“What do I do now?” Chances are, if you’ve found the NAIDW website it’s because you are looking for answers for either you or a friend. This article seeks to give you some basic guidelines as to how to get your life at an even keel for the long sail ahead of you in and out of rough waters.
Key to this journey is taking control of your ship, firmly sit in the Captain’s seat and steer it towards a new life, one of financial freedom and greater health. Regardless of your anticipated medical outcome, control is critical to your wellness. Money If you did what financial experts told you, you should have six months of salary saved up and easily accessible. Having said that, you should still do the following to stop the flow of uncertainty even if you don’t have that cushion: First-Respect and take responsibility for your money.
If there is a penny on the floor, pick it up and put it somewhere safe. Take the bills out of your wallet, straighten them up, count and put them in order. While you’re there, organize everything in your purse and wallet; take out old coupons, expired credit cards and junk. There! You have just taken your first step in making your future brighter. Second-Sit down with your outstanding bills and assess the urgency of each vendor. To sail this vessel (your new life) you need to face reality of your situation. Oftentimes, what you think you owe is not nearly as much as you actually do.
Take a spreadsheet (see example) or a pad of paper and very quickly list every vendor you owe on a monthly basis, for example-mortgage, electricity, car payment, insurance. Make a column for the monthly amount and then the total payoff of the larger loans such as credit cards, auto, second mortgages. You can get all of this information even on weekends by looking at your online statements. Then, think in more detail some of the lesser cost of living expenses such as cell phone, food, gas and taxes. With yearly expenses, take the total and divide by 12 to get your monthly amounts. This could take an hour or just a few moments if you already have good records. Sum down to the total monthly expense and that will tell you what you spend.
Now comes the best part, this will be your map of how to sail the seas calmly and with confidence. Highlight the things you can absolutely do without, like Satellite Radio, dinners out, smart phones (yes you can do without that), subscriptions and gardening services. Cull down even further to the barest of necessities and plan on living on that for the time being. Following are some other more drastic measures you can take to reduce expenses and have more cash on hand. Remember to always be honest with your creditors and utilities and do the right thing in all matters.
If you’ve just gone on a shopping expedition, and your items still are returnable to the store, return them and get cash or credit back. Tear apart your home for cash-rich sources of income such as jewelry, loose change, piggy banks and dresser drawers.
If you have a landline phone, call them and ask simply for a ‘dial tone’ plan. Legally you do not even need a ‘calling plan’ on landlines. Having a dial tone costs nothing but the taxes and for around $8 you can get 50 local calls a month free. A home phone is probably critical because if you lose your credit you can’t get a cell phone. Speaking of cell phones, ditch your phone with a plan as soon as possible and pick up a ‘pay-as-you-go’ phone from Wal Mart or Best Buy with the most basic features. At press time calling plans are between $30-$45 with only a dollar or two in sales tax. Compare the outrageous utility and federal taxes (around 20-35% of your bill) that you are presently paying and you will never go back. If you cannot veer away from a contract, ask for a downgrade making sure you do NOT sign a new contract-this is critical.
Home Security and other like companies will, in most cases temporarily reduce your bill or suspend service from your contract. Call them, it can never hurt. Mortgage companies will sometimes work with you to refinance or temporarily reduce your payments. Also, look carefully at your bill, this writer discovered $45.00 per month in mortgage insurance not even needed anymore. Once you hit a certain payoff point you no longer need this. Call your cable company and ask for the ‘retention’ department, see what you can live without, remember this is only temporary and you can always go back to 900 channels later on. They will nearly always work with you on obtaining any ‘special offers’ they have going. Ask when that offer expires, make a note of it on your calendar and call before the expiration date and ask again for the current special.
Call your electric and gas company and ask to be put on a budget plan, because you won’t have any surprise bills coming in after carefully reconstructing your new lifestyle. Remember, control is the steady wind that sails your vessel.
Internet is one utility you really cannot do without these days. As you move forward, filling out forms online is key to keeping organized and pain-free. Try to work out a package deal with the cable company and get the highest speed plan you can afford. If worse comes to worse, you can stream movies and TV shows from your computer with your internet service.
This is probably the toughest one to get a hold on. Many of us have balances we can only pay minimums on monthly with no chance of paying off. If you have a line of credit with your bank, pay off at least one credit card (the highest interest one) with that. Try and get a ‘cash back’ credit card and pay it off every month. Pay your utility bills, food, everything on it, but you MUST pay it off or you will be in the hole. For example, all your expenses are $5000 a month, if you charge it on the 2% cash back; you should see $100 credit that you can use to pay the card balance. If you don’t have the self-control to do this, just put the cards away at a friend’s house or a locked drawer and pay everything with your bank debit card. Try not to cancel them unless you really don’t have control over your spending habits, because credit will become very difficult to obtain in this economy. You may need them if things get desperate.
Health Insurance and Self-Care
Because insurance coverage is so diverse with each company, there are no set rules for taking charge of your health care. Know what your company offers as far as intermediary insurance and ask human resources for help in obtaining assistance. Chances are, especially those of us that have permanent and chronic illnesses we have sailed through that channel many times before. Only you know what is possible in your circumstances, and with changing federal measures a resolution for those like us is only a vote away. Meanwhile, do what you can to take care of yourself by reconnecting with family, church or support group. Mind the doctor’s orders and be positive. Things frequently are not as bad as they appear to be right now.
Being sick is punishment. You already feel rotten and you feel like you have no fun because there’s no money coming in yet. You don’t have your job to socialize and keep your mind off your pain, so the mind tends to go to the pity party and to the dark place. You will boldly wail and feel like there is no hope. That’s normal because your lack of resources for fun has been compromised. Rediscover your childhood dreams, writing, art, reading, and volunteer or just rest shamelessly. You deserve it; you’ve taken the first steps in controlling the fate of your quality of life.
Copyright Wendy Ferguson 2011
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Robinson Photography