Fibro and Finances

Fibro Friend ~ How Are Your Finances Holding Out?

Are your Finances holding out?

This is a question that most friends and family never think to ask, “How are your finances?” It’s a little personal and maybe that is why no one asks but the truth is that sickness can take a big toll on anyone’s finances no matter how much insurance you have. Not only does the patient lose work time but also the spouse or caregiver. I am told that sickness is the number one reason people file for bankruptcy. (See this article at CNBC)

My friend, Colleen Sullivan knows about the challenges in finance due to her own journey with fibromyalgia. I met Colleen through the Christian Chronic Illness Network. She has offered to share her struggles with staying afloat and the lessons learned.

curleque by Coffee at pixabay

Dear Fibro Friends;

Finanaces and Chronic Pain
image created in Canva photo provided by Colleen Sullivan

I keep thinking about what I wished I’d known about the landmines I was about to walk through after I realized I could no longer work and finally had to apply for disability due to fibromyalgia and all of its friends. 

I’ve had fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome since 1995. I managed to work until 2010. During that time frame, I developed a host of chronic illnesses and medical problems. My internist blamed much of it on fibromyalgia. I had an arthroscopy, a total hip replacement, a laminectomy for sciatica after I started to drag my leg. Stomach issues. Phlebitis. That’s the short list. Oh, and I’m an RN. 

Medical Leave

I had been in and out of my employee relations office with medical leave many times. Honestly, I have to say, I didn’t fully understand my rights because I never took the time to truly read the fine print. I never really questioned what I was told. Questions should have been asked. I was, I think, politely pressured to return to work as soon as possible after each medical leave. That’s their job, to get the employee back to work. And I wanted to be a good employee. My job though was to take care of myself. Nurses are notoriously better at taking care of everyone else but themselves.  

Medical Leave – I should have asked questions. Click To Tweet


I’d actually qualified for disability for many years but didn’t want to leave the job I loved. I just didn’t. But after an infection left me with lymphedema and Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy in my leg with the hip replacement, I couldn’t manage both fibromyalgia and the leg pain. I was in so much pain, I was afraid it would start to affect my job. A risk I could not take. Since I was over 56, I decided to take early retirement disability. I did so without researching the best way to do so. In hindsight, I should have gone to my local social security office before I resigned. 

I should have visited the Social Security Office before taking early disibility retirement, #disability #chronicillness Click To Tweet

I was assisted with my disability application by my benefits agency. I was fortunate to have them help me fill out the forms but I was initially denied. It was then suggested I get a Functional Capacity Test. I failed it completely. I got my disability on the second try, with an apology and back benefits.  

Looking back, the employer’s goal is to get the employee working and minimize company costs. A third party, such as a trusted friend or lawyer, might have been a better choice. In a great deal of pain, living off minimal state disability benefits and credit cards; I was not able to really fend for myself. I inadvertently confided in someone I thought a friend. It seems so simple now to know to be careful who you give detailed personal information to.  I wasn’t really thinking clearly due to how initially ill I was and didn’t realize it at the time. 

Paying Bills

money issues finances

Taking money out of my 401K to pay off medical bills and credit cards wasn’t a good idea either. I later found out I could have borrowed against my retirement account before I resigned with a great deal less penalty. I also could have gone to an agency such as Consumer Credit Counseling to arrange payments with less interest and fewer penalties. As a single woman with a long history of medical expenses, even with good insurance, I didn’t exactly have a backup plan for finances. 

Things you should do before making financial decisions with #chronicillness #longtermillness Click To Tweet

I also didn’t keep very good track of my medical records. Now I know that when I feel like I’m not remembering things, I’m probably not and I am in a ‘fibro fog.’  Had I kept better track of my records and monitored what was being written down, my application process would have been much easier. I now get records of my complete hospital stay, especially any doctor’s notes. I make sure they reflect what actually happened and are not just the doctor’s opinion of what happened.

Write down the results of every doctor’s visit and track symptoms. I can not say how much I wish I had done this before I applied for disability. A miswritten ‘return to work note’ made things very difficult on the first application. This is why third-party help would have been of great benefit. 

Where to Spend Your Money

The cost of fibromyalgia and all of its friends continues. Insurance doesn’t really cover what works. I have acupuncture up to 4 times a month. Take the necessary supplements. I’m blessed to have found self-hypnosis and self-Reiki for pain control. Sometimes I still need a prescription for pain medication. But getting to this point was not easy. 

I wasted money on specialists that really didn’t help. In my case, I could have skipped the allergist. The most worthwhile expense was going to a well-known nutritionist. Turned out the nutritionist figured out my allergies by my symptoms. I have tried so-called chronic fatigue/fibromyalgia specialists, gym memberships, personal fitness trainers, food and supplement programs, and the like. None have really helped in the long run. Simple walking has done the best. Basic nutritional guidelines, such as sugar and gluten-free like the nutritionist first recommended has helped the most. There are no quick fixes. But I’ve sure tried to find them!! Save your money! 

