Abigail Perry is 38 years old. She’s been living with chronic depression and a disability from a neurological disease since she was 19.
Try as she might, the standard money-saving and frugality tips just didn’t apply. So she wrote a book about her efforts to live by her own financial rules called Frugality for Depressives: Money Tips for Those Who Find Life a Little Bit Harder.
Her tips apply to people who are going through tough times and may be suffering from situational depression as well as those for whom depression and chronic illness is a way of life.
There are things you can do to help your finances even on those days when you don’t feel up to getting out of bed.
“I spent a lot of time hiding under the covers,” Perry recalls.
Here are her tips.
1. Do fewer things
It is easy to get caught up and try a number of frugal and money-saving strategies. Perry found she was more successful when she did less.
“Once I stopped trying to do everything I noticed I could do a couple of things pretty well,” Perry says.
2. Stay in bed
On those really awful days, staying in bed is OK.
“Sometimes what does help is just being OK having a day in bed,” Perry says. “Take a sick day from life if you really don’t feel up to doing something.”
And then, feeling restored from a day of rest, try again the next day.
“And if you still can’t, break it down into manageable steps,” Perry advises. “It’s better to do small successful things.”
For example, let’s say you need to contact an insurance company. Find the number for the insurance company and write it down. Dial the number so it is in your phone. If you don’t feel up to talking, wait half an hour and try again.
“You have to do what you’re capable of and no more,” Perry says. “It’s about breaking things down as much as you can and starting small and building up.”
3. Buy needed items automatically
She orders cleaning and home supplies and pet food automatically from online retailers.
“Automate, automate, automate,” Perry says. “We got very tired of staring at the last roll of toilet paper but when you are house-bound and you can’t deal with the world, you don’t want to be without toilet paper.”
Perry also recommends automating monthly bills.
“Automate bills so you don’t have to worry about missing due dates,” Perry says. Automate prescriptions, some pharmacies will let you do that.”
4. Don’t clip coupons
Perry won’t clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper. She tried but she would forget to give coupons to the cashier or leave the coupons at home.
She does visit Coupons.com but only chooses a few items.
“You’re just clicking one or two so it’s not overwhelming,” Perry says.
5. Don’t budget
“The biggest anti-frugal thing is we don’t budget in the traditional sense,” Perry says.
She says she drove herself crazy trying.
Instead, Perry and her husband, who live off the money she earns by working from home and her husband’s monthly disability check, give themselves $350 to spend each week.
Thinking weekly instead of monthly (or by spending category or all the other ways you can analyze spending) works better for Perry.
“I don’t worry about all the fast food we eat as long as there’s money in the bank for the next three days,” Perry explains.
“The weekly amount is kind of good, if you go a little crazy at the beginning of the week, you can rein yourself in later.”
She arrived at the $350 amount through trial and error.
“I know I tried, far, far lower and that did not work. I started at $200 then raised it to $250. We eventually raised it to $350. That was the Goldilocks zone, not too much, not too little, just right,” Perry says.
Any leftover money gets thrown against credit cards or student loans or put into savings.
She avoids budgeting software.
“We stopped using budgeting software because I couldn’t set realistic goals and it just stressed me out,” Perry says.
6. No cooking
Perry and her husband do not save money by cooking. Instead, they eat convenience foods.
“We tried many, many times and it never went well,” Perry says.
Perry gets by on protein bars and peanut butter, eating every two hours, and later will have a frozen meal.
“We spend way more on food than I would like but that’s how it is,” Perry says.
7. Paying retail is OK
Perry has given up on one-day sales and gives herself a full week to get to sales and when she needs an item that’s not on sale, she’ll pay the retail price if need be.
“Sometimes, accepting retail is what you have to pay,” Perry says.