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Step 4: Find Resources and Make Changes—Increase Income or Reduce Expenses

Do you have money left over each month—a positive cash flow—after paying your expenses? If so, fantastic. If not, you have a negative cash flow. There are ways to fix that. The most obvious one is to reduce your expenses. You also can increase your income, or do a combination of both. Let’s start with reducing your expenses. Often, that is the easier thing to do.

Strategies for Reducing Your Expenses

Expenses associated with your child’s disability, such as hearing aids, are often not covered by health care plans. As your child’s needs change and these associated expenses increase, you may find that you are unable to continue paying for them. 

If your child receives support through a government health care assistance program, contact your case manager to find out what resources might be available to help you pay for these items. You can also:

  • Contact your local Parent Center to speak with someone about possible funding sources for these associated costs.
    To find a Parent Center near you:
    Call 888-248-0822 (Voice) or 952-838-0190 (TTY)
    Visit www.ParentCenterNetwork.org
    Write 
    PACER Center, Inc.
    8161 Normandale Blvd.
    Bloomington, MN 55437
  • Contact a disability-specific organization to inquire about funding sources. Examples of disability-specific organizations are Spina Bifida Association, United Cerebral Palsy, or the Autism Society. You might also want to visit www.Disability.gov. The Web site lists many disability-specific organizations, and provides many other disability-related resources.
    To find a particular disability organization on www.Disability.gov, click “Community Life” and “Disability Organizations.”

Even though we haven’t yet begun talking about planning for your child’s employment, there is a job-related resource that might point you in the right direction for funding sources. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Labor, has a web page that lists possible funding sources for assistive technology and disability-associated expenses. To check out these resources, contact JAN:

Call 1-800-526-7234 (Voice) or 1-877-781-9403 (TTY)

Visit www.askjan.org

Here are some other things you can do to lower your expenses:

Network. Contact your local Parent Center to find out how to get connected to parent support groups for families of children with your child’s disability. Other parents may be able to share money-saving ideas for treatments, therapies, services, and assistive technologies.

Look for Funding Sources. Some foundations, government agencies, and financial, academic, and medical institutions offer grants, low-cost loans, or other funding mechanisms for a variety of needs associated with your child’s disability. Contact your disability-specific organization or your local Parent Center for tips on finding potential funding sources.

Compare Rates, Fees, and Premiums. Do a little shopping around for lower mortgage and auto loan rates, credit card rates and fees, bank fees, and auto and health insurance premiums. If you find a lower mortgage interest rate, then apply to refinance your mortgage to a lower interest rate. If you find lower bank fees, then switch banks. If you find lower auto or health insurance premiums, then switch insurance companies. Be sure to ask about any fees you might incur before taking any of these actions.

Examine Your Bills for Errors. Mistakes happen, even with automated billing systems. Sometimes they break down a bit. 

Other Cost-Reduction Tips

  • Make a grocery list from a preplanned menu and stick to it.
  • Buy store brands, compare prices, and look for the weekly store specials.
  • Clip coupons and use a store “membership” card.
  • Shop the sales and stock up on items you use regularly.
  • Learn new recipes that have simple, readily available ingredients.

Strategies for Increasing Your Income

Finding an option for increasing income can be very challenging for parents of children with special needs. Because of the high-level of care your child may require, likely you’ll want to spend more time with your family, not less. Taking on a second job or working over-time might not be practical. 

Job searches themselves can be very demanding, and not only because of a competitive job environment. Finding a job with employee health care benefits is a big consideration in any job search, along with finding an employer willing to provide you with flexibility when you need it for emergency care or time off to visit a specialist in another city.

Working with a job-search agency or employment agency may help you find the job and health care benefits you want and need.

Here are some ways you can increase your income:

  •  Ask for a raise.
  • Find a higher paying job.
  • Work over-time.
  • Get a second or part-time job.
  • Start your own business, even if you can only do it on nights and weekends. If you have a special skill, such as accounting or woodworking, sell it to people you know or ask them for referrals to potential customers. 
  • For help in getting your own business started, take a look at the U.S. Small Business Administration—Small Business Planner. You will find information on how to plan, start, and manage your business.
  • Visit www.sba.gov and click “Small Business Planner”
  • Provide a needed service in your community for pay. Babysitting, dog walking, snow shoveling, and tutoring are some examples.
  • Participate in a research study for pay at hospital or university.
  • Sell unused household items at a garage sale or through an online auction.

Beware of Job Scams

 Some jobs promise to pay attractive income for simple work, like stuffing envelopes. These jobs might be scams. So might advertised jobs that require you to buy materials before “beginning” the job. For help in identifying job scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site on job scams. Go to www.ftc.gov/jobscams.

 

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