Posted in Newly-Diagnosed, Tips and Tricks

2015, Here We Come.

Happy New Year!! Yes, I’m 3 weeks delinquent in my wishes, but still 2015 has arrived and so far I’d have to say I give it 2 thumbs up. Now I just know you’ve been sitting around for weeks wondering,” Just what is Katie going to designate for this year? Last year was love, this year has to be something amazing, right?” Right. Well, initially I bet you’ll be let down by this one…but perhaps by the end of the post, you’ll feel differently. So without further adieu, I deem 2015 to be my Year of….Fiscal Responsibility!! (Insert cheers and confetti here)

I have a feeling you’re a bit deflated at the moment. Hey, at least you’re in good company  with the Patriots’ footballs (allegedly). Last year’s theme was so beautiful, so hopeful, so lovely…and now this? Well, trust me, I have my reasons. First of all, whether I care to admit it or not, the calendar pages keep turning and thus it seems I must actually be getting older. And since one day I’d love to reside in a place where I don’t pay rent and frequently co-exist with cockroaches, every penny counts! Second, even if you’re fortunate enough to be in a place you’d call “financially sound”, wouldn’t it be nice to save money where you could and use that money to do something fun? Or, even better, be able to give it away to a worthy cause or organization? Lastly, because I have to break the news that most people are afraid to tell you: life with an autoimmune disease (or any longterm health condition I suppose) is financially draining.

It was about 18 months ago that I went to visit one of my ACE brothers during his own bout with illness, and as we shared our experiences in his hospital room, we kept coming back to the point that people today just seem to think we need to say what people want to hear, rather than what needs to be said. And hence, the “Keeping It Real” campaign was born. It means you tell people what they need to hear, that you say what you need to say. Life is too short for beating around the bush…just hack your way through!

This is a t-shirt to support the “Keeping It Real” campaign. With math equations.
Yes, this exists. Thanks to the Philanthropic Physicist…and my birthday 🙂

 For my part, I’ve done my best to live up to this campaign over the past year and a half, so here is my latest contribution to the campaign, in the form of a letter:

Dear Friend with (insert autoimmune condition here),
       I know you often turn to me for upbeat, positive news about your new life. I’m happy to be that person for you. However, I also know that being a true friend means telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…even when it’s not an easy thing to do. So here is a less upbeat truth about your new life: though you will soon be feeling better, the same cannot be said for your bank account. 

      As you probably figured out after about 30 seconds in a grocery store, your food bills are going to skyrocket. That’s an inevitable truth, but one we’ll address this year as I share all kinds of money-saving tips I’ve acquired over the past 3 years that will make that jump slightly less astronomical…more like aeronautical. However, one thing I cannot fix for you are the inevitable non-food expenses your new life is bound to bring with it. For example, I started a new job (and therefore new insurance) 5 months ago. In just that timespan, I have accrued over $5,000 in medical expenses. That’s an average of $1,000 per month…and this was a relatively good period healthwise. (There was that one ER visit and an MRI that put it over the top, but still nothing too severe, comparatively.) Now, I thank God and all good things on this planet that I’m fortunate enough to have health insurance, so thankfully my share of that amount is less than 20% of that number. But still. That’s money I would much rather spend somewhere other than bloodwork, scans, and physician payments. However, this is the reality which is my life. And now yours too. Depending on what your specific condition entails, there will be some variety of bloodwork, follow-up visits, periodic testing, prescriptions, etc. Add that onto your elevated grocery bills, and well, I think you see where I’m going here.

      Yes, my dear friend, I wish I could tell you that I have a magic panacea waiting for you in this letter. I don’t. I wish I could tell you that bloodwork you have to get will be reasonably priced, and that the follow-up testing when something is off on that bloodwork will fall under the same co-pay. It won’t. I wish I could tell you that you won’t end up needing an additional job (or 2) just to keep your head above water. You might. I can promise you that one day someone will ask you why you don’t just quit one of those extra jobs, and that when you simply respond with a shrug, that person will not understand that when you say “I can’t”, you mean you actually can’t. I wish I could promise you won’t spend a few sleepless hours wondering whether you should abandon what you consider to be your vocation in favor of a job which delivers a heftier paycheck. There’s a good chance you will ponder such a move. But please don’t, at least until you’ve tried all the tips in the Year of Fiscal Responsibility 🙂 

         I can promise you though that your life will be a full and rich one, regardless of what your bank statement may reflect. You will amass a wealth of knowledge, a rich array of cooking skills, an abundance of tenacity, and a profound appreciation for medical science and the human body which you cannot even begin to imagine at this moment. Yes, I promise, you will be rich…just in a very different way. I’m sorry if I’ve left you a little shell-shocked, but trust me, it’s better to know what you’re getting into. 

