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!