In Conclusion

I’ve often wondered why I was so trusting and, to be very honest, wasted time and money on quick fixes. Perhaps it’s because I was so very ill and just wanted things to go back the way they were. Maybe it’s because I was grieving the loss of my health and my job. Or maybe it was God teaching me a lesson. The reasons are less important now. 

I feel blessed to be where I am now because of all I’ve gone through. Despite everything, the past five years have been very good. I still miss my job. I still have too much pain. Now I have COPD with my asthma (never smoked.) Yet, I still feel blessed beyond measure. I have learned to appreciate life more than ever before.

What I wish I had Known About #Fibro and #disability Click To Tweet

Your Fibro Friend,

Colleen Sullivan

curleque by Coffee at pixabay

Thank you, Colleen, for your openness about finances. I could really relate to many of your obstacles. We made many of the same mistakes you did and lost our shirts in the meantime. I was fortunate to have a friend who worked for a disability attorney. She pushed us until we decided to apply for disability and then walked us through the process.  And that has been the best decision we ever made. I would not have the medical care these past 8 years had I not been on disability.

Mandy Farmer
Living within our means

10 Ways to Get on a Budget and Stick to It

Living within our means

It’s quite a challenge to stay on a budget when you are in the ministry. Our hearts want to spend money on projects and ideas for the church. But sometimes, the funds are just not there and the temptation is to pull out the credit card. As easy as this is, it’s important for us as stewards of God’s resources, to resist the temptation and spend only what we have the cash to spend.

I asked a friend of mine to share how their pastoral family manages their budget. She does the budget thing so much better than I. We should all take this very seriously and try live within our means. Chrystal will take over from here.

Mandy Farmer


Getting on a Budget and Staying On It


Living Within Your Means #budgeting Click To Tweet


Hi, Friends, I’m Chrystal and I’m excited to be sharing on Mandy & Michele’s blog today!

Jeremy and Chrystal Smallwood Family

My family blogs over at The Smallwood Parsonage about all things life…recipes, simple living, adventures, gardening, music and book reviews, and gatherings all from the unique perspective of a parsonage family. My husband and I have been in full-time ministry close to 20 years. We are both ordained, though at this season in life he is the breadwinner, serving as the senior pastor of our rural Pennsylvania church. I am currently a stay-at-home, homeschooling, blogging, sock-washing, dog-cuddling mom, who still keeps her hands busy in ministry.

Over the years God has led us to live a simple, intentional lifestyle…

… teaching us every day what it means to let go of material goods and dwell on the important. It hasn’t been easy, and it certainly has been a journey, but let me explain how we have gotten here. After we had been married for three years, both graduated from college, and beginning our careers in ministry we wanted to start our family. Hopes and dreams were building as we both planned and prepared for the babies God would bless us with. I had always dreamed of having four children and becoming pregnant with our first baby only made me even more excited. Life, though, and pregnancy didn’t go as we dreamed it would. In the following three years we miscarried twice, suffered the loss of a twin baby to Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and gave birth to two beautiful girls. It was a difficult three years.

After losing three children, we decided that life could either become a misery or a celebration.

We chose that it would become a celebration and we continue to live that way 15 years later.

We choose to …

  • a simple life,
  • intentional living.
  • spend our money on making memories, rather than on what some might consider essentials.
  • believe in eating from the earth’s bounty.
  • believe in giving back as much as we can.
  • aim to live life beautifully and authentically.

Purchase Chrystal’s book about her miscarriages, Choosing Joy

We live on a small income by American standards, though we realize it is much compared to much of the world.

Many pastor’s families live on small budgets. But living on a small budget doesn’t mean life can’t be well lived. We think it means just the opposite. A small budget forces us to consider each purchase, each dollar, what our priorities are. It gives opportunities to decide what matters and what doesn’t. I’m listing below some things we keep in mind and practice to help us live within our means, perhaps encouraging some of you to implement some new ways to live within your means as well.

First, I want to let you know eight things we DON’T include in our budget:

1. Housing– Like many pastors, we live in the parsonage and all basic housing expenses are paid for by the church.
2. Cable television– We just don’t have it. *see below for an explanation
3. Home Phone: The church pays for our basic local service and Jeremy’s cell phone; we use our cell phones unlimited talk and text plan for long-distance.
4. Internet-the girls charter school reimburses for internet expenses for their students. So while we pay this out every month, it is reimbursed to us at the end of the school year. We really only pay for the internet for three months of the year when school is not in session.
5. Car Maintenance-Jeremy drives the local ambulance and works one day a week as an EMT. These extra incomes, along with weddings and funeral honorariums are put aside for car maintenance.
6. Car Payments-our cars have been paid off for a number of years.
7. Home Educating resources-We use an online public charter school and they provide all the needed materials for the girl’s education free of charge.
8. Debt– We have no consumer debt.

