Guest post from Abigail Perry of I Pick Up Pennies.
Most of us want to save money. Unfortunately, the advice out there just isn’t geared toward special populations like depressives or the chronically ill. Really, it’s not geared toward anyone who doesn’t have a lot of time and energy to devote to the cause.
Great idea… if you’re healthy
Shopping multiple supermarkets for the best prices is wonderful idea – for people who don’t consider “leaving the house” to be a praise-worthy event. The rest of us may be lucky to make it to any store.
And hey, clipping coupons doesn’t sound like a big deal – until you’re faced with a fat Sunday paper on a day that you barely make it out of bed. Or perhaps you go to all the trouble of cutting out those deals, only to arrive at the store and realize (through a brain fog haze) that those precious slips of paper are sitting at home.
And speaking of brain fog, what happens when you’re too tired to remember your budget balances? You see an amazing deal that you should probably jump on, but do you have $20 or $60 left in that budget category?
Even many healthy people find frugality overwhelming. So what chance to the chronically ill have?
A pretty good one, actually. It just takes some tweaks.It can be overwhelming to think about saving money when you live with chronic illness. @ipickuppennies Click To Tweet
Trying (and failing)
I was raised by a very frugal mother. If I weren’t a depressive with chronic fatigue, perhaps I could stay a little truer to her model. But I am, so I can’t.
I’m matter-of-fact about this now, but I spent years berating myself for coming up short. Too many days and far too much of my precious energy went to agonizing over the failures of my best-laid plans.
Over and over again, I found myself trying diligently – giving it everything I had – only to fail horribly
Eventually, I figured it out: In frugality, as in life, I can’t keep up with healthy people. At least, not for long and not without severe physical and emotional setbacks.
It took quite a while to realize that. It took me even longer to forgive myself for it.
Depressives already feel guilty about so many things. Add in “actual” failings, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster – one which may or may not end with you hiding under the covers, hoping the world will go away. (My husband spent a lot of time soothing me and rubbing my back through a blanket.)Even those with chronic illness can save money, it just takes a different approach. @ipickuppennies Click To Tweet
Finding success on my terms
Once I figured out how to stop the vicious cycle – and how to be okay with stopping – I was left with a further quandary: how to build an attainable version of frugality.
Admittedly, it looks a little different from the classic version. Actually, it looks very different.
I don’t get a bunch of things free through combinations of coupons, sales and mail-in rebates. I don’t worry about hypermiling our gas tank, cutting my own hair or other die-hard frugal measures. I don’t even rewash baggies.
So no, I’m not an extreme frugalist. But only a minority of savings-minded people are. The rest of us, including plenty of healthy people, have to find our own spots on the frugality spectrum.
Over time I made my peace with rarely cooking or using coupons – both huge frugal no-nos. And on bad days sometimes we’ll pay an extra dollar for milk at Walgreens (one mile away) rather than going to the grocery store (three miles away).
Despite all that, I still consider us frugal. I know supermarket sales cycles and shop accordingly. I carefully research all major purchases – and plenty of minor ones too – including doing a lot of price comparisons.
We’re not perfect examples of frugality. Yet we’ve managed to nip and tuck spending in many areas. We still save a fair amount of money.
Frugality for Depressives
Unfortunately, I had to figure out most of my frugality modifications on my own. Every personal finance book I’ve seen is based on perfect-world scenarios. Most frugality blogs aren’t much better.
That’s a problem. It means that the people who may need the most help are the ones left out in the cold. The lack of alternative advice also reinforces the idea that there’s something wrong with us. That we’re “less than” rather than “less healthy than.” And it furthers the ridiculous notion that you (and your life) have to be perfect to be frugal.
Thus my book, Frugality for Depressives, was born. (Cue shameless marketing.)
The book is obviously different from most money advice. In fact, some of my tips fly in the face of traditional personal finance ideas.
For example, I suggest not budgeting. There are better ways to track your spending that aren’t as stressful.
For example, my husband and I work off a set amount of money for the week. If we use up too much early on, it forces us to scale back for the next few days. It’s a good way to stay aware of spending without tracking every receipt.
That said, some people are wed to the idea of a traditional budget. In that case, you just need to focus on creating realistic numbers for yourself. It’s best to take the last couple months’ bank statements and base your numbers off those. Once you’re aware of and tracking your spending, you can work on trimming it.Budgeting might require a different approach when you have chronic illness. @ipickuppennies Click To Tweet
Another common frugal hack that I don’t like: Use the library. Don’t get me wrong, it’d be a wonderful resource – if not for the late fees. If you can’t realistically get out of the house (whether because of depression or chronic illness) you want to avoid as many deadlines as possible.
Instead, look into public libraries’ online offerings. I love that e-books return themselves automatically. There are also a ton of free e-books through sites like The Gutenberg Project, Open Library and ManyBooks.net.
Of course, not all of my tips are radical.
I do advise against gym memberships. But all those jolly, “You can jog for the cost of shoes!” suggestions don’t exactly help spoonies.
My solution? YouTube! There are a ton of short videos that make it simultaneously easier to get started and harder to rationalize skipping.Who needs a gym membership when you have youtube! @ipickuppennies Click To Tweet
Another traditional frugal tip I agree with: cutting the cord.
I know, I know. I thought we could never give up cable. After all, Tim and I are both home all day every day. We watch a lot of TV. A lot. We were sure we needed all those channels.
Then our bill hit $100, and I couldn’t rationalize it any longer.
I sat down and made a list of the shows we watch and compared them to Netflix and Hulu’s offerings. We’d lose three shows and save $92 a month. A little over two years later, we’ve saved more than $2,500.
Can’t bear to lose ESPN? Add Sling TV for $20 a month.
That said, there will be people who make the list and find too many cable shows on it. That’s totally okay. What matters is that they’re officially making an informed decision.
Really, that’s all frugality is: spending intentionally. It’s about knowing where your money is going and making sure it brings value to your life. And value is subjective. For us, it’s avoiding cooking. This leads to what’s, objectively, a deeply imperfect form of frugality – but it’s one that’s perfect for us.
Accepting the unacceptable
Making peace with imperfection is vital in all aspects of life. If we can’t accept our limitations, we spend too much of our already-limited energy trying to be “normal” rather than working within what’s normal for us.
Of course, that attitude may be easier on some days than on others. Some days, you just desperately want to be able to do it all. Or much at all. Or anything, really. The fact that you can’t leads to frustration, anger and, in extreme cases, despair.
And you know what? That’s okay too. Part of being imperfect is not always being perfectly sanguine. It’s about allowing for a day or two where you do want to hide under the covers. On those days… Well, you can always come on over to my place. I’ve made a cool fort.It's vital that we make peace with our imperfections and accept our limitations. @ipickuppennies Click To Tweet
Abigail Perry blogs at I Pick Up Pennies. She discusses money, disability, depression, infertility and life in general. Her book, Frugality for Depressives, is available on Amazon, NOOK and directly through her site.
- My experience with ACA subsidized insurance (after two years)
- Working with Chronic Illness
- 23 Best Apps for People with Chronic Illnesses
- How you can help someone who has Chronic Pain and Fatigue
Check out my reading list for more suggested books for living with chronic illness.