How I Budget Money With A Chronic Illness
Aside from the physical challenges of having a chronic illness, the financial challenges are one of my biggest stressors. I am lucky to have a full-time job with great benefits, but I constantly worry about being laid off or getting to the point where I can no longer work. I have side hustles, but the income is sporadic and dependent on my health as well.
Budgeting for my care
I’ve come to accept that my chronic illnesses, especially hidradenitis suppurativa, requires me to budget for my care. I carefully crafted a budget that I use to pay for the expected and unexpected using primarily two resources: a flexible spending account (FSA) and a sinking fund.
An FSA is “a special account you put money into that you use to pay for certain out-of-pocket health care costs.” A sinking fund is defined by Clever Girl Finance as “money that you save each month towards a one-time or irregular predetermined expense.”1,2
I would like to preface this by saying I am privileged in many ways, including the ability to work a full-time job and having benefits. This is my personal experience and how I manage my care. I am also lucky enough to have a flexible spending account (FSA) option through my work, so that money is automatically taken out of my checks and deposited into that account.
My budget is categorized in 3 ways:
- Necessary bills (such as rent, car payment, emergency savings, etc.)
- Sinking Funds (car maintenance, vacation, etc.)
- Wants (streaming subscriptions, gym membership, etc.)
Paying for my healthcare expenses
I pay for many of my healthcare expenses with my FSA. Then, as a backup, I have a sinking fund dedicated to only health expenses. For my sinking fund, I use a cash and envelope system. Every paycheck I go to the bank and pull out money to put away. I take $20 of every paycheck for this fund and I get paid bi-weekly. Although this may not seem like a lot, I use a unique strategy.
On January 1st of every year, my FSA funds are replenished. I opt in for around $1,250 to be taken from my paychecks into this fund. Throughout the year, I use the FSA money first for copays, emergency or urgent care visits, and wound care supplies. My FSA funds will usually last me around 8 months or so.
By the 8 month mark, I have about $320 in my sinking fund to use for the rest of the year ($20 a paycheck = $40/month, $40/month x 8 = $320). Barring any emergencies, I will continue to put money into the fund for the remaining 4 months of the year, totaling $480. Sometimes I add more per month if I have money leftover.
Stock up on sales!
I am also a huge couponing-nerd and always look for sales, so I will usually stock up on bandages, medicines, salves, etc. throughout the year when I can.
This article is my budget in a best case scenario. Life happens. Sometimes I have to prioritize a higher electric bill payment over putting money in my sinking funds, for example. My side hustle income could be lower than projected because I got sick and was unable to work. But having a plan makes me feel more prepared for what may come. With a chronic illness, the last thing I want to worry about is affording my medication or being unable to pay for a doctor visit.
Many people don’t know how expensive it is to have a chronic illness. I follow financial education blogs, but not once have I seen anything helpful for a spoonie. Many finance gurus mention budgeting for emergencies, but the nature of chronic illness is living in a constant state of emergency.
We are left alone to figure out how to navigate this world while sick every single day. Budgeting is one way we can prepare ourselves for the unexpected.
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