Your “Keeping It Real” Friend with Celiac

Now, onto the optimistic part. This is the reality, what are we going to do about it? So many things. In fact, it’s going to take a year to cover them all. However, since we’re already 3 weeks in, here are some quick tips to start off your year of Fiscal Responsibility.

1) Find a ShopRite. Immediately. Well, in the next 8 days. January is the infamous “can can” sale. Some of my earliest memories as a child are wandering around the aisles during the semi-annual sale. There are can towers everywhere!To a kid, it looks like some kind of grocery theme park castle and navigating the corners with the shopping cart was like a video game in real life. As an adult, it means LOW PRICES. So low in fact, you may just want to stock up on your beans for the year. At less than 50 cents a can and a quantity limit of 24 cans per variety, well you can see where I’m going here. I’ve already gone twice and I’m heading back one more time tonight. Chickpeas for less than 50 cents. Homemade hummus, here I come. (Don’t worry that post is coming).

When you use beans in cooking as often as I do, the “can-can” sale is essential.
My pantry was filled for $10.

2) Start a spreadsheet. I know, it sounds like that’s just the accountant in me resurfacing. No, no. Trust me, a spreadsheet will change your life. Create categories. Enter every amount you spend. Yes, every. Even those impulse buys where you only spend $3. You’ll be amazed at a) how much you hesitate to get something that’s more of a want than a need when you know you have to add it to your spreadsheet and b) seeing a breakdown of where your money goes, though often sobering, can also be highly informative. If you’re a visual person, Excel can make your data into a pie chart. Even more sobering. However, this can help you make money-saving decisions. Plus, if you really want this to be effective, I recommend making it on Google spreadsheet. Then, thanks to the wonder of Google Drive, you can update it from anywhere (iPad, iPhone, home computer, etc.). Full disclosure: there are also apps which can do this for you…but Excel has my heart, now and always. And if you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “But Katie, all those boxes. Excel intimidates me.”, then let me know. I’ll help the two of you get acquainted. 🙂

3) Do some generic food research. Now, I can relate to your hesitancy with generic foods. I tend to err on the side of caution too, AKA the package with the GLUTEN-FREE label stamped on the side. However, there are many generic brands which are still “you-safe”. And to be honest, most of them are much friendlier to talk to on the phone, because they’re not a huge multi-million dollar company. If you have a grocery store you tend to stick to, contact the manager, Ask for contact information for their products. And if you are lucky enough to have an Aldi near you, get out of your seat and jump up and down right now. Not only are the prices AMAZING, but the company is based in Germany, where labeling is SO much better than the U.S. so everything has gluten-free or lactose-free on the side. Well, everything that is those things of course. You have to put in a quarter deposit to use a shopping cart and you have to bring your own bags or pay to buy some, but those savings show up on the shelf prices for sure. Google map it. If you don’t have one, come visit me. We can walk to one from my apartment.

All of this cost $12. Yes, that’s gluten-free pasta AND chicken broth!

All right, I could keep going on money-saving tips all day (literally) but you’ve read enough, and I have a stack of midterm essays waiting to be read. So, I wish you a happy start to the Year of Fiscal Responsibility!! And in all seriousness, get excited. Won’t it be much nicer to have money to spend on fun purchases, to finally donate to that charity you’ve been wanting to support, or to finally give the kind of financial support to your church or your alma mater that you wish you could provide? Or most wonderful of all, to finally pay off whatever loans may be hanging over your head?? Don’t worry, you’re not alone in your food journey and you’re not alone in this either. 2015 is our year.

One thought on “2015, Here We Come.

  1. That is a great goal for the year! I took it on myself in May. (Shameless plug coming up.)I discovered You Need a Budget (YNAB) last year, and it has actually changed my financial life. I paid for Christmas in cash, I already have enough cash to travel to my friend's wedding in Boston in April, and I've saved up more than I will need to replace the tires on my paid-for car. It's a zero-balance budgeting program and a philosophy of getting a month ahead on your bills, and it is awesome. (I used to use Excel, badly, and wonder why I couldn't get ahead. No more!)


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