Managing money when you have bipolar disorder is not easy. However, there are steps you can take to control spending and reach your financial goals.
Handling money is hard for everyone, but add bipolar disorder symptoms to the mix and it can cause a lifetime of poverty and even bankruptcy. This certainly has been the case for me. During episodes of hypomania or mania I would go on crazy spending sprees. I remember once charging $3,000.00 to my credit card within the space of 3 hours. I bought a briefcase (because I had discovered secrets that would change the world); I bought a new suit and accessories to go with it, such as shoes and jewelry. No expense was spared. I was going places and knew I would make my money back soon. Before long, depression and reality would set in. My credit card statement would come in the mail and I knew it would take me years to pay off what only took me hours to charge.
Lucky for me I had a very wise lawyer who gave me some financial advice. This advice can apply to people in any walk of life. She said, “Lynn, you need to have 3 bank accounts; one for Fixed Expenses; one for Variable Expenses and one for Savings.” It made perfect sense to me. I had bills that needed to be paid every month such as my rent, phone, heat & hydro. These were generally around the same amount. Whatever was left over was mine to spend any way I pleased. Yes, I had to purchase food to eat & gas for my vehicle. But I was in control of what food I ate and how far I drove each week. During the times I was able to work, I would fill up with gas at the beginning of every week. I was still stretched to the limit, but at least I was facing reality. I took out the same amount of money every week to pay for groceries, gas & entertainment. Entertainment could be anything from meeting a friend for lunch to buying lottery tickets and buying a new book.
Once when I was working full time, I was still a part of the working poor. After I filled up with gas and bought groceries on the weekend, I would only have $5.00 to spend during the week. We had a coffee truck come to our place of business. For $1.00 I would buy pop one day; gum another day and a chocolate bar another day. I had money to spend; it wasn’t much, but I was happy.
On the weekends, I would look for free seminars to go to at my local library. Yes, there was a time when I wasn’t working that I had to ask for help from the local food bank. It was doubly embarrassing because I was volunteering there as well. But I swallowed my pride because I needed to eat.
During this time of scarcity, I learned to compare prices. Not only would I check 3 or 4 different stores for prices and sales, I compared number of tissues in a package and number of sheets on a roll of toilet paper. Stores can be very tricky and try to convince us we are getting a sale when it really isn’t that good of a price.
To this day, I know where I can get the best deals on toiletries. I shop at a local drug store and only buy them on sale.
The out-of-control spending has stopped in the last 8-10 years. I credit that to the fact that I have this illness under control now. I do not owe any money on my Credit Card or Line of Credit. It took me about 3 years to pay off my Credit Card debt and another 2 years to pay off my Line of Credit debt. The only debt I have now is a mortgage. I was fortunate enough to be able to purchase a home on my own 5 years ago. I used my Line of Credit as a down payment and paid it off as quickly as possible.
I am living proof that it is possible to learn to manage bipolar disorder, hold down a full time job and be responsible with money. However, in the last year I have burned through 3 jobs after being laid off from my job of 5 years. I now am making my own way by working as a Virtual Assistant. I am still in the building phase of this business.
In order to ensure I could pay my bills, I have rented out a room in my apartment in the past and am now renting out a room in my home.
I have learned to do whatever it takes to get the things I want in life. And for me, the most important part is being a homeowner again.
Even though I have a little bit more money to spend now than I did 10 years ago, I still have a “Spending Plan” every week and month. I take out cash to pay for my gas, groceries and entertainment. This way I know exactly how much I have to spend on myself once the essentials are paid for. It also helps that I lead a simple life as I don’t have a desire for the newest gadgets, or go on expensive outings.
Do I want more money to spend? Of course I do. But until I win the lottery, I will be happy with where I am at in my life right now!
P.S. As for that Savings Account the wise lawyer recommended I have, I’m still working on it.
When Lynn Rae was 39 years old two psychiatrists told her that she would NEVER work full time again. She had accepted the diagnosis of bipolar disorder but would never accept the prognosis. After working part time at several different jobs between episodes of depression & mania Lynn was finally able to work full time and has been since 2009. She has now enjoyed over 10 years of good health. Lynn Rae can guide you in making those important decisions in your life surrounding Family, Friends, Fun, Fitness, Fulfillment, Finances & Faith through her Keynote “The Seven F’s to Your Fantastic Future.” She has written 3 books and self-published one of them which are available for sale on Amazon. Lynn received the Marilyn Nearing Award from York Support Services Network for the contribution she was making as a volunteer in the mental health field. Lynn Rae has her own business, GTA Office Services , in which administrative tasks are done virtually for her various clients. She makes her own home in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
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