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Possibilities: A Financial Resource for Parents of Children with Disabilities

Track Spending Leaks and Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Track Your Spending Leaks

Spending money on small stuff—things nice to have but easy to do without—adds up over time. For example, what might you be spending on bottled water, coffee, ATM fees, and extra cell phone services? Take a closer look at where all of your money goes. For about seven days, track how you spend money on “minor” expenses and purchases that don’t seem to add up to much. Don’t worry if you occasionally skip a day. The point is to become keenly aware of how you spend all of your money. After this period, ask yourself what expenditures you can cut back on.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Financial Goals

Consider the times in your life you set a financial goal, such as saving money for a down payment on a car or house. While you knew you were committing to a potentially long period of monthly payments, once you received your set of keys, you materialized a dream and met a financial goal.

Today, you face higher expenses while caring for your child with special needs. Maybe you’ve had to put your career on hold or take on part-time work to help finance these expenses. Even if you face a less-than-desirable cash flow, you can still set goals that help improve your financial well-being. 

For example, in the sections Make a Spending Plan and Track Your Spending Leaks we listed ways you can reduce your expenses. Starting with those, let’s set some S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are: 

Specific: “I’ll go to the coffee shop only twice each week” is more specific than “I won’t go to the coffee shop as much as I used to."

Measurable: “I will call and speak to an advocate at my local Parent Center to get at least one list of organizations that might be able to help pay for assistive technology” is measurable; “I want to find out how other parents pay for assistive technology” is not.

Achievable: “I will save $5 a week” is more achievable than “I am going to save $50 a week” if you don’t have the money.

Realistic: “I will shop around for a low-rate, low-fee credit card by the end of the month” is realistic only if you set aside the time to do actually do that.

Time bound: “I will start contacting funding sources for assistive technology by the end of next week” is a more specific time frame than “I will start looking for funding sources after the holidays.” 

When you first learn of your child’s disability it may be difficult to think beyond your family’s immediate needs. At some point, though, you’ll need to think about, plan, and set goals for the future:

  • Your future: estate planning and retirement
  • Your child’s future: education, employment, independent living, and transportation to and from places
  • Your family’s travel and entertainment

Resources: My S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals helps you stay focused on achieving them. Putting your goals in writing makes them seem more real. Use this form to write your goals. Read your goals out loud, and often. That will help make them seem even more real.

Printable Example Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals Sheet (pdf)

Digital Example Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals Spreadsheet (xls)

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