Giving an F about Financial Health.

Have you ever looked at your supermarket receipts? Not merely at the totals, but at the deals on the back of them? I started to over a month ago. Although I’m on a tight budget, my social life hasn’t suffered, and I’ve enjoyed evenings out (deliciously) thanks to docket and special deal coupons (in addition to generous friends, of course). Yes, I am one of those coupon clippers now. I wish I’d discovered the joys of coupon and savings hunting years ago!!! And though I prefer to be in the position of shouting others to dinner, in time, I have resolved that I will be.

Speaking of financial winning, a friend was kind enough to give me his free place in a financial coaching workshop later in the year, that I could in no way have afforded otherwise. So very thankful. I now realise I had been investigating that very seminar the same day.

Money and financial management is something I have never really paid a tremendous amount of attention to – not until circumstances this year finally forced me to start thinking more seriously about my long-term independence/escape plan. I’ve never been financially well–off – I didn’t come from money, and physical/mental illness has had a severe effect on my ability to both win and keep stable employment in the past. Still, I’d never really given much thought to my financial “health” nor set financial goals for myself, other than “keep within budget”, “don’t get a credit card”, “avoid sexually-transmitted debt” and “grow savings accounts” (the latter three I honour, the former I only occasionally blowout, usually for recreational purposes). Anything more sophisticated than that in the world of financial management, though, usually intimidates and bores me, all at once.

In contrast, physical, creative and spiritual/humanitarian goals are an absolute staple – now the underlying motivators in my life – goals that when I focus my activities and energy on, life just seems to… flow :-). This is an inextricable part of who I am, and it works for me. Creative pursuits nourish me, make me happy and link me to likeminded people. Getting back into teams sports (purely for fun and fitness) finally this year is also going to be like coming home, in many ways. Being a team sports person was one of the primary ways I defined myself – and how others defined me – before the onset of illness (and spiral into oblivion). Similarly, spiritual goals have always been an unspoken and often subconscious driver within me.

Yet, no financial goals!!! Which makes no sense (cents?). Disability is expensive, and though I live in the lucky country, that provides me with monetary assistance for my health and continence needs (something I am HUGELY grateful for), I will always have to fork out a little extra for things, beyond healthcare and wheelchair maintenance (and the concessions I get don’t always offset these things).

Take the drivers license I am yet to get, for example. Prior to acquiring permanent paraplegia, I was in physical and psychological limbo. To the casual glance, there was nothing obviously different about me. But with two conditions affecting my weary spinal cord, my legs or arms would often just stop working, for short lengths of time, unexpectedly (something I hid very well… my mum was really the only one who knew how fragile I was, and that’s saying something, considering how much I kept from her too). That reality, combined with the secret, severe mental anxiety I struggled with, and rather unhelpful and discouraging “friends” and partners, effectively scared me off the whole driving thing. I had a recurring, vivid nightmare of my legs and arms giving out while driving a car in a school zone, and killing people. Just a dream, you might say, but in my precarious mental state, it was enough to keep me on public transport for the rest of my life.  And I resigned myself to doing just that.

So now I want to – and will – get a license, but it is going to be tricky, and more expensive. Certainly not impossible, but it will take some time before I have the financial resources to do that, and, for now, it’s just not a priority (moreover, the fact that I know a few great GenXers who didn’t learn until after the age of 30 has nullified any embarrassment I might otherwise have had about not driving). When I do finally pursue a license, I will need to learn in a modified car (i.e. with hand controls +). There are only a few driving schools in my city that have a modified car and instructor. None of them are close to my home. I will have to travel to one and pay extra to get the specialised lessons. I have also been told I will likely need to do a special course of physiotherapy at a particular hospital beforehand, to train and extend my neck range, which is limited thanks to the extensive scar tissue, fusion and consequent muscular tension that is responsible for daily pain and occasional migraines. Awesome. Failing that… extra mirrors in the car, perhaps? Come to think of it, my left hand, in which I have no feeling, might be an issue too.  I expect it might prove problematic in a manual car (or even an automatic, really).

Still, living in the Western world, and having the level of disability that I have, I know I can do almost everything that everyone else does, albeit in a modified way. Conceivably I can also do many extra things that I may have wanted to do prior to illness having its dirty way with my mind and body. I can travel and become the homeowner of that dream eco-friendly modified home.  I could even learn how to scuba dive or rock climb (if I wanted to – I must say the scuba thing looks pretty appealing). The only thing that stands between me and any of those things (apart from my mind and body’s former tendency to declare war on itself) is MONEY.

Guess it’s time to start giving an eff about my financial health.

~~~

Ok, so this post wasn’t an analysis of any of the bad news stories that have played out on our screens recently. I figure I have from now until the end of the year to write about that.

I’m off to a celebration tonight –  pacific style. Vanuatu was granted Independence from France and the United Kingdom on 30 July 1080. Which means formal celebrations, then celebrations carrying on into the hours! There a few better ways to get warm on a cold Melbourne night :-).

 

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