Managing money is one of those vital survival skills that just isn’t taught in schools in many places. It certainly wasn’t taught at my school. My parents taught me how to balance a checkbook and told me to avoid credit cards when I was growing up. But that was the extent of my money training until I took business classes in college. I learned to keep track of money pretty well but the idea of avoiding credit card debt wasn’t a lesson that sunk in until I ran up some debts and was in danger of getting behind on payments. But everyone has to learn on their own time I suppose.
Over the years I learned how to make a budget for things like rent, food, clothes, medications, household supplies, and fuel for my car. I didn’t get it perfect at first and turned to a credit card to cover the difference. Big mistake. Before I knew it I had debts that weren’t getting any smaller even though I never got behind on my payments. Looking at debts with my only income being my disability pension and a part time minimum wage job scared me. I knew I couldn’t ask for more hours at work as that would put me in trouble with Social Security’s earning limits. So I had to drastically cut back on my purchases. I had to quit going out to eat. I had to quit going to the mall. I had to live on cheap groceries (think lots of Ramen noodles, potatoes, baloney, and rice). I had to cancel my magazine subscriptions. I had to stop buying books and computer games. I couldn’t buy new clothes every few months. I had to limit my driving. It took a lot of work but I eventually learned to live without going into debt. I’ve been debt free now for over two years. And I have less stress because of it. I am sure some of my mental illness problems were made worse because I was worried about my debts.
If you have a mental illness and your only means of support are disability insurance and or a job, I would highly recommend if you’re going to have a credit card to use it only for emergencies. I don’t have a credit card anymore as I know myself well enough to not trust myself with one. Instead I have a small emergency fund I can get to in case of emergencies but I don’t have immediate access to it. I have it set up I have to have at least twenty four hours to access it as I don’t keep it at my apartment or in my bank. I budget to where I buy extra non perishable food and fuel my car to full every time I get paid. I also maintain my car and don’t run it hard so I don’t have to make expensive repairs. I have learned how to have a good time with friends, family, and by myself without spending much money. I probably will never have much for money but I really don’t spend a lot to begin with. Having no debts and having an emergency fund are the best sleep aides and stress busters I have found. I don’t make much but I don’t worry because I don’t have to make payments to anyone. If you are on disability or have a limited income, I highly recommend getting out of debt and staying out.