How a Single Mom With Rheumatoid Arthritis Budgets for Her Family and Medical Expenses

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

It’s widely accepted to talk about fitness, healthy food, and self-care. But conversations about financial wellness—which is crucial to well-being—are in large part still very hush-hush. Even in a time when no topic seems to be off-limits, talking about money still has a stigma attached, but Well+Good’s Checks+Balanced series aims to help end that stigma. Each month, one person shares their income, living expenses, and what they spend on their favorite healthy habits.

This month, Amee, who is a business consultant and author, shares her budget for medical expenses related to her rheumatoid arthritis, caring  for her three teens, and the wellness habits that are important to her—all as a single parent. Amee writes books helping people become successful entrepreneurs and she applies much of her know-how to her own life. 

Keep reading to see how Amee balances being able to budget for rheumatoid arthritis medical expenses, her family, and the wellness habits that are important to her.

business consultant budget pie chart
Art: W+G Creative

*Amee, 49, business consultant and author, Snohomish, Washington

Income: $103,600/year. My primary job and source of income is working as a business consultant. For many years, I had my own business as a marketing and branding consultant. I helped business owners with things like building a website and social media concepts. Then in 2018, I was offered a full-time job helping a company develop a recruiting department because they were experiencing an employee shortage. At the time, I was going through a divorce, which was financially and emotionally draining, so I took the job. But in January 2021, my job was eliminated because of the pandemic. Now I'm back to consulting on my own and am currently pacing to make $100,000 this year.

In addition to being a consultant, I'm also an author who writes books about business and entrepreneurship. I get up around at around 4 a.m. to write so I can be done before my kids—I have three teenagers—are up and the demands of the day start. I make about $300 a month from book royalties.

Rent: $1,700/month. When I was married, I lived in a house that my partner and I owned together, but when I got divorced a couple of years ago, my kids and I moved out. Now I rent a house for $1,700 a month. I actually prefer renting to homeownership, because it gives us the flexibility to move somewhere else if we want to.

Recurring bills: $1,426/month. Besides rent, some of my biggest recurring bills are my student loans and heat, which are $200 a month each. Having three teenagers who are all driving means my auto insurance bill is another big recurring expense; $355 a month. Fortunately, my car is paid off, so I don't have a monthly car payment. Health insurance is another big recurring expense at $250 a month. (I have rheumatoid arthritis, so it's extra important to me and my budget to have good insurance coverage.)

My cell phone bill is $300 a month, and it includes a Netflix subscription. Our Wi-fi bill is $70 a month. I also have a subscription to Audible, which is $15 a month. My subscription to Acorn, which is an investing app, which is $5 a month. I have an Amazon Prime subscription, too, which is $13 a month, and the last recurring bill I have is renter's insurance, which is $18 a month.

Kid-related expenses: $400/month. I pay my kids an allowance every week so they have some spending money. Fortunately, their dad is really supportive and if they want to do an activity, he'll step in and help with that. He also pays child support. My kids aren't really into sports; my daughter prefers to read and do art, for example. I budget $100 a week for their allowance and random things they need—like eye makeup remover or hair gel for my son. There are always things that come up.

Food: $400/month. During the beginning and height of the pandemic, I used a grocery service to get my groceries delivered—since I am immunocompromised, I didn't feel safe going to the store myself. But now that I'm fully vaccinated, I'm back to shopping at Safeway. Occasionally, I'll order items in bulk from Amazon to save money.

In general, the grocery bill has gone up during the pandemic, with all the kids at home and not in school. At one point it reached $1,000 a month—which was also because I was getting the groceries delivered, which costs a fee. Now it's more under control, about $400 a month. As far as what we eat, I often fire up the grill and make burgers, hot dogs, or grilled chicken breasts. I keep the pantry and fridge stocked with foods the kids can just grab and eat—they go through a lot of cereal, for example.

Fitness: $0/month. Fitness is really important to me. It's important for me to stay active to offset my arthritis symptoms, and also crucial for upholding my mental health. I love to go for walks. I'll walk five or six miles, which is a nice, long afternoon break from working. I also have an exercise bike set up in my bedroom, so sometimes I'll jump on that anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how I'm feeling. I also have free weights at home I use. Well, I don't really use them that much, to be honest. I do stare at them thinking about using them, though!

Beauty: $160/month. Before the pandemic, I was really into beauty. Now, it's just not really a priority for me anymore. I'll throw on some makeup if I have a big meeting or presentation, but other than that, I just use moisturizer and mascara. I would estimate that I spend about $100 a month on things like skin care, makeup, and shower products. I do get my hair done every six weeks, which is $80 each time.

Medical expenses: $100/month. Having an autoimmune condition can be quite expensive and is something I have to budget for. My health insurance doesn't cover everything. Every three months I have to get a physical and bloodwork done. Since my immune system is compromised, I get sick easier. For example, last year I got a cold sore and it caused my immune system to overreact. I dropped hundreds of dollars for medical visits because of that. So now I always make sure to put money into a savings account each month, which doubles as a bucket for medical expenses like these that can come up.

Self-care: $800/year. My long walks are really meditative and I see that as a form of self care. I like to listen to music while I walk and it's just a really good way to reset my brain. Hiking has also become part of my self-care—Washington is a great place to live for this. I spend about $400 a year on hiking gear, like hiking shoes, equipment, and clothing.

My other form of self care is watching Netflix. I'm a huge Marvel fan, so sometimes I'll binge the movies on a weekend, and that's my me-time. I also like getting massages. It just feels nice to have someone else take care of you, you know? I stopped getting massages during the pandemic, but now that I've had the vaccine, I will start going back again. The massages are $100 each, and I go about four times a year.

*Last name withheld. 

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