Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spending Decisions

I was unsure how my disability income would be taxed, so I erred on the safe side and had Kim withhold more money from her paycheck than any reasonable person would. As a result, we received a rather large tax refund. We've since adjusted Kim’s withholding, so that we should have only a small refund next year, and each of her paychecks will be a bit larger going forward.

So, what should we do with the refund money: pay off credit card, home equity, or other debt; invest in an IRA; help the kids with college costs; or go on a cruise? Those are all good options, but we had another idea.

As I've mentioned in numerous posts, I probably won’t be able to drive my adapted van much longer. In fact, if we had not taken action last week, I was almost ready to hang up the keys for good.  But the critical problem isn't (yet) with my left hand which operates the adaptive driving controls in the van.  It's that I've become too weak to safely and smoothly accomplish the elaborate dance of transferring from my wheelchair to the driver’s seat (and back).

I've always known that I could have a power driver’s seat installed. Such a seat slides all the way in to the center of the van and rotates 90° so that I can easily transfer from my wheelchair to the driver’s seat, and then push a couple of buttons to place me squarely in the driving position.

I've avoided investing in this seat though, because I thought my left hand would be the reason I would eventually stop driving, and I didn’t want to spend the money unnecessarily. That was the thinking.

It's funny how your perspective changes when facing the imminent loss of something like the ability to drive, especially when you have a wad of cash burning a hole in your pocket. As you may have already surmised, I spent the tax refund on a new power driver’s seat for my accessible minivan (see photo at top). I'll now be able to continue driving until my left hand becomes too weak.

Down the road, will I look back on this purchase as money wasted? I will if I stop driving due to left hand weakness sooner rather than later. But I hope that I’m able to continue driving for a while.  If I’m so fortunate, I’ll consider this an appropriate use of a financial windfall in order to preserve my independence for a while longer. Only time will tell.

Many disabled people don’t have the financial resources to be faced with spending decisions like this, so I'm not complaining. I'm just explaining. When you have a chronic, disabling disease you’re forced to make absurd financial decisions regarding how much to spend on purely temporary efforts to preserve mobility. What price freedom?

When Kim and I were both working and pulling in decent salaries, I didn't hesitate to purchase snowmobiles, ATVs, guns, or other rednecky apparatus. Life is short, right? But now that my financial contribution to the family pool is much smaller, and so is the size of the pool itself, I sometimes feel guilty about spending money on disability equipment which will improve my quality of life (for a while) but that I don't absolutely need. It's just another dilemma- courtesy of my favorite little disease.

As I’ve written here before, although it is unfortunate that I need these assistive devices, the days that I’ve accepted crutches, a scooter, or a wheelchair were actually very good days.  Suddenly, I can do something better than I could do it the day before.  So I’m not regretting that I require a power driver’s seat, but I’m instead celebrating the fact that I’m still driving, and that it’s even a little easier for me today than it was yesterday.  

Oh, and I bought a new camera too, which I can mount on my wheelchair. Check back here for photos and videos.


  1. Good for you, Mitch. I'm sure your wife was behind your decision 100%. I always feel I have to justify any spending that centers on my disability, even though my husband pushes me to make such purchases. I guess we never totally forget who we once were!
    Enjoy your drives -- and by all means, post those photos!

  2. It was a good decision. My philosophy is if you are able to afford it and it helps make your life easier then you should go ahead.

  3. Mitch, I hate hate hate big ticket money decisions, ESP. when it comes to my MS - I feel guilty, blahblahblah...
    I'm so glad you were able to make a decision that is right for you!! Enjoy the ride, friend.
    ps...would you mind sharing what camera mount you are using for your new camera to mount to your wc? thanks!
    kim in cape elz

  4. Kim, I use the GorillaPod with the Joby Ballhead: