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Adrienne Dellwo

Bills & Budgets with Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By February 21, 2013

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I hate numbers. They used to make sense to me, back in the days before fibromyalgia. Now? I really struggle.

That's a fairly common aspect of fibro fog, as well as the brain fog of chronic fatigue syndrome. We frequently have trouble remembering numbers and doing math (especially in our heads.) It's also common to transpose numbers.

In the early years of my fibromyalgia, I would sometimes look at a number and not even understand what it meant. When I'd read or hear two numbers, I didn't understand how they related to each other. For example, my husband would say something like, "The milk here is $2.89, but at the other store it was $3.17." I'd look at him and say, "Which one is cheaper?"

Now that my symptoms are largely in remission, I've regained a lot of my cognitive dysfunction, but the number problems have lingered somewhat. I still can't remember them - don't ever ask me what I paid for something, or what something usually costs! I can sometimes do simple math in my head, but sometimes the numbers get all scrambled and pretty soon I don't even remember the what I was supposed to be adding to what.

Perhaps the worst lingering issue with numbers and math, though, is my fear of not being able to do it. This issue is rearing its ugly head for me right now because my husband and I have decided that I need to take over the bills and budgeting. He works a full-time job with plenty of overtime and also has a small side business, and handling all of the finances is just too much for him.

So now I'm faced with learning the system he's set up (which bills are on auto pay, which ones he handles online, etc.) and staying on top of it. Part of me knows I can do it, but the rest of me isn't so sure. Doubt whispers around my mind: You're going to mess this up and cause a big financial mess, you're going to stress yourself out and jeopardize your health, you're going to destroy the good credit rating he's worked so hard to maintain.

To counter the negative messages, I'm trying to remind myself how far I've come cognitively. I'm also telling myself that working the math-centers of my brain, which have had the last several years off, will help me re-gain that function. When I look at it logically, it makes sense that I've recovered my language skills faster than my number skills - I'm a writer, and almost by definition, that means I avoid math! (Just a joke - no offense to math-loving writers out there. Either of you.)

I suppose, when it comes right down to it, I'll approach the bills and budget like I do everything else: I'll set up a system, spend a few months refining it, and do my best to stick to it. I'll ask my husband to double-check me for a while, just to be sure. Still, I'm nervous about it, and I know I will be until I've proven to myself that I can do it.

Have you found yourself struggling with things like bills and budgets? What has helped you stay on top of it? What problems have arisen because of your difficulties? Leave your comments below!


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February 21, 2013 at 8:16 am
(1) kelly stout says:

Yes! Thought it was just me. So glad to read this article! I make my husband do most of the bills now, but I’m easing back in to doing them again. I was forgetful and even paid a large bill twice in one day before. It’s very frustrating! Just gonna have to keep on keepin’ on. Hopefully these symptoms will reside soon.

February 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm
(2) Sherry says:

You’ve made me feel better knowing I’m not alone!

I used to have a job that had me moving about 2mil a month… tracking each piece, to part, to container & out the door… and I was good at it!

However when I left work due to my illness I got sicker… the cognitive loss happens slowly…. I was the one who looked after all bills, budgets and all that is relevant….Until the day I paid $188.20 with my Debit Card on 2 subway subs… Yes I did! Then I took the receipt home entered into the program the date, the store – Subway and price and I typed in $188.20…Still not noticing the glaring error….Because I knew I needed to be careful with all Math related things…. When the bank statement come it and I was glancing at it and freaked when I noticed that ‘somehow’ the bank messed up and charged us too much for the subs…. Once I checked my budget program I felt better because the numbers matched…. (imagine!) :s
Then about 30 mins later it slowly dawned on me that I am out that money…. I was I was hit with an anxiety attack from HELL!

After calling the bank who did not understand what I was ‘trying to say’ so I tried Subway, all I asked was ‘Hi, do you know if anyone over paid for subs on “Date?”. The manager came on the phone and said “I’m so glad you called we have had your money here waiting for someone to call in and claim it” So thankfully the people at Subway were so honest…and waited the 5 – 6 weeks it took for me to call them..
It was then my husband took over the bills…. it’s funny NOW… it wasn’t then… lots of tears and a flare LOL!

February 21, 2013 at 12:22 pm
(3) Nancy A. says:

I had problems with math way before my fibromyalgia started. I’m old enough (59) that we didn’t have little calculators when I was growing up. Now, I’d be lost without them.

