How I Afford the Christmas Season While Living With a Chronic Illness
It’s beginning to look a awful lot like Christmas! Everywhere I go I see more and more red and green. With only a little over a month or so left until the big day, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at all that I am hearing “Jingle Bells” and ”White Christmas” on the radio as I drive to watch my godson in the morning.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season always brings about long lines, high calorie meals, delicious desserts, and, most importantly, the giving of gifts to our close friends and loved ones. Now do not get me wrong – I love the tradition of gift giving and the smiles it brings on the faces of those we love. Watching my niece open her gifts and the excitement that glows on her face as she tears through the wrapping paper to discover what is hiding underneath the ribbons and glossy decorated paper is priceless. The part that is hard for me to get through is the cost of those lovely gifts and how I am going to be able to afford all of them with my income. Which always brings forth the questions and concerns for me of: How am I going to make it through the holiday season and afford everything that comes with that wonderful time of year?
I have been on a fixed income since 2005. I am not able to work because I have a chronic illness called systemic scleroderma. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin and the major internal organs in the body, causing them to become hard and tight, leaving my body stiff, sore, and incapable of doing many of the everyday tasks that “normal” people accomplish with ease. This made it too hard for me to work a full-time job, leaving me with the uncomfortable option of quitting my job and going on Social Security Disability.
As you can imagine, it is extremely hard to budget your bills and you daily living costs when you only have a limited amount of money per month. Then add in the holidays and mix the together with birthdays, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries and all of those enjoyable but pricy celebrations. I find myself scraping to make it through to buy gas in my car and food in my fridge. As much as I love the Christmas season and all the glitz and glam that comes with presents, decorating the tree, making cookies and visiting with family and friends, my pocket book does not appreciate it at all.
Living with a chronic illness makes splurging on extra items very hard to do. The cost of medications, tests, doctor’s visits, surgical procedures and all that comes along with an illness, doesn’t a lot for a ton of extra spending money. Yet, the thought of not buying my loved ones gifts to open on Christmas left me feeling like Ebenezer Scrooge. I had to come up with a way to be able to afford gifts for my loved ones and notoverdrafted my bank account in the process. It took me sometime and about a half a dozen ideas before I hit the jackpot and came up with my own personal plan to save Christmas!
For starters, I need to create a budget to figure out how much money I had leftover each month to put aside for Christmas gifts. Then I had to figure out how many people I had to actually buy for and how much I intended to spend on each gift I bought. With all that done, I figured out that I needed to start saving for Christmas in September.
My plan was in place and ready to be implemented. Now some of you might say, “It’s not about how much you spend. Or what presents you give someone.” But to me it is important to be able to buy my loved ones a little something to open on Christmas day. It’s a way of showing my love and gratitude for all they do for me and for their constant support and love. That to me is priceless.
The holiday season is always difficult to get through. There’s so much to do and prepare for and not so much time to get it all done in, but if you take a minute to make a list and check it twice and choreograph, your plan of attack you should be just fine. Living with an illness comes with a lot of baggage – some big and some small. You just have to decide what is important to you and you can do anything you set your mind too!
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