10 Practical things we have found that help us to be good stewards of our resources #budget Click To Tweet

Here are some practical things we have found help us to be good stewards of our resources.

Maybe you will find a new nugget of information that will help you to live within your means:

1. Tithe. This must be a priority. God can do exceedingly more with 90% of our income than we can ever do with 100% of it.

2. Make a budget and stick to it. This might take some homework if you’re not an active budgeter. There are a number of solid Christian resources out there regarding budgeting tips and various ways to budget. They are worth a look. If you know someone who is a great budgeter, financial planner ask them for help. Decide who will be in charge of the budget-both husband and wife? Just one or the other? I am better at budgeting and bill paying and daily running of the family and household. Jeremy is better at saving. He is in charge of the envelopes (explained in #3)

3. Use an envelope system for keeping the cash. A portion of our weekly income gets taken from the bank and put in envelopes for safe-keeping. Extra things like monthly bills to be paid, money for clothes, summer church camp fees, vacation, bulk meat purchase, family treats, and Christmas are included in these envelopes. It might not seem like there is much money at the beginning of saving in envelopes, but that money adds up quickly. When a monthly bill is needing to be paid simply take the money from the envelope put it in the bank and pay the bill. If Vacation or Christmas is coming just take the cash from the envelope.

4. Cash in those coins. We keep a small green glass chicken next to our kitchen sink and a large water bucket next to the washing machine. Any and all change (that’s left from my kids raiding the chicken to go to Christian Skate Night at the local Roller Rink with the youth group) gets put into either the chicken or the bucket. We recently took our coins to a Coinstar machine at the grocery store to convert it to cash. I didn’t want to have to pay a percentage of the total so instead we redeemed our coins for over $100 on a no-fee required Amazon gift card and put the gift card in the Christmas envelope.

5. Commit to a No-Spend Month – For one month, don’t spend money on anything that isn’t a basic need or an emergency. Keep in mind children’s birthdays and holidays when planning a No-Spend Month.

6. Slash your spending.

A. Groceries: The USDA says that a typical family of four (2 adults/2 children) will spend between $150 and $300 per week on groceries that’s $600-$1200 per month! Use coupons, cut out Starbucks and going out to eat, cook from scratch.

B. Entertainment: Our daughter Anna receives free books in return for her review on our blog, play board games, host a potluck, enjoy a family movie night, start a new tradition. catch a free concert in town, go for a hike. There are lots of things to do that don’t cost money.

C. Shop at Thrift Stores: there are some serious name brand, high-quality clothing at thrift stores.

D. Exercise: Walk or run daily, take advantage of a friend giving away exercise equipment, head to a local lake and swim for free.

E. Extra-curriculars: limit the children to one extra-curricular activity per season-this cuts down on time and money. If you have someone who will teach a skill for free ask them or barter in exchange for lessons.

F. DIY as much as possible. There are so many tutorials online for DIY projects we almost have no excuse to not use them.

G. Use what you have: Use up the freezer foods, watch the old movies, wear the tie you’ve had for years but is still in good condition.

7. Get rid of non-essentials. We haven’t had cable for 17 years and have survived. For years we used antenna tv only, but in our current home, located in the mountains, we have to pay 20$ for basic cable or we wouldn’t get any networks, PBS or the “Old Shows” as my kids call them.

8. Prioritize: Decide what is and isn’t important to your family.

  •  Do you want to see the world? BUDGET
  • Do you want to take an expensive vacation? BUDGET
  • Saving for the kid’s college or wedding? BUDGET
  • Want to treat your spouse to a nice Valentine’s Day Dinner? BUDGET

9. I realize not everyone has time for preserving food as we do. It takes a considerable amount of effort and time but buying foods while they are in season, or gardening is very cost-effective, supports local farmers, allows God to provide you with food that He created, and is overall better for health and taste. Cooking at home, buying seasonal foods, freezing, canning, drying or dehydrating foods are all options for making healthier, budget-friendly food choices.

10. Organize and Simplify-One way to live within your means in to know what you already have. At one point years ago I realized I owned 20 glass vases. Twenty! I quickly got rid of all but 5 or 6 of them that had special meaning to me, but the others went to the thrift store. Getting and staying organized will tell you what you do and don’t need. Anything that’s extra? Get rid of it by giving it to thrift stores, social service agencies, needy neighbors. Be cautious about getting rid of family antiques though-you’ll likely never get them back.

Lastly, but most importantly, we must Pray and give God Lordship over our finances.

Ask Him …

  • .. to provide in miraculous ways.
  • .. to show you what is and isn’t important.
  • .. for a financial blessing.
  • .. to make you and your spouse partners in financial matters.

Always allow God to provide for you through miracles and through His people. If people want to share the bounty of their gardens, or buy those new tires for your car or offer to help in some other way let them.

Allowing people to be vessels of God’s grace to you is a blessing to you and to them. Allow them to be the givers God is asking them to be.


Allowing people to be vessels of God's grace to you is a blessing… for you and them #budgeting Click To Tweet