I pay all my bills online and find that much easier than when I had to pay by checks in the mail. In my Favorites online, I have a category called “PAY BILLS”. I have all the web sites for paying my bills there, in alphabetical order. Sometimes, it actually helps that I’m compulsively neat and organized! LOL! This way, I know I’ve paid all my bills every month. Of course, I still keep track of all my payments in my checkbook, and I frequently check my bank balances online. Just have a very secure password for all your payment web sites and change it now and then.

February 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm
(4) Kelly Kendall says:

Hi Adrienne. Always love your blog posts. I am a fellow silent sufferer, 13 years with FMS/ME/CFS. I am curious what programs, or tools, you and others use for budgeting. I personally use an Excel spreadsheet, and Mint.com as well for tracking. Partly due to my profession, and partly due to curiosity, I am wondering what other sufferers are using. I agree with Nancy about checking your bank accounts (I check it daily), using a good password, and changing it regularly.

February 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm
(5) Joyce Shaffer says:

Hi Adrienne, I am always researching ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. Your posts are my favorite! To pay my bills, I use Excel spreadsheet. Keep it simple – I put month and year in the Header section. Then I have 5 columns – Company, Amount, Date Paid, Due Date, and Remarks. If it is an “auto pay”, I put AUTO in the Remarks column. This form can be drawn up manually also. I don’t miss paying a bill because I can look at this and check the Due Dates. This may sound old-fashioned – I then fold that sheet in half, and put my paid Company bills in the folded sheet.
I like the idea of checking your bank account daily.

February 22, 2013 at 3:36 pm
(6) Heather says:

I am in debt because I couldn’t manage my money when I was sick. I couldn’t remember how much I had on my debit card so I used my credit card “to be safe.”

I never paid my credit card back. I was too tired to keep up with it all. :( I could NOT manage my money with all the fatigue and brain fog.

I also have five accounts at one bank (different savings accounts for medical expenses, rent emergencies, one linked to a debit card and to another bank, Christmas savings…) Not that I have money to put in all these accounts!!!

I have three accounts at another bank — my debit card account, my billpay account and my “holding” account for money that is earmarked but can’t be paid yet. It’s the only way I could manage not to overdraw my account because I’d forget when my bills were due.

February 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm
(7) Heather says:

PS – I pay my bills from one account from one bank. It keeps my records in one place for me. I love it! :)

I used to go to the different websites to pay but then I found I got confused. Switching to the bank online bill pay and putting everything in one place was such a blessing!

February 22, 2013 at 3:50 pm
(8) Pat says:

Hi Adrienne,

Before being diagnosed with fibromyalgia I noticed that my math, cognitive, and reading comprehension skills were decreasing. At first I thought, “OH NO DEMENTIA!” Being a RN my thoughts went far left. Math was my favorite subject, but reading comprehension was my strongest area. A few years ago while working as a supervisor I noticed that it became harder to understand simple things, numbers, words, etc. I informed my Nurse Manager that I was struggling, and may have to step down if my performance didn’t improve…by my standards. I continued to work until 2009. Lost my job due to several knee replacements and fibromyalgia complications.
At first I felt as though my world had ended. With much research, your website, and a few supportive friends and family I have slowly became accepting to the NEW ME. :) Once I made it up in my mind that these afflictions will not define nor confine me, I felt empowered again, but in a different way.
Most co-workers/friends have fallen to the wayside. I don’t talk nor socialize as much because my job was the place that met those needs of belonging.
Through this endless journey I have learned most importantly to accept what I can do, when I can, and be forgiving of myself if I can’t. I understand there are good and not so good days, but I don’t beat myself up anymore. I refuse to allow fibro dictate my life.
I wish you well on maintaining the household budget. With or without fibro fog that is still a challenging chore.
I use my calendar on my Android and back everything up. I also take a lot of notes, memory not like it use to be.
Spread sheets are helpful once you figure out what format works best for you.
Thank you so much for this site.

God Bless You!

February 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm
(9) Nitalynn says:

Adrienne by all means try to do this if you want to. In the meantime I would start looking for a good CPA in case you find you can’t and in doing so you might want to find someone willing to help you out some to get things set up and then they would know how to take over in a pinch. I would never be one to try to discourage someone with firbro from trying to do something for themselves but I have been down the road you are traveling and to be blunt I had to dump it back on hubby with little notice at the same time I had to stop working and the whole thing turned into a complete disaster. He even though on a rational level he understood what was happening on an emotional level resented both my quitting work and dumping the finances back on him and what it did to our lifestyle and therefore did a very poor job of keeping up with things. Maybe you’ll never need help but for my two cents worth it will give you a lot more peace of mind to know you have it if you need it.

February 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm
(10) Judi says:

I use Excel spreadsheets for both my checkbook ledger and my family budget.

I also use my bank’s online pay system. I too used to use the bill’s website to pay, but that was wayyyyyy too much to remember.

Since I quit working last year and went on disability, I find it more difficult emotionally to work on the budget and pay bills. I’m making about a third on disability than I was on my salary and I have trouble dealing with what that has done to our lifestyle and budget. But I soldier on, most of the time.


February 22, 2013 at 8:30 pm
(11) C says:

Oh yes! Numbers are a problem for me. I do my own income tax because paying someone all that money to do it with my income level is horrid and I hate asking for help and over relying on people. So I learned how to do it myself and wanted to understand the process and gain some insight into politics etc. It took my 2 weeks and many calls to revenue Canada. Doh!!! Then a week, then 3 days and now a day. But….they have now changed my form and ….*frustration*…. What I find helps me is being very very organized. I keep everything filed and labeled and triple check all my figures. As far as living and shopping monthly, I couldn’t survive without a budget. It’s a must have for me.

February 23, 2013 at 9:13 am
(12) Shauna says:

I thought I was the only one with this issue. I’ve messed up my bank account so bad I had to add overdraft protection just to make sure that if I make a mistake in my checkbook, I am covered. I really like BillPay and automatic payments due to my limited short term memory. However, that short term memory issue can rear its ugly head when I forget to put the payments in my checkbook. I sometime wish I had someone to take it over just so I don’t have to worry about messing up my finances, yet, at the same time, I don’t want to give in. I want to maintain control and will until I absolutely cannot do it any longer.

Thank you for posting this. I’m sorry you all have to go thru this, too, but its also nice to know I’m not crazy or alone.

February 23, 2013 at 8:20 pm
(13) ddebru01 says:

Wow, what a great subject and nightmare for me. I had to rely on my ex-husband to pay the property taxes since it had to be paid monthly. I had no checks so he had to bring them cash. For the 3.5 yrs I was bedridden this went on. I just found out that he never once used the money to pay them. I’ve found out over the last 2 years that he had stolen so much from me that it’s no wonder I’m a financial nightmare.

Before I had to stop working I had my credit in great shape but after all that, I going to have to file bankruptcy. He also took a majority of my retro SSD without me realizing it. There is no way to make the finances work at this point.

On a good note though, once I did kick him out I started to figure things out. I have all my bills paid either auto-pay or on-line payment. Another thing that helps me is having all the bills paid within 5 days of getting my direct deposit SSD. That way I don’t have to remember what bills still need to be paid later in the month. I also check my checking account on-line every day or so.

February 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm
(14) Kristina Schwende says:

Wow, you just read my mind! I used to be great with figures, now I can hardly do simple calculations without taking out my calculator. I have also recently decided to take over the budget. It used to be my strong point so it made sense for me to do it. I am trying to use Quicken, but have been struggling for over a month trying to wrap my head around it. Normally, I pick up things like this so easily, yet I’m still trying to figure out how the darn thing works!

Thank you for being so willing to share your struggles with the world and help those of us who have thought for so long “I thought it was just me”.

February 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm
(15) Helligul says:

I left my husband 4months ago! I found it very difficult to start with, now though I am getting better at managing in spite of coping with fibro fog. I manage bills paying by DD’S Direct Debit…..Companies just take it from the bank, if they do anything wrong I’m on the phone in a trice. I live in peace now, touch wood…..husband comes to supper occasionally and brings me my paper and anything else I need if I’m achy which of course is every day almost. I have discovered The Cinnamon Trust!!! This is fantastic, I have two Border Terriers ( very good company!) But I can’t always walk very far with them, I’ve been known to only be able to let into the garden! Now I have some people 2 who will come and take my dogs out if I am unable to, and it’s free to Golden Oldies, I was 70 on Wednesday. I have an awful remembering passwords!!!

February 25, 2013 at 11:29 am
(16) Dianne N says:

Sheesh! I couldn’t even remember my email address for a moment.
This article really sounds like me these days; I wanted to forward it to everyone I know, “See? It isn’t just me!!!”
I used to be very good with math: adding things in my head quicker than the other person could enter on the calculator. But now I can’t keep the 2 short numbers in my head long enough to even add them. God forbid I’m trying to do something more complex than addition!

