend to offer most items much less than stores do. You can find things for at least $10 less online than the store. Less overhead means more savings for you!

7. There are grocery stores that offer more savings than others. Stores like Aldi’s provides quality food for much less. This is hard for me, being vegan, most of the food I eat tends to be more expensive. However, I’ve become a couponer to help with cutting down on food costs. I’m doing much better at looking at the sale ads that are mailed each week to see if I can maximize on my coupon by buying something on sale. Also, my local grocery stores have triple coupon days, that I always take advantage of! I also found a coupon friend who will cut out coupons and mail me her leftovers; I do the same for her. I recently learned that Whole Foods will accept coupons and offers them; they’re in a bin when you walk in. If you can save anything, that’s a bonus!

8. There are other money saving ideas such as never buying new clothes. Go to Salvation Army and Goodwill to find clothes in decent shape, that you can buy for much, much less than a brand new outfit. Sometimes you get really lucky and find clothes with the tags still on them. You can also get your hair cut at a local hair school for free or a reduced cost, if you don’t mind a student cutting your hair. If you want to donate your hair to locks of love, there are participating Great Clips stores that will cut it for free. Always sign up when you go to a store to get coupons mailed to you.

These are just a few ways to help you cut down on expenses. I don’t have all the answers, I just know what has helped me and clients from my past. Most of us, disabled or not, are having to pinch pennies and learning of ways to save money, is just a blessing to us all.

If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear! Happy Savings!

Finally Cut My Hair and Donated it to #LocksOfLove

I finally did it, I cut my hair and donated it to locks of love. After months, maybe a year, of debating on whether to cut my hair and whether locks of love was a reputable company, I finally went and got it cut. Like with many companies, you can google locks of love and find many articles claiming it to be a scam. For a while I debated whether I wanted to donate my hair, with hearing stories that LOL  made people purchase the wigs versus donating them. To be honest, I still feel like it’s a great cause, even if there are some, likely sporadic, issues involved. Overall, I want to believe that they are still providing a great service. It’s kind of like when you donate to the Red Cross. You never know exactly where your money is going or how it will be used, but you just have faith that it will go to help someone in need. Besides, I was due to get my hair cut, so I’d rather donate it on the hopes that it will help a child going through cancer vs. just throwing it away.

Besides donating to a great cause, I am hoping that having shorter hair will help me with my health issues. Having such long hair made me dread washing and drying it. I honestly put it off for as long as I could each week, because it was such a daunting task. Also, having to clip my hair up every day was starting to give me a headache because it was getting to be really heavy. My hair has been about the same since I was 5. Long, straight and typically a right of middle part. When I’m living a little on the wild side, I’ll tease it a bit, but that’s on special occasions. I much prefer clipping up the side with a bobby pin or tucking hair behind my ears. I’m a rebel when it comes to hair! When I started college, back in the late 90’s, I got my really long hair cut, but didn’t donate it to anyone. I honestly didn’t know too much about LOL. So I always regretted that and knew that, should I let my hair grow long again, I would vow to donate it. On a side note, I went to Great Clips and didn’t realize they were a participating branch, that will cut your hair for free, as long as you’re donating to LOL. They also gave me the envelope already addressed and included a donation form. That made it so easy, all I had to do was add my hair, fill out the form and add stamps!

Today is my first full day with my shorter hair. I must say, it makes me look younger and lighter! Long hair can be really pretty, but you have to want to take care of it. I much prefer having a quick, wash and dry, tuck behind my ears, kind of style. If you’re debating on whether to donate or not, I personally would rather donate on the chance that it goes for a good cause, versus throwing my hair away. But, make the choice that you feel best about!

Photo: #picstitch donated hair to #locksoflove. Not my best pics but love getting rid of that hair!!!

My List of #Home #Decorations and Repairs for My Dream #Apartment

If you read my previous blog post, you’ll see that we are leaning towards remaining in our current apartment, for now. Still wrestling with the fact that my washer and dryer are in the basement, I’m willing to accept that, for now. I love the site apartmenttherapy.com. I’m amazed how the creativeness of designers and regular apartment holders who have decorated their, often small, spaces to make the most beautiful and cozy home. Just because the site is titled, apartment therapy, it can provide a lot of useful information for people who live in a house. Typically, they give ideas for apartments that you’re not allowed to renovate and/or tear down a wall; so they help you get around that fact and create design options to deal with problem areas. Like I posted already, I have a mix match of furniture, much like I had while I was in college. Not that it’s bad stuff, it just doesn’t all tie in together. I have my grandma’s very bold floral printed couch and a Greek Key design rug. They clash, but I like each of them separately. My favorite design would be something you would see in a Paris Loft. Very French, yet modern and classy. I like to say that I’m granny chic, a bit of antique and second hand design feels just right to me. Oh, and I have like a very little budget.

