When you suddenly become disabled due to illness or injury, everything changes. No matter what your life was like before, you’re dealing with a completely new situation now, and it takes a lot of getting used to.
At the same time you need to prioritize and focus on your health and recovery. And that means a lot of things fall through the cracks – like paying bills on time.
That’s why it’s so important to set up automatic payments (autopay) for your regular bills and other financial obligations.
Because you absolutely will miss some… and that can cost you precious cash at a time when you don’t really have any to waste.
Disability Takes Over
When you become disabled, you have to learn to do everything differently. Things that you never thought about – like standing up, getting dressed, bathing – come with a whole new set of rules.
You’ll have so much to figure out that it’s easy to let otherwise important things slide. You didn’t mess up or do anything wrong. You’re just overwhelmed and overloaded.
No matter what your disability is… no matter what shape your finances are in… you have a whole new set of issues to deal with. And it may take all of your energy and focus to adjust to your new (hopefully temporary) normal.
Your new normal may include:
- Putting physical accommodations in place, so you can function day-to-day.
- Finding people to help you with everyday tasks – For example, I have a team of 24/7 caregivers.
- Fighting with insurance companies over who pays for what.
- Spending a ton of time – and money – going to doctor’s appointments.
One of the things that can fall through the cracks really fast is paying bills on time. When your life changes so dramatically, it can be hard to keep track of days and dates. There may be days, even weeks, where you don’t look at your bank account or even remember that bills are due.
That can cause financial difficulty now and later. Late fees and interest charges can pile up. You could end up being harassed by collection agencies. Credit cards can get canceled. And all because you’re focused on taking care of your health , which is exactly what you should be focused on.
So, don’t let this financial piece drag you down. Anything you can do to automate this task….do it.
Setting Up Autopay for Your Monthly Bills
It’s surprisingly easy and very common to accidentally not pay your monthly bills when you’re in crisis mode. And it makes everything worse to get hit with fees, penalties, extra interest, and a ding on your credit score just because you have so much else going on.
I know paying bills is one of the last things you want to think about when you’re going through an ordeal like this. In fact, it may not even cross your mind at all.
I always pay my bills on time and my credit cards in full… or rather I used to. But when I suffered this disabling injury, I didn’t have the capacity to even think about bills.
So, the sooner you can put everything possible on autopay, the better.
Get Help From Someone You Trust
If your situation is anything like mine and you cannot function on your own without help, you may not be able to do this yourself. At least not in the beginning.
You’ll want to find someone you trust and have them help you log in to every account you need to set up autopay for.
For your first step, ask them to set up automatic payments for at least your minimum credit card payment, if not more every month. These spiral out of control the fastest, especially if they’re higher rate cards. And you can lose low or introductory interest rates if you miss even a single payment.
Next you’ll want to take care of your regular monthly bills.
Set Up Automatic Withdrawals for Household Bills
You can almost always put your mortgage or your rent on autopay. Many of your utility bills, like electricity, gas, internet, cable, and phone, can easily go on autopay as well.
In fact, most utilities want you to do this because it’s easier on them. Most gas and electric companies offer average billing, so your monthly payments are more predictable. Ask your trusted helper to see if that option is available to you.
And for your own sanity, make sure your health insurance, car insurance and homeowner’s insurance are on autopay too. That’s especially important when you’re relying on one or more of those to cover your medical bills!
Many insurance companies will happily drop you if you don’t pay on time even once. After all, their whole business model is based on NOT paying you.
Don’t forget about your car loan! The last thing you need is to have your car repossessed, especially when you’ll need it to have someone drive you to and from all those doctors’ appointments.
Make Sure There’s Always Enough In Your Account to Cover Your Payments
You may want to consider setting up a special checking account just for covering these automatic payments. That way, you can put enough into that account each month to cover your bills without having to worry about money being taken out for anything else.
You may also have some bills where the amount due changes every month. Make sure you put a reminder on your phone a week or two before those bills are due to confirm you have enough in your bank account to cover everything you need.
If you have any bills that don’t allow you to set up autopay through their website, you can probably set up bill pay through your bank. This lets your bank send a check or automatic payment to that company on a specific date, so you don’t have to worry about it. Most banks offer this service through online banking. Again, ask your trusted helper to check with your bank to see if they do.
Automate Your Regular Purchases
Bills aren’t the only things that can slip through the cracks when you’re dealing with disability or illness. I ran out of dog food… and my dogs were not happy.
To avoid last minute scarcity for the things you really need, set up a recurring autoship order for anything that you use regularly. This includes prescriptions, supplements, and normal household items like toilet paper, trash bags, and pet food (especially pet food!)
You can always turn these off when your life gets back to normal but for now automation is going to be your best friend.
Set Your Estimated Tax Payments On Autopay Too
If you normally make – or are supposed to make – estimated quarterly tax payments, you can automate or preschedule these as well. Since you’re supposed to make 4 even payments throughout the year, you’ll know well ahead of time when and how much to pay.
You can usually find these payments as part of your prior year tax return. If you use DIY tax software, it creates the vouchers as part of your copy of your tax return. If you worked with a tax preparer, they probably gave you estimates to pay during the year.
You’ll want to set up automatic payments for estimated quarterly taxes. That way, you won’t be penalized for missing a payment.
Just so you know, while you’re out of work, you may be getting some money from taxable sources that don’t have any taxes taken out. Examples are selling investments or pulling money out of retirement accounts and choosing to forego withholding.
Talk with your tax professional because you may need to make estimated tax payments to avoid a huge tax hit plus penalties next April.
Bottom line: Becoming disabled changes a lot of things financially. And the less you have to worry about that, the more you can focus on regaining your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health and wellness. And that’s what you really need to focus on.
The Less You Have to Think About, The More You’ll Thrive
When you’re disabled for any reason, your main mission is prioritize your health and well-being and improve your quality of life in every way you can.
You can make this much easier on yourself by ensuring your bills are paid and you’ve got what you need to function on a daily basis delivered to you regularly.
To help you through this, I created The Financial Recovery Workbook. This workbook spells out the best steps to take to recover financially as you recover your health. It’s based on how I personally have weathered financial setbacks, and I’ve used these worksheets with many clients as well.
I know it’s really hard to deal with money issues at a time like this – but taking even small steps when you can will help you emerge from your crisis stronger and more financially secure.
Click on the button below to order The Financial Recovery Workbook, so you can us it to help you through this financial crisis, and any others that may occur, now.