person holding brown leather bifold wallet

How To Be Budget Conscious When You Are A Family With Disabilities

Once upon a time…

I am going to make 2 assumptions: 1. If you are reading this, you are part of a family that experiences a disability. 2. You are financially ‘disadvantaged’, or as I like to put it, broke.  No, I am not reading your mind but I have worked with enough disabled families to know how the story goes, at least most of the time, especially when it comes to budget.

Mom and Dad have a child with a lot of challenges.  This child requires a lot of medical appointments, a lot of extra hands-on care that most kids don’t need, and may even need surgeries and be hooked up to life-saving equipment at all times.

Now, both Mom and Dad had been comfortably well off in their careers before their bouncing baby disability was born.  Both Mom and Dad are having to take lots of time off of work to take their child to medical appointments, therapy visits, various assessments, hospital stays, surgeries, and the list goes on and on.


Eventually,  Mom and Dad make the decision that one of them is going to have to quit their job and stay home with the little one.  It’s not like they can just take their child to any old daycare after all, and trying to find a daycare that has experience with disabilities, is a unicorn of epic proportions!

So now the 2 income family has been reduced to 1.  But the problem economically is that the need for money has gone up drastically!  You have all the normal newborn stuff that you need but now you have all those extra co-pays that you hadn’t planned on when you were daydreaming about the little slugger you were going to have.  Instead, you are the one being slugged with a mountain of medical bills that you can’t see any way to pay down.  What do you do?

Big green money symbol representing a budget

Back story…

There are lots of answers to this question, some better than others.  By the time my son was 2 years old, he was over a $250,000 baby.  We were trying to have both of us continue to work but it was hard trying to work around our son’s medical appointment schedule.  He needed a full-time secretary, a full-time chauffeur, and a full-time caregiver.

We tried the whole paying everything off with credit cards and then keep swapping the balance from card to card, which I do NOT recommend!  Until we eventually had to declare bankruptcy.  Hopefully, you will never have to go down that road!

Laundry detergent

When you have kids, especially kids with disabilities, the laundry is endless!  Save yourself some money by making your own laundry detergent.  If you do Pinterest, you can look up ‘DIY laundry detergent’ and find all kinds of recipes for powdered or liquid detergent you can make.

The recipe I use costs about $24 to make and lasts 5-6 months with a least 1 load of laundry being done every day.  I do keep a small stash of heavy-duty detergent pods on hand for those loads of laundry that you just can’t get the stench out of but mostly, we use the homemade stuff.

This is a recipe I found on Pinterest but I guess I didn’t save it or it disappeared because I can’t find who to credit this to.

3 lbs of Oxyclean
4 lbs of baking soda
1 box of washing soda (approximately 3 lbs)
1 box of Borax
2 bars of Zote or Fels-Naptha soap, grated
2 20-oz+ bottles of scent booster (Unstoppables, Gain Booster Beads, Purex Crystals, etc.)
A large 3-4 gallon container with a lid

Grate the soap (we use a fine grate but you can do coarse – your choice), add all the other ingredients together and mix well.  Use 1 tablespoon per large load of laundry.  I like to keep a lid on it to help prevent it from getting clumpy.

person holding popcorn at the movies.  Going to the movies is not necessarily budget conscious but can be if you can find a good deal at a matinee


We, as human beings, want to have fun.  We want to be entertained at all times.  But you have a kid with a disability to take care of now and do you really have a lot of time to sit down and be entertained?

Take a look at your subscriptions such as cable, video streaming services, audiobooks and sports season passes & tickets.  You need to save money for your family.  What can you do without or at least pare down? 

Don’t forget about your local library.  You can check out movies, audiobooks and games, either as physical copies or as an instant download.  Utilizing your libraries can save a lot of money!


Now we are all guilty of this.  “I had such a tough week, I will just hit a drive-through for dinner”.  Have you seen the prices at fast food restaurants recently?!?  I used to be able to get a steak dinner for what a cheap hamburger costs nowadays.

