Saving Money, Disabled Style: A Response to Invisible Costs
A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the invisible costs of living with MS. Writing that column really got my mind thinking about all the ways that my MS costs me money. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! In the days that followed, I became aware of more and more sneaky expenses. The dollar signs were adding up and making me seriously annoyed. I did some math and discovered the month of May had over $400 MeSsed up expenses! Then I balanced my accounts (for the first time since my vacation – ouch), and opened a medical bill for my son’s recent surgery (OUCH…co-insurance). It was time for a budget reality check.
One day at work, I mentioned to a co-worker that I had started taking the bus. “Did you know you can get reimbursed for part of a bus pass?” she asked. I did not know that my work offered this, cool! Upon further investigation, I discovered that I also qualify for a reduced rate because of my disability status. This means I can essentially ride the bus for free! This bit of good news got me wondering how else might I save money, or even let my MS save me money? I need help to offset some of those invisible MS costs.
Some budget savers I’m going to try
- Reduced-rate public transportation: The bus is great – I have 25 minutes to relax before and after work.
- Reduced or free passes: The National Park Service offers the Access Pass. State parks and other recreational facilities often have reduced rates, and Amtrak offers a 15 percent discount for a passenger with a disability, plus one companion.
- Prescription assistance programs: I always thought, “Why bother? My copay is only $20.” Um, yes…multiplied by seven different medications.
- Clear out the storage unit: It’s like the graveyard of my children’s childhood home. A $1,200-a-year graveyard. Craigslist and consignment shall be my friends.
- Do things that involve money immediately: Returns, work reimbursements, etc. An app like Wunderlist, suggested by a helpful reader, can help me keep track of important items.
- Just say no to hotels: Stay at homes of friends or family whenever possible.
- Politely decline lunch or dinner offers (unless they’re buying!): Suggest a coffee instead. An Americano instead of a Latte. I’ll work my way to the drip – don’t rush me.
- Review my budget and make adjustments: I called my car insurance and made some changes to save $25 a month and dropped Netflix from $19 to $9.
- Dye my own roots: Too personal? Just keepin’ it real… I can reduce salon visits to twice a year and do my own touch-ups in between, but I’m not ready to go gray!
- Use what I have: I collect travel toiletries, random cleaning products, pantry staples, etc. It’s time to use them!
- Watch for sales: If I see my brands of non-perishables, like laundry soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, then I will stock up.
- Reduce donations: It does not make sense to try to save the planet if I have to put groceries on a credit card.
There are so many great ideas on the interwebs about how to save money. I plan to keep trying things in order to see what works for me. Saving money requires some trial and error and a personalized approach. For instance, I know that clipping coupons isn’t for me because I don’t remember to use them. However, the idea of a change jar seems totally doable. There are some great ideas at The Simple Dollar. However, some are not so great if you have a chronic illness, such as “raise your health insurance deductible.” Or the recommendation to “insource everything.” As you may recall, the fact that I cannot physically do everything myself is often the cause of invisible costs.
For a personalized look at discounts for the disabled, visit Disabled Discounts, a site created and managed by a woman with MS and her husband. You can search for discounts by state and county! The Special Life has a crowd-sourced list of disability discounts that looks impressive.
I used to feel as if I wasn’t disabled enough to deserve a discount. That’s probably something for another column; my angst and occasional guilt for doing as well as I am, my own internal “But you look so good!” Suffice it to say that adding up all those invisible costs was eye-opening and validating. MS takes away my energy, fun, and money. But McDonald’s was right, I do deserve a break! I am thankful for the people and organizations that provided the ideas and opportunities to help me level the financial playing field a little bit. I look forward to creatively offsetting those invisible costs!
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.