Why One-Budget-Fits-All Doesn’t Work – And Why It’s Difficult to Compare Spending Between People and Families

Becky Budget by Hamden Alliance on Flickr!Whenever I leaf through a personal finance “workbook,” I usually wind up getting frustrated. Such workbooks provide “example budgets” and “recommended percentages” that completely miss the boat on the financial realities of most families. Why? Because almost every family has a different allocation of money within their personal budget.

Take food, for example. Recently, I openly discussed my food budget for a month, which was about $770. This was pretty close to being in line with the cost of a moderate meal plan as defined by the USDA.

In order to reach that dollar amount, I spent more in some areas on average – such as on free range chickens, organic milk, cheeses (such as gruyere), wine, saffron, and so forth – and less in others, such as often buying only flour and making my own bread and breadsticks and rarely eating out.

This has interesting ramifications all over our budget. Because we eat a healthy diet, we’ve had very low health care costs over the last year. I’ve had one severe cold in the last two years, and my wife hasn’t had any. This has meant our expenses on things like cold medicines, doctor’s visits, and prescriptions has been really low. It has also reduced our entertainment expenses – we have more fun in the kitchen as a family, putting toppings on a homemade pizza or making a frittata, than we do going out to a movie or to Chuck E. Cheese or the like.

Our food choices also tie into our personal beliefs – we are pretty strong believers in eating well-rounded, highly nutritious, and diverse food, and getting our children to eat the same. This goes way beyond feeding them what’s easiest, what’s cheapest, or what’s strictly the healthiest – it’s about feeding them a diverse diet that teaches them to like unusual things and get a wide variety of micronutrients without lots of additives.

In short, every person and every family is different. We have different lives with different values and different beliefs.

Let me give you three more examples to clarify what I’m saying.

I’m friends with several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of this church are expected to tithe ten percent of their income directly to the church, no questions asked. This drastically alters their budget, especially in comparison to secular folks or members of other churches who do not enforce such a strict level of tithing. Right off the bat, comparing the budget of an LDS family bringing in $50,000 a year to the budget of a secular family bringing in $50,000 a year is an unequal comparison.

Demographically, we’re almost identical to our neighbors to the north. We’re a married couple living in rural Iowa with two young children, and our income level from employment activities appears to be pretty close to the same, so you’d expect us to have fairly similar budgets. Not so. They own three vehicles, all of which are newer than either of our vehicles, and two of them are 2006 or later. They place significantly more value in the quality level of their automobiles than we do. They also travel by car more, with almost-routine long driving trips across several states. End result? The “automotive” part of their budget is obviously much higher than ours. What percentage is lower? I don’t know, but that extra spending has to be balanced out in some other aspect of their life.

Alternately, you can look at a completely different situation. I know two people living in a small home on a retirement pension that, along with Social Security, provides more than enough for them to make it. However, one of them has a two-pack-a-day smoking habit and between them and their guests, roughly a twelve pack of beer gets consumed a day at their home. Their “vice” budget in this case is tremendously high, causing the other elements of their budget to face the squeeze.

Not only do families with different demographics and different choices have different budgets, but budget proportions change for everyone when things like energy outpace inflation. Compared to five years ago, almost all of us are spending a significantly larger slice of our pie on gasoline, so using a ready-made budget from 2003 won’t really work, either.

The real solution is to start with what YOU spend. Keep track of your real, honest spending for a month or two, then use that as a basis to figure out where you can trim some spending by making different choices. The routes you take to frugality might be different than someone else – you might trim your food expenses by eating very basic meals at home, while others might choose to save money by setting up a carpool with their friends.

Don’t use someone else’s spending as a model for your own. Just because someone else spends more than you do in an area doesn’t mean it’s somehow okay for you to let all restraint go and bust out the plastic. It merely means they’re making different choices than you and those different choices come from different beliefs, different circumstances, and different goals – three things a budget comparison really can’t show you.

