When tax season rolls around in April, you may be forced to assess your financial situation. Cutting expenses, saving money on medical costs and becoming knowledgeable about discounts and tax credits are critical elements of your annual budget. Saving money isn’t easy, and it can be even more challenging when you are dealing with a serious injury.
- Your doctor may be able to prescribe a less expensive drug or help you enroll in a pharmaceutical assistance program. For information on Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov.
- Ask your doctor to write prescriptions for items you need (such as a lift, brace, or special bed). Your insurance is more likely to pay for them.
- Find a doctor you like and stay with him/her. Changing doctors often wastes time and money.
- Get a second opinion if you are unsure about a medical procedure. The second opinion may cost extra, but it may help you avoid the procedure.
- Ask your housing authority or your hospital social worker about rent-rebate or Section 8 programs that offer income-based rent.
- Ask your telephone, gas and electric companies about programs for people with disabilities or for seniors.
- If you work but do not make much money, you may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. This credit will reduce your taxes and may entitle you to a refund.
- Keep all medical bills and receipts and present them to your income tax preparer.
- Call the local senior center or the IRS to ask about free tax preparation.
- Call the businesses you owe money to before you miss a payment and ask for smaller payments or more time to pay. Many creditors will work with you.
- Nonprofit debt-counseling services can help you set up a repayment plan. For more information on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, visit www.nfcc.org / (800) 388-2227.
- Pay off credit cards with the highest interest rates first. If you cannot pay off the whole amount, at least pay more than the minimum every month.
- Keep only one credit card for emergencies, preferably the one with the lowest interest rate and no annual fee.
- Consider bankruptcy only as a last resort. If you find yourself in this situation, call a lawyer or legal aid clinic before making any decisions.
- Pay basic expenses, such as rent, gas, electric and phone bills, on time.
- Do not ignore payments. If you can’t pay on time, call the creditor and explain the problem.
- Do not bounce checks. Record check number and amounts for each purchase.
- Save a certain amount of money from each paycheck or payment you receive.
- Participate in a retirement plan. Employers will often match all or part of the money you save.
- If your company does not have a retirement plan, you can set up your own Individual Retirement Plan (IRA) and put money into it each year.
- Understand how saving money may affect your monthly disability benefits. Details about the “Plan for Achieving Self-Support” (PASS) are available through the Social Security Administration, (800) 772-1213 / www.ssa.gov.
Making positive financial decisions will help you feel more independent and in control of your life.
Information courtesy of On The Move: A Financial Guide for People with Spinal Cord Injury, the National Endowment for Financial Education, Paralyzed Veterans of America and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.