Income Adjustment- Ideas to Make Your Dollar Stretch

In my early 20s, I had struggled to make ends meet after a series of bad financial decisions. I grew up in a middle class family and knew the value of a dollar, but we all make mistakes. By my late 20s, things turned around when I hit a stride in my career. I was a vice president of something or another. I was named Top Producer of my company. I had a six figure salary. I knew money wasn’t everything, but it was making things a lot easier.

Just when I thought I had it all together financially, my Migraines turned from episodic to Chronic. My employer worked with me, hoping that this was a temporary illness. My normal 50-60 hour work week became 10-20 hours. My income fluctuated based on how often I could work. I never knew what my income would be in a given month and my savings was quickly dwindling. I never led an extravagant lifestyle, but when your income gets cut by ½ to ¾, serious financial adjustments have to be made.

No longer could I afford to live by myself. I moved into an apartment with 3 other roommates (one of which was my boyfriend, so that worked out well). I realized nobody needed to know a new clothing purchase was likely from TJ Maxx or Target. The gym membership got cut because I didn’t have enough strength to work out anyway.  Getting my hair highlighted was a special treat reserved only when I was able to work consistently and have a little extra cash.

Migraines automatically eliminate certain costs for you too. It would make me nauseous just thinking about a Saturday night of fancy dinners and bottle service at clubs. I quickly realized that long weekend trips were torture because I would likely be in miserable the whole time. A waste of money. Migraines also create costs you didn’t know existed- I found out how easy it was to hit my $3,000 insurance deductible every year on top of all the copays for meds and appointments and travel expense.

It all happened so quickly. One day I felt like I had finally gotten my finances in order and months later I was worried about how I was going to make my car payment. Sadly, so many of us have this same story. I tried for two years to continue to work as much as I could. I pushed myself because I needed the money, but it didn’t help my health at all.  This could lead into a whole discussion on disability and SSDI, but I will save that for another day.

What I really want to share are ways that I found to adjust my life to the dramatic decrease in income that hit me so suddenly. If you have other tips or resources, please share them! Here are some ideas to make your dollar stretch farther:

  1. Did you know you can refinance your car loan? We all know we can refi your house, but you can do the same with your car. Take advantage of the low rates and give it a try. Credit Unions typically have the lowest rates as opposed to banks and car dealerships. Check to see if you are eligible to join one.
  2. I'm lucky to live in DC where there are so many free activities. When you do feel well, take advantage of the free activities in your area. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Many offer events like Screen on the Green, Outdoor Yoga and Kids events.
  3. Coupons and financial assistance are available from most pharma companies for their medications.
  4. You may qualify for Meals on Wheels, which could help tremendously when you can’t get out of bed or cook for yourself.
  5. Need a massage to keep your Migraines in check? Find a local massage school where students need practice. It's a lot cheaper!
  6. Use mail refill services for your prescriptions, typically they are cheaper and will give you a 3 month supply. Way more convenient!
  7. Need a nice dress for a wedding or special occasion? Don’t go buy one. Either borrow from a friend or try Rent the Runway. You can rent amazing dresses at a 1/3 of the cost to buy and then you just send it back.
  8. Need a place this summer for your kids to go? The YMCA offers great camps and other programs year round. They also offer financial assistance. Find a Y near you:
  9. Need new electronics? Think about purchasing a refurbished phone, laptop, or tablet at a significant discount. Most name brand stores like Best Buy offer refurbished electronics and some come with warranties.

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