So now I’ll create a list of decorations that I’d like to make in order to create my “dream” home. Like I’ve posted, I’m disabled, so i’m home nearly 90% of the time, so I crave a comfortable and cozy home. Since I’m on a limited budget, I realize that this may take some time, even a year or more. I’m also realistic. I know that I’m not going to be able to buy brand new “everything”, but I much rather go with second hand and antiques. That gives a home much more class. So, here’s my list, not in any order, to make my home my dream.

1. Get a neutral slip cover for my floral printed couch. My couch is at least 12 years old, but it’s still in great shape, but the print is very bold. I have seen some nice slip covers on amazon for under $60.

2. I’d like to buy a new couch. We currently have just the one floral print couch, but a second couch would provide more comfort for my husband and I to sit comfortably. The floral couch is more of a love seat, so a couch would be a great addition. I found one at my local discounted furniture store for under $400.  It’s a charcoal  color, very simple and classy.

3. I’d like a headboard for my bed. We had been sleeping on a regular size bed that was a hand-me-down. It was a great brand, but man was it firm, it was super, extra firm. When you have chronic pain, a super firm bed was pure agony! Our neighbor, who was an elderly lady, had just been moved to a nursing home. Her son, who had just bought her a new queen size bed just 6 mos prior, asked us if we wanted it. He said she rarely laid on it, as she preferred her recliner. So we definitely lucked out! But, we could really use a headboard to make the bed look good. Right now it’s just a floating bed. A headboard would tie it together.

4. I’d like a small stand with drawers and shelves to use for my flat screen. The flat screen is a 37 inch that my husband luckily won at a bowling tournament! Prior to that, we used my 1988 TV, and yes, we still use it and it works! Right now we have our flat screen inside a large entertainment center. The center is nice and has doors that slide inside on the sides so it’s covered up, but it’s bulky. Also, the TV sits so high up inside the center, it can really hurt your neck! So a new stand that’s more eye level will make it easier to watch and will also help clean up the room from the bulky entertainment center. (I’ll repurpose the center for storage in my dining room. I’ll just keep the doors closed and get some benefit from it.)

5. I’d like to get a larger more neutral rug. Right now I have a brown Greek Key design rug, but it’s really not big enough to cover much of the living room floor. Unfortunately, my cats have used it as their personal scratching post and it’s time is about it. We’ll reuse it in my husbands office. Having a larger rug will help because when we get the new TV stand, we will need to move it to a new wall, causing a cable wire to run across the floor. If we have a larger rug, we can cover up the cable.

6. I’d like to get a coffee table. I know it will end up being a “cat” table, but I like the look of a table with neatly stacked books with a storage place underneath. Also, it will be nice to rest your drink on.

7. I’d like to get an end table with a unique, funky, lamp. I want to put the new table in the corner between the two couches and have a cool lamp sitting on it. I wish I had the cool 60s lamps with the awesome lampshades that my grandparents used to have.

8. I’d like to find some interesting paintings/posters for my walls. I have some great artwork up, including some of my dad’s paintings, which are abstract and reminiscent of Jackson Pollack. But, I’d love to mix in some other pieces just to have an eclectic look.

Those are the “big” items that I would love to get to make my home more cozy. All of those items, except for the couch, can be bought from second hand stores or antique malls. I live just a few blocks from a large antique mall that I’ve bought one of the chairs I have in my living room. It’s a great red chair with chrome arms and legs, very retro looking. My mom found us a cute two chair dining room set for under $50 at this second hand furniture store in her town. I know that eventually we’ll get all of these items and I’ll be head over heels in love with my new home. I can’t wait!

#Renting, Now What?

So, now that we’ve decided to rent, I feel a bit of relief. To be honest, that little voice in the back of my head kept saying, this is a bad idea! I knew it was wrong, but the emotion of looking at houses and dreaming of sipping coffee from my new front porch, is very, very strong! But, let’s get real. I rarely leave my house and I would probably, rarely, if ever, sip coffee on my front porch. But a girl can dream! Now that things have settled and we’ve decided to rent, the question quickly became, should we rent a new place or stay where we’re at? Our current apartment is the best we’ve ever lived in. It has beautiful original hardwood floors, except in the dining room, where they had to put down laminate. They also put laminate tile in the bathroom and kitchen, but its a neutral gray color, so it all goes together well. It’s almost like we live in a new apartment as it was completely renovated before we moved in. Freshly painted, no carpet and some decorative features like molding were added. The big downside is that the washer and dryer hook up are in the basement. Granted, I live on the main level, of two, so I only have one flight to walk down to get to my washer/dryer, but I would much prefer them to be in my unit. Granted, the hallway is in a secured building and I don’t have to go outside to get to my basement, it’s just a pain, literally, to wash my clothes. I can still walk up and down stairs, but because of my health conditions, I don’t know that I’ll be able to do that forever.

