Cancer will take a terrible toll on a family’s finances. There are medical and transportation expenses, as well as the hit your finances will take when you and your spouse need to take time off of work for appointments and sick days. There are countless other things that add up to a big gaping hole in your bank account. Playing catch up as well as the stress of the unknown can certainly lead to burnout. There are several types of financial help to combat burnout. It’s always best to consider the various possible sources of financial help long before you need them.
Immediately get your budget in order
You need to know exactly what’s going out and what’s coming in before you can adjust to changes in your finances. Often banks have apps and online tools to help you do this easily. For example, Wells Fargo has a tool called Budget Watch.
Once you have this information, look for the holes through which your money is slipping. What can you consolidate? Are there “optional” bills you can eliminate by canceling subscriptions or your cable? Call every one of the companies you have accounts with and ask them for a better deal. Often there are different pricing plans that can save you money. You just need to ask specifically how.
Shop the competition and take good notes. It may be worth changing cell phone or insurance companies. If it is, have all the information ready and call your current company. Let them know that you are considering moving your account unless they can offer you a better rate. Often they can, and will.
Shopping for less
Often the financial help you need is spending less when you can. Consider changing grocery stores. Hold off on redecorating the family room. Shop thrift stores for furniture and clothing. Often they carry new, brand name items that retail stores have donated at the end of the season. Look at every aspect of your spending and see how you can reduce it. This is important because even if you are still in pretty good shape, financially, this could be a long, difficult road.
Some forms of cancer qualify you for social security disability. In fact, some advanced cancers will even qualify you to be “fast-tracked.” Keep in mind this usually requires you to have no income for at least 6 months. That’s a long time! This is where other forms of financial help are essential.
Financial help state governments
One of the first things you should do is to contact your county’s financial aid office in the department of health and human services. Let them know what is going on and find out what kind of financial help might be available.
- Assistance paying medical premiums
- Food assistance through the EBT (formerly food stamps) program
- Free or reduced-cost lunches for your children at school
- Emergency financial help for utilities that are being cut off or evictions
- Heat assistance for renters and homeowners
Every family has a different situation. You can only know for sure what kind of financial help is available by asking. Even if you don’t currently qualify, ask what the qualification requirements are. That way if things change (for example if you are out of work and your reserves run dry), you know it would be worth looking into, again.
Ask for Financial Aid Resources
While you are talking to the county, ask for a list of financial resources you can check into. Most communities have a list of these sources of financial help. Many of these resources don’t even have a specific financial limit requirement. For example, food shelves are becoming less restrictive in order to help people regardless of income or the size of their bank account. They have learned that few people will go to a food shelf unless they really need help.
Check with the Social Worker at Your Cancer Center
There are organizations that specifically help cancer patients. Your cancer center likely has a social worker who can point you to them. For example, in Minnesota, we have an organization called Cancer Legal Care. They work with lawyers who offer pro bono (free) legal services to cancer patients and their families. They can help with disability claims, wills, powers of attorney, and any other legal services related to your illness. Not only is this an amazing source of financial help, but knowing your legal matters are in order will really give you peace of mind.
There are also local organizations offering financial assistance (some require you to meet certain criteria). Others bless patients and families with things like delivered meals and even tickets to local events. So, even if your budget wouldn’t normally allow you to, your family can still do fun things and make new memories.
Fundraisers for Financial Help
One way of lightening the load is to hold a fundraiser or “benefit.” Fundraisers are a lot of work, but they can be a huge source of financial help for cancer patients and their families. Even if your circle of friends is small, if they can be mobilized, you can still have a successful benefit.
If any of them belong to community organizations or churches, they may be able to get more people on board to help out the cause. Even more important is to have someone else head things up—preferably a natural organizer. You know that person. The one who can think of ten different possibilities at once? They have ideas you’ve never dreamed of and connections to get things rolling. That’s the person you want to lead the way. It can’t be you. You have your plate full already—fighting cancer if you’re a patient, and supporting your loved one if you are a caregiver.
The best plan
The best thing to do is to utilize a combination of all of these ideas. Leave no stone unturned as you see financial help. If possible, have a close friend or family member who you really trust take the reins and organize the plan. They can keep all of the records together and ensure that all of your options have been explored. They will also know how various forms of financial help affect one another. For example…
You can still have fun for less
Because my husband receives social security disability, we were offered a family membership to the Minnesota Science Museum for half the normal cost. This is a big deal because I homeschool our kids. One visit to the museum and the reduced cost membership had already paid for itself. Other museums have similar programs as part of an effort to open opportunities for learning to all people, regardless of financial restraints.
Once again I will be doing double duty in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be sharing ways to avoid burnout, here at Facing Cancer with Grace. At Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways of thinking creatively, using Brainsparker’s Kickstart Course of A to Z prompts. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites.
What Are Your Thoughts?
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker