Budget Item: Medical, $150/month

If you scrutinized our budget the way I would excitedly scrutinize someone else’s budget, you probably noticed that we have $50 per month, per person set aside for medical expenses (not including health insurance). We are immeasurably blessed to have a very healthy toddler. (Frankly, it shocks me how healthy she is both because I had mysterious ailments starting in infancy — bleeding eye sockets, anyone? — and she didn’t have the easiest route getting here.) In fact, we have only had two occasions to take her to the doctor, aside from wellness checks, in her entire 2.5 years of life, which means we have spent only a tiny fraction of that $50 monthly budget on her health care.

Neal also doesn’t cost much in the medical category. He doesn’t get sick often, but when he does, he goes big. The common cold? Nah. Let’s try blood poisoning or lyme disease instead. Thankfully, early detection has prevented him from having too many serious consequences, though I seem to remember that I had to convince him to see the doctor for the blood poisoning situation — a blue line going from the tip of his finger toward his heart seemed like a bad sign. But even though he’s had some pricey medical adventures in the past, he’s probably cost us no more than $50 a year for the last couple of years.

So our medical budget item turns out to be one of my favorites because (God willing) we will usually bank at least $100 instead of spending it.

Of course, I’m the chronically ill wild card. On the one hand, having chronic illness since childhood, I’ve done my fair share of doctor and specialist visits. If I had to take a wild guess, I would say that my medical expenses (including pricey equipment like a wheelchair and wheelchair lift) over the course of my life have probably been in the $400,000 range. (Hallelujah that I benefited from my parents’ excellent insurance through my early 20s! And had uninsured motorists auto coverage to save me from the accident fall-out!)

On the other hand, I HATE going to the doctor. For me, being chronically ill means that I will do just about anything to avoid going to the doctor because after years of frustration, I assume I will just have to learn to live with the problem anyway. I either have to be in extreme pain or have a crazy amount of blood pouring out of me to be persuaded to see a doctor. (Actually, if I’m being honest, there was one instance in which I was losing a lot of blood and instead of going to the ER as I was instructed to by my on-call doctor, I asked my grandma to just check on me periodically to make sure I didn’t lose consciousness. In hindsight, that was dumb. And I’m about 70% sure I wouldn’t make that choice again.)

Being unwilling to see the doctor also means that I don’t take any maintenance medications anymore (anymore being the key word because part of what turned me off was how many I used to take and how I ended up taking some merely to counteract the side effects of others. Oy.). Aside from periodic over-the-counter drugs, I pretty much avoid meds like the plague. So, all that means that despite my numerous health issues, most months we have also banked my $50 for medical care.

But the reason I bring all this up is that I recently had a new neck issue arise (unrelated to my spinal arthritis as far as I can tell). What started out as a minor tweak rapidly turned into horrible pain and hugely restricted range of motion. In less than a day, I was practically on my knees begging for some medical attention. Two weeks, a few tests, and two deep tissue massages later, my neck is much improved (I can look to the right without crying — huzzah!) If you read my  ridiculously long neck story, you know that x-rays and some more aggressive treatment was also recommended. But after discussing with Neal, mulling over the costs,  consulting Relief at Last, my go-to book for weighing treatment options, and contacting an anesthesiologist friend, I decided to stick with my gentler (read: cheaper) methods for trying to manage the pain (walking, warm showers, ice, TENS unit).

Still, I’m torn about one thing: massages. Oh holy goodness, I LOVE a deep tissue massage! (In fact, I probably shouldn’t admit this but my old Stadium Terrace roommates used to call me a “massage hooch” because I was always trying to get some.) And obviously, I think they are also very good for me since, in this instance, they restored my range of motion almost completely within a week. I am contemplating adding a monthly therapeutic massage into my health maintenance routine, but there goes that $50 surplus from my medical budget item.

I’m having this ongoing argument in my head:

  • That’s WHY we budget so that we spend money on needful things.
  • But $35 (the price for a half-hour therapeutic massage) is a lot of money!
  • But if your neck STOPS WORKING AGAIN, it’s gonna cost a lot more in treatment and lost income and lost opportunity and, um, freaking horrible pain.

My italicized voice makes a very strong point, no? Perhaps it would be easier if I didn’t enjoy the massages so darn much — it makes it feel like a luxury item!

Does anyone else have this problem? Any strategies for psyching yourself up to make these kinds of needful purchases?

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6 Comments

Filed under Expenses

6 responses to “Budget Item: Medical, $150/month

  1. kei02003

    I admit to not being great at it, but I try to cut down on everything that I’m not passionate about. So far, cable and cell phones are really the only things I’ve been successful with, although I’m coming to grips with knowing I’ll never be a gourmet chef :). I would say that, looking over your proposed budget, something that jumps out at me is that you value traveling but I couldn’t see any other areas you “splurge”. So, you are so spartan in the other areas that I think it’s justifiable to say, “I don’t spend any money on clothes so dang it, I’m going to get a massage!” Especially if it helps your neck pain.
    Are there any massage schools near you? Are students any cheaper?

    • llcall

      I should look into massage schools around here. Of course, this particular massage therapist has the magic-est hands I’ve encountered so I’m not sure I could give her up!

  2. Enelo

    It seems I have some money guilt as well, I can relate to the massage thing. It’s spending money on myself that is so hard. But I’m getting much better at it and feel there are some things we deserve, if we can manage to budget it in(think of it as a reward for squeezing it in 😉

    • llcall

      That is a good way of looking at it, actually! I have been saving up for a family reunion in Hawaii in 2014 and I don’t feel guilty about it because it takes a lot of creativity to squeeze any money out of budget. Although in August I managed to transfer only $2 into my Hawaii fund — maybe that is why I don’t feel guilty about it 🙂

  3. For the record, it was an inflamed red streak running from my finger to my armpit, not a blue one. Blue happens when you mix antifreeze and plutonium and drink it.

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