I’ve been searching for other apartments using multiple sites and came across other updated units in my building. They are charging almost $100 more than what we are currently paying, which has me nervous that our rent was going to skyrocket. But, in closer inspection, I see that the newer units have a few more features that ours doesn’t have, like a microwave over the stove and updated tile in the bathtub; I wish we had that! We currently have that white square tile that the grout falls out of and looks black. They’re supposed to come back grout and paint again next week. Our apartment is more of a condo; I’ve lived in numerous apartments, but this one feels more like a typical condo would feel. However, with any apartment, there isn’t much of a noise barrier. Now that they’ve put in hardwood upstairs, you can hear loud walking noises when someone is wearing shoes; that’s a big negative. But, overall, every apartment has issues with noise. I’ve never lived in an apartment that I didn’t hear or get aggravated by a neighbor because of their TV or general noise.

In my search, I rarely found any apartment, in my price range, that has hardwood floors. Most apartments have carpet and from my experience, the owner doesn’t always replace it, they steam clean, which always bothered me. We currently have a two bedroom and where we live we get Uverse cable and internet, which we love. Unfortunately, Uverse isn’t available everywhere, but because my husband works from home, he has to have Uverse internet, so that’s another obstacle. We also have two cats, which some apartments either don’t allow or allow only one, or have steep monthly fees. Most apartments that we looked at that are two bedroom with a washer/dryer connection, are roughly $100 or more over what we currently pay. We also love our current location, we’re within feet of many places, including a major hospital, Walgreens, several restaurants and a grocery store. I love being so close to things and just three blocks from a major interstate; it makes travel so much easier.

I told my husband that if we can spend time decorating my current apartment, which still feels a bit like my college days of having mixed matched pieces of furniture. I’d love to get a new couch or at the very least get a couch cover for my current 12 year old couch. I think once I get a few decorations done, then I’d feel even more at home here. I’m viewing walking down the stairs to do my laundry as part of exercise and physical therapy. I suppose it’s good for me to get that exercise and keeps me mobile. So, for that, I see it as a benefit. There is probably zero chance that our apartment will get washer/dryer hookups inside the unit, so, for now, I’ll just keep walking down to the basement. It sure beats going to the laundromat! Overall, I love my apartment. It’s beautiful and the hardwood makes it easier to keep clean and is aesthetically pleasing. We get a new upstairs neighbor next Friday; keeping my fingers crossed that she she isn’t a smoker and is more of a librarian type. But, that’s the biggest negative with renting, you just never know what kind of neighbor you’ll get and neighbors come and go more quickly than they do from a house you buy.

So, our decision is that we’re going to most likely remain exactly where we are. If we move, it will be to my hometown closer to my family. But I don’t know that it will be this year; we have to decide in 3 months as that’s when our lease is up. Let the saga continue!

Going with Plan B: Sticking with Renting

If you read my first post, you would know that I’ve been grappling with the idea of both moving to a new town and buying a home. After much thought, some of which was agonizing, we’ve decided, we’re not in a position to buy. Buying would be purely an emotional decision and completely reckless, as we don’t have the money for an emergency or even enough for a respectable down payment. Sure, there are possible loans that require low to no down payments, but I’ve been in debt since I’ve been 19 and don’t want to add more to it. Granted, who isn’t in debt? But I mean debt that’s not your typical expenses, like a car or student loans, which I have almost always had during that time. I mean debt like getting behind on almost every bill, except rent. I’ve been so behind on most of my utilities at one point or other that I’ve had shut off notices and once had the gas company at my front door, giving me an additional 10 minutes to make a payment or else I was being shut off. Or the bounced checks that nearly caused me to have my income garnished. Or the numerous credit cards that I accrued early in my twenties that still aren’t paid off to this day.

I don’t know exactly how this happened, I mean I “know” that I spent more than I had, living well above my means. I always was a saver. I vividly remember having a piggy bank and enjoying putting money inside versus taking it out. I honestly don’t spend much money today, except for paying bills. In all seriousness, most of the clothes in my closet are hand me downs from my mom. Since I don’t work, I don’t worry too much about my wardrobe, so that definitely helps my budget. I don’t buy makeup and I’ve never been a shoe addict, I wear slippers at home and rotate between 3 other pairs, should I leave home. We have a new flat screen TV because my husband won it, otherwise, I still have and use my 1988 TV, yes it works! My biggest expense are medical, which include prescription and doctor fees. I recently had to cut out seeing my rheumatologist because I just couldn’t afford to see her anymore; I’m hoping that once I get medicare, that will help my expenses, so I can return to her. Most of my furniture is from donations or second hand; my couch was my grandmothers, that I’ve have for over 12 years. Granted, it still “works”, I just have to live with the floral print! We were also given a new queen bed by our neighbor, who purchased it only 6 months ago, before his mom had to live in a nursing home, so we gladly accepted it.

