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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​ ​gift​s ​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​ ​not​overdrafted​ ​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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Gettyimage by: shironosov