How I Manage Money While Living with Lupus
Last updated: November 2022
During the year I spent relearning to walk and speak after a severe lupus flare, I made the decision to leave my husband. There were many parts of being on my own in the world while chronically ill that scared me. Would I be strong enough to cook my own food and do my own laundry when in a flare? I wondered. Would I be able to take care of my 2 dogs independently? But one of my biggest worries was whether I’d be able to support myself even though I would never be able to work full time due to my symptoms.
In America, financial strain and chronic illness often go hand in hand.1 It can be hard to support yourself when you are unable to work as many hours as a healthy person. In addition, the cost of hospitalizations, prescriptions, and medical care are astronomical under the current American healthcare system. According to the latest census, 19 percent of families have medical debt they're unable to pay.2
Ways I manage money with lupus
Given these scary statistics, living on my own scared me almost as much as leaving a marriage that had grown dangerous for me. It has been seven years and a handful of lupus flares since I left my husband. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to support myself and even set money aside while living on my own with a chronic illness. Below are some guidelines I follow to stay afloat financially while living and working part-time with a chronic illness.
I buy nearly everything used
Nearly anything you buy can be purchased for a fraction of the price used. I buy 90 percent of my clothes, books, and home decor at resale shops or on Facebook Marketplace. Many items on Facebook Marketplace can be shipped to you so that you don’t even need to leave your home.
I cook more than I eat out
Cooking can be difficult for me due to the fatigue I experience every day. However, I know that eating out frequently will not fit into my budget. To ensure I have healthy, inexpensive food to eat daily, I cook large batches of food once every few weeks when I feel up to it. Then I freeze individual servings to eat over the week.
I stick to a budget
I created a budget by combing through my bank and credit card statements to see what I spend in categories such as food, transportation, clothing, medications, doctor visits, and pet care. I keep my budget on my Notes app on my phone, then record purchases under each category to ensure I don’t overspend. I re-evaluate my budget every few months.
I maximize my savings by using a high-yield savings account
Rather than let my savings sit in a regular bank account, I maximize them by placing them in high-yield savings account with a bank like Ally or Synchrony. A high-yield savings account accrues interest at a far higher rate than a regular savings account, meaning that my money earns money for me. Best of all, your money is just as accessible as it would be in a regular bank.
I found a side hustle I could do lying down
Most financial blogs and vlogs encourage followers to find a "side hustle" or a second job. This can be difficult for lupus patients like me, whose working hours are limited by their pain or fatigue. My side hustle, writing, is something I can do when I feel well enough. It’s also something I can do lying down while snuggling with my dogs.
I find time to rest
Setting aside time to rest when it’s already hard to make a living working part-time might seem counter-intuitive. However, I’ve learned that the consequences of not resting when I need to are more costly than taking the time to let my body recharge. I make sure I build time to rest into my schedule. I’ve learned that when I don’t, I can have a severe flare that might sideline me from work for months.
While earning a living with often severe lupus and daily fatigue has never been easy, I have had some privileges. I’m fortunate to have a college degree, a job that doesn’t require full-time employment, the ability to make my own schedule, and that I live in an area with a low cost of living. My tips may work for you, but if they don’t, know that you are worthy with or without an income or career.
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?