Frugal Priorities After Fighting Cancer

ballpen blur close up computer
Sometimes work is work, other times it’s working on saving money.

Okay, so I haven’t been super-successful on keeping up with blog posts during July, mostly due to heavy day-job demands. (When I went back to work last week after my 5-week cancer leave, there was a pile of work waiting for me that nobody else at my company knew how to do. Then while I’m playing catch up, I have to listen to multiple co-worker complaints about how all the work/projects I could not work on while I was out are taking too long to complete/are past their deadlines. WELL EXCUSE ME FOR HAVING F*CKING CANCER, DAMMIT. PLEASE GO GROW SOME EMPATHY  AND SIMPLE HUMAN DECENCY ALREADY).

I digress. Deep breath….

I missed 5 weeks of work due to cancer (still managed to come back to work earlier than planned). But I was really, really sick during that time and wasn’t able to do very much other than lie on the couch. For the first 2 weeks I could not even follow the plot of a 70s sitcom, let alone engage in sophisticated financial planning. One thing I could do was do mindless things on my phone, and I found that I actually bought some stuff online via my phone that I don’t remember buying. I blame the pain meds and the residual anesthesia. Some of it I immediately returned, and some of it I kept because I got it for cheap on Zulily and it was stuff I actually needed. It wasn’t a whole lot of money, but still—-if you’re ever recovering from surgery/cancer treatment, have somebody lock up your phone in a bunker for the first couple weeks so you don’t inadvertently buy a Rolls Royce with your 401(k) fund just because your frontal lobe is impaired by too many drugs/too much postoperative pain.

About halfway through my leave I was mentally recovered enough to actually think carefully about money, even if I was still a physical wreck who could barely get up off the couch. Here are some of the topics I had time to think long and hard about, and what I’m doing to address them now that I’m back to work:

  1. Earn more money. I’m already quite well-paid, but my salary is still below the industry average for my position and experience. Part of that is because I am female. (Women get paid less, period.) I’m going to spend the next 6 months actively searching for a better-paying position/advocating for fair compensation, whether that is with my current employer or a new one. It’s a skill I’ve developed well over the years via job-hopping. (Pro tip: you should never be afraid to job-hop.)
  2. Eat in more. I’ve always been quite frugal in terms of dining in, and I cook quite a lot (cooking/baking is a favorite hobby of mine). But I’m also a foodie who loves to dine out. My medical situation unfortunately has rendered me unable to eat/tolerate many foods/alcoholic beverages for the rest of my life. Some people would find this depressing. I did too at first, but now I look at it as an opportunity to save more money and learn how to cook/meal-plan more creatively.
  3. Learn to ask for help more often. I’m a perpetual DIYer who hates asking for help. I am independent to a fault and I also think that I should only outsource tasks if I pay somebody else to do them (like hiring a cleaning lady or landscaping service—both of which I do, because I a) work long hours and b) can afford it). But while I was sick and unable to do pretty much anything, many of my friends and relatives came out of the woodwork to provide free meals (homemade and takeout), errands, and even professional housecleaning to my household as support during cancer care, all without expecting a single thing in return. When I tried to offer money or some other token in exchange—-they all refused. It was an amazing display of generosity and made me feel truly loved. And now I know that whenever I or my household is in true need of help, we can and should ask for it. Asking for help is not weakness or mooching if you are truly in need of help. 
  4. Offer help to others more often. I am quite charitable, and not just for the tax deductions. But I was so overwhelmed with the generosity of others during my illness that it reminded me to double down on my own service to others now that I am recovered. It’s a matter of “don’t pay it back, pay it forward.”
  5. I have a lot of medical bills (and other bills) to pay. Paying down bills is a form of savings. I have paid over $4000 in out-of-pocket medical bills in the month of July alone. (And it’s only July 5!). I have lots of other big bills to pay this month too, like the first installment of our property taxes. So even though we have a nice saving cushion in our household to tide us through my recent medical emergency, we need to look for more ways to economize. Hence my participation in the Frugalwoods Uber-Frugal Challenge this month. 
  6. Life is too short to waste on people who don’t share your frugal values.  I have been telling people since my cancer diagnosis that I give zero f*cks about anyone who gives me grief, and that includes people who don’t share my frugality values. (A lot of those people are my blood relatives). I had to deal with a lot of nonsense from various and sundry family members while I was sick, and I subsequently read them all the riot act. I don’t have time for that sort of nonsense sucking up my time and energy—-and time is money. My time is extremely limited, so anyone who is wasting your time with needless drama is also stealing money right out of your pocket. Remember that the next time your mother-in-law/sister/grandma/mom/neighbor pitches a fit because you refuse an invitation to an expensive outing, et cetera.

More posts to come soon as I have time. FYI, I have been making some great headway in my Clean Out The Pantry Initiative 2018!

I remain your Cheap Yuppie Mom.


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