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!Β Happy Savings!

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!