Debt and the child with special needs

As a parent of a medically fragile child with special needs, I KNOW there are other special needs parents  working to deal with medical debt while trying to keep a child alive.  I’m a big believer in sharing  ideas, and offering up support to each other as we try to dig ourselves out.  It may take forever, but we can do it.

I’d always been a bit of…..okay a big…..emotional spender.  Reed’s been the financial brains in the family.  Once, when I insisted that I wanted to take over the bills, I wrote out all the checks, put them into envelopes and gave them to Reed to mail.  Later Reed confessed that he had opened the envelopes, inspected the checks, made a couple of changes and then mailed them off.

At the time I was furious.  Now I realize that we each bring our own strengths into a marriage.  Finances weren’t mine.


Things have changed. 

It took coming thisclose to losing our home to put me into my highest level of black belt frugality.

The reason why we came so close to losing our home?  Medical bills.  Lots of them.  Huge amounts.  Even with insurance.  We had fundraisers.  We sent in several applications for support.  The scary secret is that a middle class family with insurance qualifies for little to nothing in the way of assistance.

Things that really helped then?   Reed became master of the budget.  What he said went.   Austerity Plan, baby.

  • If Reed said that there was only x amount for groceries that month…..then I knew I needed to get really creative with coupons, sales, and recipes.  I also had a sweet friend, and master couponer, that dropped off bags of groceries to our home on a regular basis.
  • While we’ve always gardened, it was after Parker was born we really bumped things up.  Instead of planting lots of flowers in my herb garden I planted squash and zucchini plants.


 Next, I sold everything I could.

  •  I used to be a HUGE scrapbooker.  I sold everything I had from stamp sets to markers to stamp pads, paper and other things I had once believed I couldn’t live without.
  • I sold our very expensive juicer.
  • I sold an iPod that had been a gift from my parents.
  • I sold clothes, video games, toys, books, Christmas decorations, and ham radio stuff that my Dad cleared out from his stash.
  • I sold any and everything I could that wasn’t pertinent to our ability to keep body and soul together.

When Parker was accepted on the Travis C. Waiver (it took being trached and vented at night) things got easier.  We still spend a significant amount of out of pocket money, but we are not maxing out credit cards anymore.

But the credit card payments….the interest on those payments.  It’s a struggle.

I was recently told that an estimated 50% of all bankruptcies have an element of medical debt as their cause.

I’ve read a lot of stories on how families have paid off huge sums of money (one family paid off over $80,000 dollars?) in  rather short amounts of time.  I have no idea how they did it.  Even if we were to sell everything we have we still couldn’t pay everything off.  So we carry on in our own unique style.


What we are doing now:

  • Deliberately choosing to live on and with less.  I used to brag about how much I saved when buying things on sale.  Most of those things were not things I truly needed.  Regardless of how much I had ‘saved’ I was still in the red for things that were wants rather than needs.
  • Reed drives a car that was handed down to us from a family to which it had also been handed down to.  One tank of gas gets him back and forth to school for a month.  It meets our needs and because it’s so old taxes on it are reallllly low.  It’s too bad it doesn’t have a heater.  heh.
  • Take better care of what we have to make it last longer.
  • If we do experience a time where we have a bit more cash, we apply it to paying off debt instead of renovating our master bathroom shower or buying something “fun.”  Right now paying off debt is what Reed and I consider to be fun.  :)
  • We set a budget for everything.  Groceries.  Electricity.  Seriously. you should see me running around turning out lights, hanging clothes to dry, using the crockpot instead of the oven, etc.
  • Focus on the person rather than the stuff.  Smaller birthdays.  A lighter Christmas.  Focus on a need rather than a want.   Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  I wish I would have caught on sooner.  Much sooner.
  • Parker’s needs come first.  The only wiggle room in our month is in our grocery budget.  If something comes up, that’s where I take it out of.   This highlights the importance of developing a deep pantry when times allow.
  • Each ad I sell on Parker’s blog, every opportunity I have to earn by blogging goes directly towards things Parker needs.   I don’t earn a lot from this, but every little bit helps.  (BTW, know anyone in need of some great advertising space?  Parker’s blog traffic is growing every day!)

We may make the last  payment from our deathbeds, but we are determined to pay these medical bills off.


Who else is out there battling medical debt?

What strategies are you using? 

What are your favorite frugal blogs?

  Let’s inspire each other to keep on keepin’ on!







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    Nov 4, 11
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