Do your budget a favor and keep the eating out to a bare minimum!  Save it for a date night (if you ever get one again) or a special occasion.  Instead, brush up on your cooking skills.  Learn how to make more things from scratch like taco seasoning, chocolate chip cookies, and pancake mix.  

If you really want to go all out, research Once A Month Cooking and try it out.  OAMC is cooking enough meals over a weekend so you don’t have to for the rest of the month.  It’s a lifesaver, especially in those days of having an infant at home!

green and white gas pump

Gas money!

Ugh!  It’s pretty bad when you have to take out a loan just to fill up your gas tank.  We live in a rural area so public transportation really isn’t an option for us, but it might be for you.  I know, I know, no one likes to ride public transportation but when you compare the price of that versus what you are paying in gas, it might be worthwhile to reconsider your stance.

For doctor and therapy appointments, see if your insurance covers medical transport, or maybe they will even reimburse you mileage for doctor and therapy appointments if you drive!

Even if you choose not to use these options, don’t just run to the store for a gallon of milk.  Combine your errands to one day a week and save gas that way.  We have been raised to think that instant gratification is our right and has become a way of life. Is it really going to hurt to postpone whatever you need from the store for a couple of days?

DIY repairs

Now, depending upon your handyman talents, this may, or may not, save you money.  If you aren’t so handy with tools, it might actually save you money to have someone else do your home and car repairs.

If you are handy, this can save you A LOT of money!  YouTube has videos on how to fix most anything so check it out and you may surprise yourself that you have a hidden talent you didn’t know you had!

Shopping… the biggest money muncher

If you are shopping your stress away – don’t.  Find another distraction.

Shopping for the latest trends and fashions just wastes money because trends and fashions only last a season.  And to be honest, that top brand dress looks just as good as my $5 Goodwill dress when it is covered in your kids’ bodily fluids –  just sayin’.

But, we are always having to do necessary shopping, whether it is for groceries, clothes or medications.  But we need to smarten up a bit when doing it to maximize our savings.  Use reward cards or loyalty programs.  Use an app like Fetch or Ibotta to help you save money.

I do a lot of online shopping and some of my favorite tools are Honey and Rakuten.  They can find me deals for what I am looking for and sometimes get me cash back.

You have probably heard this a million times but: rent vs. buy, buy used if you can, price compare, use price match, and use coupons!  Be sure to check buying online vs. in-store too!

My last piece of shopping advice is to check out Facebook groups.  Not only can you see what your neighbors are selling but there are many groups out there that round up the deals of the day at various online stores such as Target, Amazon, and Walmart.  Most such groups usually have the word ‘frugal’ in their name.  They have saved us lots of money, especially around the holidays!

Insurance deductibles

When you have private insurance, you usually have a high family deductible that once you meet it, you will only have to pay co-pays for the rest of the year.  If that is the case for you, plan accordingly.

If someone in your family needs dental work or surgery that can wait, try to schedule it for the beginning of the year so you can fulfill that deductible as early as possible.

This tip may sound counter-intuitive but if you only have one insurance and it’s not Medicaid, do some research on what it would cost to add secondary insurance.  Yes, it’s going to add to your bills but if your family has lots of doctor and therapy appointments, the cost of your co-pays and prescriptions, which should go away with secondary insurance, may offset the costs of the insurance.  Research this thoroughly and ask lots of questions before pulling the trigger.

assorted plastic pack and plastic pack lot of food

Community resources

If you are used to being a self-sufficient family, it can be a bit of a might-set change to reach out to some of your community resources.  These resources are there to help people and there is no judgment on those who use them.

For example, my local food bank has produce available on Wednesdays that anyone in the community can access, and you don’t even need to provide proof of your household income or to even sign in.

We have a local clothes closet that has gently used clothing and household items that anyone can come in and get.  There are diaper banks, furniture banks, and even places that have pet supplies for free.  Many of these agencies have social media accounts so that is a great way to find them.

Now that you are no longer working, you might want to get rid of your office clothes.  Why not sell them or arrange for a clothing swap at your local community center?

