Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Outta the Hat

Rocky and BullwinkleI really don’t think anyone else is interested in my financial prestidigitations.  I’m just opting for transparency.  Since compulsive behavior is part of my bipolar kit, I need to open it up for inspection.  And since living on Social Security Disability is a fact of life for lots of folks with mental illness, maybe we can trade magic tricks on how to make those dollars stretch.

Even though I started tightening my belt a week before, the real test came with my February check.  It seemed silly to be nervous about walking into the bank with my little list—a month’s worth of quarters for laundry, a $50 bill for the car fund, and cash for the week’s groceries and gas.  Nervous, I guess, because I don’t do this very well—sticking to what feels like severe restriction.  So, I tried to reframe my thoughts.  Not restriction, stewardship and different choices.  I’m making different choices about how I spend my money.  I’m doing this.  It’s not being done to me.

I know a big part of budgeting is planning.  I’m an expert list-maker and always have A Plan.  I’m just not as hot at actually implementing The Plan.  The bipolar part of the equation gets in my way.  Knowing that about myself makes any plan tentative—possible, but not probable.  Planning seems to set me up for failure, so I’ve learned to make plans loose and friendly to give them a fighting chance.

I made a loose meal plan, a handful of ideas for meals that I could mix and match—stir fries, chili,  roasted vegetables, hummus wraps—then made a grocery list from that.  This week I had plenty in my food budget for the initial shopping trip, plus a little left over.  That little bit extra felt expansive to me—I could get cornbread mix to go with my chili or a frozen pizza later in the week if I wanted to.  Since cooking still makes me anxious sometimes (especially when I’m under stress), it helped to have this bit of breathing space.

Fridley Theaters gift cardI didn’t bother trying to walk in this cold, and managed fine on my budget of $15 a week for gas.  I’m surprised that staying home hasn’t felt restrictive, especially since I’ve experienced several days of depression and anxiety.  Usually that makes me want to bolt.  I went to the movies a couple of times here in town on the gift cards I received for Christmas.  My friends and my sister treated me to meals out.  I’m also still seeing my therapist every week.  So even though I’ve been cycling fast and hard, I seem to have enough distraction and support to keep the symptoms manageable.

The new mental health program I learned about last week is Medicaid-funded, so I probably don’t qualify.  I make too much money.  But a friend does pay me a little bit each month for odd jobs, and that might be enough to qualify me as working disabled.  This makes no sense to me, but that’s a whole other post.  It does look like I will be reimbursed for about half of the rent I paid in 2013 (who knew?).  That would pay off all my medical debt.  Sweet!

This is hard.  But, I’m hoping the longer I stick with this budget and continue to see results, the more comfortable I’ll get with it.  The most important factor is to reduce my stress, make this as easy as possible, so that my symptoms don’t overwhelm me.  That’s the rabbit I keep fishing for inside the hat.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Michelle at The Green Study
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 07:35:21

    I think it’s a challenge to re-frame those things that are all for the good, but feel restrictive and disciplined. Sometimes it’s easier to react in opposition and go off plan. I keep trying to re-frame things as something I “want” to do as opposed to what I “should” do, which is, I think, rephrasing your thoughts about it being a choice. Not easy either way!


    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 09, 2014 @ 07:39:37

      Reframing is one thing my therapist hammers at me all the time. She catches me when I use a limiting word or phrase and makes me rethink what I’ve just said. And I thought I was pretty good at watching my distortions. Ha! So, this whole budget business is part of the practice. Of course.


  2. Littlesundog
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 09:03:49

    Thank you for offering your perspective on finances, Sandy. It helps many of us understand even more deeply, the challenges that must be dealt with – the Big Picture. We tend to look at budgeting and finances from a superficial aspect, based on our own personal experiences. You have opened my eyes and helped me have understanding about the grist of your situation.


    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 09, 2014 @ 14:22:06

      I really have forgotten what it’s like to have more money, what my life was like with a job, and a nice house, and a husband with a nice job. I do remember paying the bills and being fine. Ha! That idea is so foreign to me now.


  3. Kathryn McCullough
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 09:20:08

    Sounds like you are off to a good start. I know the hell it can be to live on social security in the US. Fortunately, it’s easier to make those funds stretch here in South America, but it also helps that Sara is working again. And how cool that you might get half of your rent money back. That’s amazing.

    Hugs from Ecuador,


    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 09, 2014 @ 14:19:31

      I often wonder about living someplace else. But I only want to go to Ireland or the UK, and that’s more expensive. Oh, well. I can take a mind-vacation and romp with Liam Neeson in the glen.


  4. TamrahJo
    Feb 09, 2014 @ 11:01:07

    Ordered 2 cards from your Etsy shop – looked frantically for the Christmas one I wanted so badly but couldn’t afford at the time – – too bad, it’s gone! 🙂 Hang in there – I too live with a strict budget but have gotten more work this past few weeks – here’s hoping 2014 is a good year for us!


    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 09, 2014 @ 14:17:49

      Thanks SO much for the order! I’ve got them packed up and ready to send on Monday. 2014 will be better. Yes.


      • TamrahJo
        Feb 09, 2014 @ 14:19:00

        But of course and thank you – –
        (and I gathered your cards are one of a kind, but if you ever make another “Merry F**cking Christmas” one, just email me and I’ll buy it too!) LOL

      • Sandy Sue
        Feb 09, 2014 @ 19:09:24

        Running across that caption was probably once-in-a-lifetime kind of luck. But, I may just letter one myself… Hmmm…

      • TamrahJo
        Feb 13, 2014 @ 08:30:01

        My beautiful cards have arrived! Thanks so much! And if Etsy fees ever get you down – I can walk you through setting up your own website – using WordPress and plugins to set up your own shop

      • Sandy Sue
        Feb 13, 2014 @ 15:23:47

        I’m so glad you like them, TJ. The Etsy fees aren’t bad. I worry I’d never get any traffic if I left Etsy and tried a site of my own.

      • TamrahJo
        Feb 13, 2014 @ 15:33:09

        Yes valid concern. Having your own site does mean more marketing of your site :).

  5. pegoleg
    Feb 10, 2014 @ 08:10:30

    “Not restriction, stewardship and different choices.” What a great mantra for all of us. Although the level of “stewardship” varies greatly, I think just about everybody needs to adopt this philosophy.


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