Chronic illness is very expensive, there is no doubt about it. What makes it doubly hard is that if you have serious chronic health problems it becomes impossible to work. As a family of four we are often asked,
“how can you possibly make it on one salary?”
It’s a fair question. First I should add that we are very lucky that both my husband and I have degrees and my husband has a masters degree, so even with living on his income we do okay. Plus we live in a part of the country where things are cheap, housing in particular. Still, having a family on one income means you have to make a lot of choices and you have to decide what your priorities are. I do a lot of things to save money that lots of people think are crazy, but my theory is every penny saved means I can spend it on something I really want to spend it on (like travel) or use it to pay off medical bills.
– We do not spend more money then we have. If we don’t have the money, then it doesn’t get purchased. When our computer broke, we went six months without a reliable computer because we had a lot of other bigger expenses that we decided were more important. We bought our computer when we could pay in cash so we didn’t waste money on interest. No point in throwing money down the drain.
– As I said before I do a lot of work to save what seems like a small amount of money, but it adds up in the long run. For example, I make my own laundry soap, dishwasher soap, and household cleaners. This is a lot of work for someone with chronic illness but it saves me a lot of money. I hate grating soap to put in the laundry, but I do a few minutes at a time all day long and by the end of the day I’m not too worn out and I’ve got laundry soap for pennies on the dollar. I also don’t dry my laundry in the dryer often. Electricity is expensive here and I save about $50 a month by not using a dryer. It’s a huge pain to hang everything out on the line, but that $50 a month adds up, plus we don’t have to buy a new fancy dryer.
– I save a lot of money on food by cooking from scratch. We don’t buy packaged foods often, we buy things whole and it’s a lot cheaper. My kids don’t get to buy lunch at school, they have homemade cookies, and often sandwiches with homemade bread. We spend about $400 a month on food for a family of four. This is without couponing (I use a coupon here and there, but stores here don’t double coupons so it doesn’t help much). We still eat fairly healthy too. We get most of our fruit and vegetables from a coop that I’m a part of that buys fruits/veggies in bulk for discount prices. It’s a pain because it involves getting up at 5:00 am on a Saturday morning to drive downtown to get the veggies, but it saves a lot of money and allows us to eat healthy. We also buy generic products, and very rarely main-brand. All of this is a lot of work, especially for someone who is sick but I spread it out so it’s more manageable.
– We don’t buy fancy things. My kids don’t have the latest and greatest clothes or toys, most of their stuff is from the resale shop or they got as a gift. We are practically cave men when it comes to electronics, we have a wii that was a gift and that’s the only gaming system we have. We just barely got smartphones for the first time, and the ones we got are not fancy. We don’t have cable, we just watch Netlfix or Amazon Prime. My kids don’t know what commercials are because they’ve never seen them. My kids are fairly young, but they already complain that their friends have better stuff then they do (I’m not buying my seven year old an iphone no matter how much money I have), but it’s too bad for them. We are being frugal and teaching our kids the importance of hard work at time same time.
We’re not perfect when it comes to saving money. I’m sure Suzi Orman would have plenty of things to yell at us about, but we’ve found ways to live cheap enough to survive on one income. Having a chronic illness is so stressful enough, it’s unfortunate that we have to stress about money too.