How To Create A Personal Survival Budget, With A Chronic Illness

Pippa holding up a sheet of paper containing her Personal Survival Budget. Text reads 'how to create a personal survival budget with a chronic illness'

Dealing with the extra costs of disability is tough, but creating a Personal Survival Budget can be an important first step in living the life you choose. Here’s how to get started…

What Is A Personal Survival Budget?

If you’re a chronically ill young adult, especially those of you who (like me) are around the mild-moderate end of the illness scale, the chances are that you’ve thought about living independently one day or entering the world of work. However, making these things a reality isn’t always simple. You might have no idea how much you’ll need to cover the costs of moving out and beginning a new life, or you might be unsure what sort of job salary you need to be looking for – especially if you’re just starting out in your career.

While I can’t claim to have all the answers, I’ve found it incredibly helpful to create a Personal Survival Budget – a document that anticipates your day-to-day spending over a period of time. By figuring out how much money you need to spend on certain things, you can work out the cumulative income you need in order to survive. In my experience, this is a really useful way to take the abstract idea of future plans and start figuring out how you’re going to take steps to make them happen.

You can find dozens of Personal Survival Budget templates on the Internet. However, being self-employed and living with a long-term illness means that my own Personal Survival Budget looks a little different from those you might find elsewhere:

  • Many existing templates guide you to estimate your living costs per week, whereas I choose to do mine per month. This is because I don’t always need a weekly food shop, and I’m not always well enough to leave the house every single week. Creating a monthly figure might take a little extra thought to estimate your costs, but in my experience that figure is a lot more accurate and in line with my lived experience and spending habits.
  • There are many extra costs of disability that aren’t included as categories on other templates. These additional costs are different for everybody, but my template (which we’ll go into shortly), factors in some of the essential disability-specific costs that I also have to budget for.
  • Some templates include the costs of socialising and a regular spending allowance as essential to your survival budget. I personally don’t see these things as essential, or critical to my survival, because the challenges of freelance life alongside chronic illness have taught me there are plenty of alternative ways to socialise and experience contentment without necessarily spending money. It’s up to you whether you feel it’d be helpful to include these things, but for somebody at the beginning of moving out or finding work, I’d advise prioritising other categories over this one.

What Should Be On My Personal Survival Budget?

So, what should your Personal Survival Budget include? In case it’s helpful, you can find a free downloadable template of my own Personal Survival Budget here. But for now, let’s delve into each of the categories, what they cover, and a few hints and tips for saving some pennies…

  • Mortgage or rent – if you haven’t moved out yet, you can get an idea of what you might expect to pay in your area through looking on property listing sites like Rightmove.
  • Gas and electricity – self-explanatory, just wish you didn’t have to sell your soul to afford it but such is UK life at the moment…
  • Water rates – same as above. If you’re new to independent living don’t forget to register for your local Priority Services Register so that your health needs can be prioritised in the event of an emergency.
  • Personal and property insurance – this is the area I’m least savvy about but there’s lots of good info and price comparison sites online. Don’t forget to include any health insurance or extra warranty for mobility aids in here!
  • Phone and broadband – list them as a cumulative total if you have a package that covers both, or choose to list them separately if it makes more sense to do so.
  • Food – don’t forget to factor in delivery costs if you book home deliveries!
  • Support worker or PA hours – if you don’t have funded care and you’re paying for external support, here’s where to factor this in. I don’t qualify for any social care at the moment, so I pay for a PA for 1 hour per week to do the things I can’t manage by myself. If you pay for any private physio or specialist therapies, it may make sense to include that in here too!
  • Prescriptions – this is what you’re paying for any repeat prescriptions per month. If you’re paying for more than three items per month, don’t forget to look into an NHS Prescription Prepayment Certificate – purchasing one of these (for either three months or twelve months at a time, I believe), can be more cost-effective.
  • Pain relief – this is the space for the extra costs of non-medicinal stuff that you regularly purchase to manage your symptoms. This could include heat pads, cooling packs, rechargeable batteries for noise-cancelling headphones, magnesium salts for the bath, over-the-counter medicines… and plenty more.
  • Supplements – similar to the above, this refers to any extra vitamins or supplements you take for your health or condition management, eye drops, ear drops… anything you regularly use for your wellbeing that hasn’t been included already. If applicable, don’t forget to include sanitary products in one of your categories!
  • Entertainment Subscriptions – it’s debatable whether this is a necessity but this includes your monthly subscriptions for things like Netflix, Prime, Spotify Premium, any phone apps you pay premium for, and so on…
  • Transport – this will be your car or public transport use. If you drive, it’s the total cost of your road tax, car insurance, maintenance, fuel… whereas if you use public transport it’s the cost of your bus fare, Oyster card, train tickets… and so on. As somebody with an Energy Limiting Condition, I usually budget for a couple of taxis per month so I know I have the funds for if/when I need them. Don’t forget to check if you’re eligible for any concessionary travel passes in your area!
  • Debts and loans – allocate funds here to ensure you can keep on top of and continue paying off any outstanding costs. This might include your student loan, money borrowed to pay for disability equipment, housing adaptations… anything that requires a continual contribution.
  • Tax and National Insurance – not everybody has to worry about these but if you’re self-employed, there’s a certain amount you need to contribute if you want to receive the state pension or access particular social support in the future. You could also include a private pension in here but that’s not something I’ve managed to get around to yet!
  • Emergency fund – this total is not your savings, but a small contribution a month you can set aside for unpredictable emergencies. You can decide on the amount you contribute here based on your income, and having a buffer like this can be incredibly helpful when extra costs must be met but you don’t want to go into your savings. This won’t be possible for everybody, but as I explain in the video, mine has been something of a lifesaver over the last two years.

Further Resources

You can find further information about my own experiences and a few extra tips and tricks for covering the extra costs of disability in this YouTube video. There’s also a downloadable version of the template I use for my Personal Survival available for free here!

I really hope you’ve found this post and/or video helpful. As I mentioned, budgeting alone doesn’t magically solve the financial disparities that we as disabled people face, or remove the various barriers we must contend with to meet the costs of living. However, I hope this small snippet of guidance on creating a Personal Survival Budget means you can consider how you might take steps toward your future plans and become more confident in managing your money.

Thanks so much for reading; I’ll keep everything crossed that your goals become a reality!  

Where To Next?

6 Responses

  1. Before my ME hit, one of my roles at the bank where I worked was debt counselling. The first thing we did was go through someone’s expenditure item by item to build up a picture of where they spent their money. Then I would categorise them as you have.
    I still do this sometimes for myself, especially if I know I’ve a lot coming up or just want to check how I’m doing and just where the money is going. Eg Amazon kindle 99p books are great, but I didn’t realise until I checked that I was spending £10-15 per month on them which was taking me over budget.

  2. This post is so helpful in terms of thinking about extra spending categories! I’ve always been quite good at keeping on top of my finances, but it has been surprisingly difficult adapting to the extra costs of living with a long term condition. Thank you for sharing your ideas + template!

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