Currently I keep a favorites /bookmark list on my iphone with all my bills. My user name is part of the name of the link. Also a pw hint, such as “all numbers”, “needs a capital letter”. I have a set pw for each of these situations. That’s not the smartest thing, I know, but I don’t share and I don’t go to suspect sites EVER. I am thinking that I need to write this info down in a mini notebook somewhere and keep it safe. But I lose everything I put up to keep safe, so..,? Anyway, I personally have them organized by due date. This works for me since my husband gets paid weekly.
I used to keep an excel spreadsheet (making a duplicate one very year) with all my bills. Color-coded for utilities, credit cards, and quarterly/yearly payments. Sorted by date due. I would enter the cf# in the remarks of the date paid cell. This worked great if I did it. But more and more, I just use my cell phone. My body can’t take long periods of sitting in one place. This worked great for the important stuff. Or when I was too busy to actually enter things into Quicken.

February 25, 2013 at 11:46 am
(17) Dianne N says:

Lazy as I was, I loved my old Quicken system. I loved having next week’s bills auto populate so I knew how much money I needed next week. The problem is, I almost never use a real computer anymore. I wanted to be able to enter my spending on my phone and have it link up with my Quicken checking account info. But there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate program. I tried Mint – twice. So I am still searching, and my checking account is still not balanced. I have had to resort to keeping about $500 in the bank that I don’t include in my spending. To cover myself when I forget. Yes, I have overdraft, but they still charge a fee for that. I have online banking and their apps and I sometimes have to check them multiple times a day. Lol. I have an iPhone so I can take a screenshot of what’s on my phone (THIS is a lifesaver!!!), so I do. It helps a lot. If I pay a bill, I snap a pic of the CF#. Then I can go back through my photos later if I can’t remember paying the bill. Of course, this means I have about 5,000 pics on my phone. But that’s another story, lol.
I have also started using a calendar (the kind that is a month-at-a-glance and looks like a thin book?) to record my bills. I have (in the binder I keep all this in) a page that lists all my bills, an the date due, and other info. I can write “lights” on the due date of every month ahead of time (several months ahead!), and then at least once a month a try to keep it updated. Like when the bills come in, etc. Then when it is paid, I mark it off. Usually I add the date paid. And the page number of my check book register. Lol. IF I did that.
This is very helpful to me in insuring the bills are paid. However, it doesn’t help keep the check book balanced. I’m still searching for a method, anything that will help me remember to do my checkbook.

February 25, 2013 at 11:48 am
(18) Dianne N says:

I am trying to use Dave Ramsey’s system for budgeting but the cash system just doesn’t work for me. I know, I know! And I’ve tried for years to MAKE it. So I had to come up with something that does. So, like Heather, I have multiple accounts. At multiple banks. My husband has his checking account. He works out of town for the most part and has to have his own “household” account. He does a very good job of keeping up with his finances. But it’s too much to ask him to keep 2 household accounts. Especially when he works lots of overtime, and I don’t work. So I have a personal account as well. We each get “an allowance” in our accounts, and the rest goes into the household. I set up rules (which I’m too busy to follow right now so I do everything out of the household account, ugh!) for what gets paid from the household: only bills!!! And all auto drafts. Groceries come from my personal account (so of course on payday, grocery money is included in the money that gets transferred to my account). Keeping the check book register current for the household account is simple since there r few entries!!!
Yes, I know all my accounts need to balanced. But I also know I will probably never get it done. I can’t handle it on bad days/weeks. And when I have good ones, I have to get caught up for months, so I never get current. This way, the important stuff is covered, and easily found.

So, forgive the long posts. I hope this helps someone feel better. Cuz surely u have ur stuff better organized than I do!

February 25, 2013 at 11:54 am
(19) Dianne N says:

BTW Adrienne, thank you SO much for all you do!!! I’ve been to many FM/CFS sites but yours has been the most helpful. Whenever anyone wants more info (and I’m on SS disability, so people try to pick my brain about this a lot. Poor them!), I ALWAYS give them your site as a place to start, and tell them to follow your helpful links.

March 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm
(20) Renae says:

All that I have read from others poasted on this thread sounds way too familiar to me! I was never a steller math student but now its nearly impossible for me to do simple math. I have a 2nd grader that I have to help with math and too many times I just can’t do it! Now my cognitive function has started on yet another decline. I haven’t told anyone about this one but it scares me to death! I am no longer able to look at or think of a word and know how to spell it! English and spelling were always natural to me but now even simple words seem to look wrong but I know they are correct. I just turned 49 and I feel sad that this might continue on a downhill slpoe until I no longer function.

February 28, 2014 at 8:23 pm
(21) google advertising jobs says:

Wonderful blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there!
Many thanks

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