Growing food

Yes, most produce is fairly inexpensive to buy but the prices on everything are rising.  If I spend $3 on a head of lettuce vs. $3 on a packet of 100 lettuce seeds, which way saves me the most money?  Ha! Ha!  I heard the gardeners out there saying “buying the head of lettuce!”

Raising some of your own food doesn’t have to be elaborate and you can do it even if you live in a city in an apartment.  All you need is a medium to grow the plants in, a little water and sun, and a lot of patience.  Weeding is the hard part but if you are using containers, they are pretty easy to take care of.

If digging in the dirt is not for you, try hydroponics.  You can make your own hydroponics garden fairly inexpensively out of PVC pipe and a small water pump or look for a good deal on Amazon.

I just bought one on Amazon because I had a gift card and there was a good deal during Prime day.  I got a 12-plant garden for 65% off.  This is the first time I have tried hydroponics but it has been fun so far!

person holding clear drinking glass full of water.  Drinking just water can really save money in your budget

Drink water!

This one is fairly self-explanatory.  We all need to drink more water than we do.  Drinking water vs. any kind of store-bought drinks will save a lot of money and is so much healthier for you.  If you can drink your tap water, that will save you the most money but you may need/want to buy an inline filter first.

Learn to budget

I admit it, I am horrible at budgeting but I am getting better.  Just because I wanted to try hydroponics, I didn’t rush out and get the most expensive, top-of-the-line model as soon as I decided I wanted to try it.  Instead, I did research, I read reviews and I watched for sales.

I actually really scored on the hydroponics system I got because in the end, I got it for free 😉

How did I do that, you ask?  Well, I am part of a medical research group that occasionally sends me surveys to fill out and sometimes they pay me with an Amazon gift card.  I got my gift card about two weeks before Prime Day and so I just waited to see if the hydroponics system I wanted was going to go on sale, and it did!  

If I hadn’t done my research and been patient, I probably would have purchased a cheap knock-off system that wouldn’t have lasted and I would probably have paid full price out of my own pocket.

Learn to budget and to be patient when making ‘want to have’ vs. ‘need to have’ purchases.

Comparison shop

I mentioned this one before briefly but comparison shop, especially if you need to make a big purchase.  Look online and look in your local stores before you make your purchase.

Have you ever realized that you can do comparison shopping for prescription medications?  Yes, you can!  And by doing your research, you can save some serious money, especially if you have a co-pay or have to pay out of pocket.  

I recently helped my mother-in-law do some comparison shopping and found a way to save some money on a couple of her prescriptions.  Plus in the process of doing this, we found out that her pharmacy wasn’t billing her secondary insurance and they ended up having to send her a check!  Do your research!

gift card wrapped in white paper, tied with red string and decorated with a sprig of holly.  Use gift cards to budget for the holidays

One last thing

The last tip I have for you can be a little pride-bending for some people.  With the holidays not too far around the corner, why not ask for things that can really benefit your family this year?  Ask for clothes, grocery gift cards, or gift cards in general for places that have food and clothes and everything else in between.  Ask for gas gift cards, and ask for homemade food you can put in the freezer.  Just tell everyone you are trying to be more budget conscious since you are now living off of one income instead of two.  They will understand and be supportive (and probably still get you some special things – just because).

Hopefully, there is something in my tips that resonates with you and you give it a try.  Trying to live on one income is hard but doable.  We started off with my husband working and me staying home with the kids.  When he became unable to work anymore, he stayed home and I went to work.

We are also exploring side hustles that we can do to bring in a little extra money but we are still figuring that out so I can’t really speak to what works vs. what doesn’t.  I will post an update at some point in the future.

If you have other tips that worked for you, please list them below.  We are all looking for ways to save money in these crazy economic times!

Other posts you may like:
100 Amazing Benefits Of Being A Parent Of A Child With Disabilities
Balancing Medical Treatment with Quality of Life

From Cheap Chicks University:
8 Steps To Keeping Your Clothes Budget Under Control
5 Quick Tips You Can Implement Now To Save Money
7 Family Fun Activities You Can Do On A Budget 

~ ZillaQ

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