There are a few expenses that I suppose I could cut back on, but are pretty important to me. I have UVerse Cable and it includes expanded channels, such as HBO and Showtime. Like I posted, I’m disabled, therefore I’m home almost all the time, so TV is a big “hobby” of mine. Granted, I was a TV-aholic prior to becoming disabled, but when the couch or bed becomes the two most common places you stay, then having a TV can help get your mind off of your condition. I also have a subscription to Netflix, which I justify because I enjoy watching documentaries and TV in bed. Another expense is my iPhone. I have seriously considered dropping the iPhone and going to a messaging phone. I do love having my iPhone and the apps. One of my favorite apps is the Walgreens app, which makes reordering my prescriptions a breeze. These are just two of my “luxury” expenses. We rarely go out to eat and I enjoy cooking, when I can.

I realize that as time goes on, we are slowly, but surely, getting more and more debt paid off. My home is one of the most important things to me. I am a homebody, so having a home that is comfortable is very important. I’d love to be able to afford new furniture and decorations so that I feel more content. But, I am grateful for what I do have. I am thankful that I even have a home and even more grateful for the furniture that we have. There are so many in worse situations and I know God has blessed me in many ways. So, right now, I think it’s smarter to focus on paying off our debt, getting caught up on our fixed expenses and slowly making home purchases that will last for a long time.

On a side note. Yesterday during my indecision regarding my move and buying a home, I decided to call in the radio show to Glynis McCants, the numbers lady. I had called her several months ago to inquire if she could tell me if I would be approved for disability. She did say that I would be approved, but also said that I would heal from my fibromyalgia and help others; I’m still waiting on that cure! I called her to ask about whether it’s a good time, based on numbers. to move. Do I believe in all of that? I don’t know. But I was willing to call and have an open mind. She was a bit confusing in her answer and I think she responded based on one of my answers. She said that my life path number and the numbers to my home town are identical, therefore, based on that alone, she said it was an even match. However, she did say that I am extremely private and independent, which is extremely true. She said that she wasn’t so certain that I would like to be that close to family; which I did say I had some reservations about, only because I’ve been moved away since I was 19, I’m 38 now. I just don’t know how I would be back in the smaller town. After I said that, she said for me to look outside of my town, which technically, I am 2 hours away. She also said, that right now is not a bad time at all to move. She also said that there are a lot of good deals in real estate, so it’s not a bad time to move. We did not talk about my finances at all. I have a feeling should I call in to Suze Orman’s show, I’d hear a big fat DENIED! So, I don’t really feel like calling Glynis was helpful, although she was very nice and I’m sure that number reading has a lot of benefits, it just didn’t help me in making any decision.

So, I write all of this to say, I am going to consider looking at other apartments in July, which is about a month and a half before my lease is up. That way we can look to see if we can find our “forever” apartment, specifically one that has a washer/ dryer inside the unit! Also, I would love to have my own bathtub to be able to take epsom salt baths for my muscles. However, moving is expensive as our bigger apartments. But, it never hurts to look. Sometimes, just looking, makes you appreciate what you have so much more.

Whatever the future holds, I feel confident that I’m making the best decision, at least, the best financial decision!

Dreaming about a Dream House

My husband and I are currently renting, in fact, I’ve always rented, since I’ve lived on my own at 19. While in college, I moved out on my own and have been until I got married in 2002. I’ve rented, but, like many Americans, my dream has always been to own my own home. I’m disabled and have always been a homebody, so having a home is very important to me. By home, it’s not just walls and floors, it’s more than that.  A home is full of love and intimate surroundings. Owning can give you even more of a closer feeling of “home”. I’ve gone back and forth over the years on whether I wanted to own or to be content in renting. There are definite pros and cons on both sides and I’m never 100% convinced either way.

However, we’re at a crossroads. Our current lease is up this September 1 and we have found a house online and fell in love. We have only viewed it online, so we know we could see it in person and just as quickly, fall out of love! But, it’s two hours away from where we are, located in my home town. We’ve discussed whether we wanted to live back home, which is closer to all of my family. We still need to apply for a loan and get approved. We are definitely in the early stages of planning for what and where we’ll be in the near future. All we know now, is that we have fallen in love with a house online and I’ve been day dreaming about it.

They say, if you visualize, you can make it come true. Let’s hope!

The House I’ve been Dreaming About!