Creating Financial Freedom regardless of your Childs Extra Needs & How to afford all the services your child needs when you are Broke?
About 4 years I was sitting in my kitchen on a Saturday morning. I had been working on bills when I broke down in tears. I had tried for so long to try to make the ends meet and I couldn’t. I could no longer carry the burden of our financial situation by myself. Every time I would work on bills I would become depressed, frustrated, and angry. I would resent every time my husband would spend any money on even the smallest amount. But at the same time, I felt guilty and ashamed that he made a great salary and we couldn’t seem to pay our bills.
It was on that day, we decided together it was time to come clean about our finances and to get out of debt. After he wiped the tears from my eyes, we got to work. I spent the rest of the afternoon putting together a budget and figuring out what we were spending on average. Guess what? After we put it all on paper we were in the red over $500 each and every month and we were more than $35K in debt (not including our mortgage).
It was a bit shocking, a bit of relief that know we understood where we were financially standing, and quite and eye opener. It is imperative that you get everything on paper and you create a budget. As Dave Ramsey says, “you give every penny a job and you tell your money where to go.”
The secret to making a budget work is using it daily and/or weekly to track where you are; that way you can make adjustments along the way to ensure you don’t end up short at the end of the month. To create our budget I use and excel spreadsheet and a template I created when I was a bookkeeper. However, there are many free apps that you can use on your computer and your hand-held device to make it easy. Many of them will have options to integrate with you bank accounts and credit cards that will assign expenses to the categories you have set. Just doing this one thing puts you back in control of your finances.
When you are working with your budget you have 2 options to keep your bottom line out of the red. (1) Decrease Expenses and/or (2) Increase Revenue and I am going to touch on both, because we found it necessary for us to do both. But before I get into that I want to say if you are really serious about creating financial freedom and becoming debt free it’s going to take focus, consistency, and sacrifices to get there.
Just like with your special needs child, don’t get caught up in the speed or how quickly you are moving towards being debt free. As long as you are taking consistent steps day after day, and month after month you WILL get there.
Okay back to finding ways to stay in the black and not come up short every month. We started to look at the budget by addressing what we were spending. I find that cutting expenses is typically easier than raising revenue. Keep mind at this time we had well over $300-$500 extra every month for my daughter’s therapies and doctor visits and those expenses were a must to keep.
Ultimately there are 2 types of expenses you have in your budget. Essential expenditures, such as rent/mortgage, car payments, credit card payments, utilities, medical care & food. By the way, if you are really really strapped for cash you always take care of the 4 walls first. That’s rent, utilities, food, and necessary medical care. Then you tackle everything else. After essential expenses, you have non-essential expenses like; cable, subscriptions, dining out, alcohol, taking trips, gym memberships etc. Sometimes these can feel essential, but, they are not.
Now ultimately we ended up make some huge sacrifices and changes to keep our budget in line, as we downsized our home and moved to another town in hopes our daughter would be able to attend private school. Granted, it didn’t work out, but we stayed in the black and even made financial gains while she was attending.
Besides looking at what expenses can go or be whittled down, I also worked on reducing our essential expenses too. Such as looking at our home/auto insurance costs, could we refinance our mortgage, find a cheaper cell phone plan, etc. One by one I went through and looked at what options or moves we could make.
One thing to keep in mind is to make financial gains you need to prioritize what debt you want to tackle first. Dave Ramsey suggests listing your debts from the smallest to the largest. You throw everything you can at the first one and pay only the minimums on the next. Then once the first is done you move tackle the second smallest debt by taking the funds you were paying on the first plus the minimum payment you were making on the second. Thus, creating a snowball effect until all your debts are paid. This is exactly what we did, and it works wonderfully.
The second way you can keep yourself in the black each month is by raising revenue. That means bring in more money, whether is a second job, asking for a raise, creating a cash side hustle (like watching kids, cleaning houses, mowing lawns, walking dogs, etc), or as Dave Ramsey says, “selling so much stuff, your kids think they are next.”
The truth is, we typically have way too much stuff. The average household in America has over 330,000 individual items in our homes. Now is a great time to have a yard sale, take stuff to the local consignment store, sell it on FB, Let Go, Offer Up, or eBay. There is potentially hundreds of dollars to be made. For us personally, I sold as much stuff as I could. It feels great to make some extra cash and de-clutter at the same time. Get creative about ways to bring in some extra money that works for your family.
On a side note, this is a great time to look at what you do decide to keep and repair it instead of buying new. A new coat may run you $40+ or have the zipper fixed for under $20.
Before we talk about ways to get help for your special needs child even when you’re broke, I want to give you some hope and encouragement. You can do this. When we started we were $35K in the hole and short every month by $500. In 24 months we shared a glass of champagne as we were debt free. We had paid off our credit cards and all of cars. It did mean some hard choices and not doing a ton of stuff, but we did it and still managed a trip to Disney (mostly paid for by my parents, but we had to come up with $3K).
Also, I am a believer in creating financial freedom that is personally sustainable and therefore we would leave a little “fun” money in our budget, we did not move as fast as others, we still had money from my husband’s check going into retirement, and we took a moment each time we paid something off to do a small celebration; dinner out, a small day trip, etc. All in cash!
You move at the pace, you can move. As long as you keeping taking steps you will get there.
Okay, now let’s talk about ways you can find help for your child’s special needs when money is tight.
First off, if your child is in public school, there are many programs that schools offer. Everything from reading help, to math help, to mental health screenings, vision, screenings, hearing screenings, basic developmental evaluations, etc. Contact the school’s special education department to find out what programs they offer.
Second are State programs. For example, when we lived in WV there was a free program to help kids with developmental delays called birth to 3. Most states have similar programs.
Each state offers medical insurance assistance, nutrition assistance, and others to those who qualify. You may be able to receive benefits such as Medicaid for your child or a state health welfare care. Check out the special needs alliance for types of state government programs that may be available.
The third place to look for help is National Programs. Depending on your child’s needs there are National Groups that can help, such as the Autism Society of America, the Open Doors Program, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, National Alliance for Mental Health, or Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program.
The fourth place to look for help on therapy costs are College and Universities where students are learning psychiatry, psychology, speech, occupational, or other therapies. These students provide inexpensive/free services as part of the graduate training under licensed professionals.
The fifth way I want to touch base is how to use your insurance wisely. Many insurance programs offer tele-care services at a fraction of the price. This allows you meet with professionals on-line. This can be helpful for counseling or routine check-ups.
Check into group therapy versus individual, as these can typically be less expensive per session.
Meet for the basics. As a parent who has a child in and out of therapies for the last 5 years I can tell you it doesn’t work if you’re not doing it at home. If money is tight meet with the therapists and ask them to outline exactly what exercises need to be done so you can do them at home. Instead of meeting with them 1-3 times a week, meet periodically to go over progress and potentially new exercises.
The last way to get therapy help for your child is through on-line resources. There are many self-help programs that are inexpensive or free via the internet from experienced individuals to help you and your family in a variety of areas. You can find OT & Speech exercises on-line, to working with your picky eater, to creating more calm peaceful days (like my Empowered Parent Program). These step-by-step programs can yield amazing results.
Well, there you have it. We have talked about a lot of stuff today. Everything from how you can Create Financial Freedom regardless of your Childs Extra Needs and 6 ways to afford all the services your child needs when you are Broke?
I hope you found this information helpful. What are you doing to move towards creating financial freedom for your family and what ways have you found to help pay for your child's services when money is tight?