One income living with a medically fragile child with special needs.

I’ve always been a stay at home Mom who is well versed in one income living.   There have been times when I’ve worked at home to bring in extra money.  With Parker’s intense needs, trying to work while keeping him alive just isn’t in the plan.  Add in the homeschooling and therapies and you’ve got a full time job right there.

Two brothers rough housing

Oh, how I wish you could hear this kid laugh.  It would make your day!

Recently I received an email asking how  one income living with a medically fragile child with special needs works.

Let’s face it, paying for a kid with special needs is really, really, reaaally expensive.

Reed is an elementary Principal.  In Utah Principals aren’t paid as well as they are in many other states.  Reed loves his job, the kids, families and teachers he works with and that in itself is valuable.

A cute kid with Down syndrome

Reed gets paid once a month, and as my 17 year old pointed out to me yesterday, ‘it must be the end of the month, because we don’t have anything in the house to eat.’  sigh.

  • Staying at home on one income means that I shop yard sales.  From next year’s curriculum to items to use for Mama led therapy sessions.  Yard sales are a frugal family’s best friend.
  • Staying at home on one income means we don’t take vacations.  My sweet grown up kids offered to pay my hotel and a few other things for me to go to Disneyland with them.  While spending time with my grown up kids would be something I’d love to do, I know, deep down inside, that we really don’t have the money to pay for the other things that a trip to Disney would require.  Food.  Fuel.  Passes into Disneyland.   These things add up quickly.
  • Staying at home on one income means that date nights are $1.00 Netflix movie that we return right after we watch it so as not to incur an extra fee.

drip irrigation

  • Staying at home on one income means gardening, canning, dehydrating, freezing, bartering, and gleaning.
  • If something goes out, we DON’T use a credit card to replace it.  When you are trying to pay off medical debt, you don’t bring MORE debt into your life.
  • You get creative.  Really, really, really creative.  Recently I found a black ceramic planter at a local nursery.  All these years of gardening and I never once thought of using a black planter…… was gorgeous.  The $50 price tag was not.  Then I had a Eureka moment and remembered an office size garbage can that wasn’t being used.  A few holes drilled into the bottom of it and viola! same basic look for free!  My sweet Mom splurged for the $12.00 flat of flowers.
  • Staying home on one income  means you sell a LOT of stuff.  I used to be an insane scrap booker.  I had an entire room full of the stuff.  If it was on the market, I owned it.  But when faced with an item your medically fragile kid needs and a hobby, well, off to Ebay it goes.
  • Staying home on a tight budget means you put on blinders when it comes to keeping up with the ‘Jones.’   When a neighbor gets a new car, you remind yourself that yours is paid off……..AND runs well.  Come to think of it, this part of the deal is actually amazingly freeing.    Keeping up with the neighbors can be exhausting.   Being grateful is so much more fulfilling.

And you know what?  That’s OKAY.  I feel that one of my biggest blessings is being able to stay home with Parker.  So for me the sacrifices are worth it.  Hard sometimes, but worth it.


A little boy with Down syndrome

Isn’t he beautiful?

Things aren’t important.

Parker’s future is more important than any thing could ever be.

What does staying home with your special needs kid when money is really tight mean to you?

About Tammy and Parker

Special Needs Blogger, and homeschooling Mom, heavily involved in advocacy for all kids with special needs in Utah.


  1. My husband teaches at a charter school, at an entry-level teacher’s salary (though he has taught school for almost 25 years.) We are grateful he has the job, and like your husband, he finds it very fulfilling. We are totally hearing you about the one-income challenges. LOVE yard sales, and Savers sales. Not having much money makes decision-making easier. We’re eating together more, and making more food ourselves. Also, when we actually do get a few dollars to see a movie, there’s always something we really want to see (we haven’t already seen the best stuff.) :) Hearing you about the blinders, and deciding to take the gratitude option (“Contentment is not the attainment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.”)

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