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  1. You make good points, Trent. When I was single and living in a metropolitan area on a student budget, I always found it incredible when someone would suggest that no more than 30% of your take home pay should go to housing. Living as I did in an area with outrageous housing prices, about 55% of my income went to paying the rent on my cheap one bedroom apartment. At the time, I just thought I was really poor because I couldn’t make that financial guideline fit my life.

    It’s very difficult to generalize across different family sizes, locations, ages, and income levels. Thanks for reminding us of that.

  2. Dawn says:

    This is exactly why I think a lot of newly weds have a huge problem. I, like you, used to spend a lot of my “extra” income on really interesting food. My husband spent his on entertainment (TV, videogames, etc.) When we got married, we weren’t really able to account for this gap in priorities until we started tracking everything we spent. It really hurt us initially and caused a lot of arguments because we weren’t on the same page with what we could spend. We’ve adapted now, but I’ve seen friends have the same problems

  3. K says:

    I find it interesting that you single out the LDS members as those who tithe. It is an expectation from members of most churches, but not commonly practiced. We do tithe 10%, which makes that by far the largest category of our budget, about 50% higher than our mortgage payment. But then our housing costs are so low that when I hear the 30% number I wonder how anyone can afford to spend that much on housing. You’re right that everyone’s budget has to be tailored to their own values and priorities.

  4. Char says:

    @K, I don’t think Trent was singling out LDS that was just the friends that he has that practices this form of giving. He never said they are the only ones. I agree so much with this article, and it puts into perspective why budgeting is so difficult. It is also why people have trouble keeping up with the Jones’, they are trying to keep up with ALL the Jones’. I do some catering on the side and I am constantly shocked by the frugality of many of the truly rich. We will be catering in a multi-million home and the owners will be very careful about turning out lights, rewashing plastic bags, or reusing something that I would never consider reusing. I have a client (in a different business that I own) who always shows up in an old beat up car and if she was there until the end with me she would power down all my equipment, even things that I usually don’t power down and she wears the simplest clothes. Yesterday, he daughter came by my business and showed me pictures of her mom’s new house – 10,000 sq feet, indoor pool – 1.8 million dollars, she saved her whole life to have a dream house for her kids and grandkids to come visit at(all with their own bedrooms) – that was her priority! Oh and she paid cash for the house! No ones budget is much like anyone elses…

  5. luvleftovers says:

    I’m right there with ya Kate! I live in the NYC suburbs and spend nearly half of my take-home pay in rent – and I have cheap rent! I choke everytime I see the 30% housing guidlines. Obviously, these writers make a lot of money, or live in an abandoned barn!

    Good post Trent. Pre-made budgets can certainly get you started, but they always have to be tweaked regularly to fit each family and the changes they go through.

  6. DR says:

    Great article – I am a true believer in understanding your lifestyle before trying to develop a budget.

    I like to go to Sporting Events, so that type of expense goes up. I could care less what type of car I have, so that expense is way lower.

    Not understanding your lifestyle makes budgeting like a crash diet.

    I think we are going to feature this entry on our blog next week at http://www.wherefamiliesconnect.com

  7. Sarah says:

    Great post, Trent, and very important for people to keep in mind. I think budgeting for anyone has to involve an analysis of priorities.

    One minor quibble though …
    “Because we eat a healthy diet, we’ve had very low health care costs over the last year.” I’m not going to argue that eating a healthy diet is bad for you, but you’re 30, your wife is 30ish (I assume) — I would say your ages and a low-risk lifestyle has more to do with low health care costs than anything else, unless you were pre-diabetic, had high cholesterol, or something similar and have turned it around in a short period due to diet modification. (Though a healthy diet will pay off for you in the long run.) I got pneumonia during a time when I was eating nutritious, healthy, frugal cooked at home meals. Not all health issues come down to nutrition.

  8. Miranda says:

    Thanks for this post. It’s an excellent reminder of how important it is to take finances a little more personally.

    However, I would like to add something. My uncle has eaten right and exercised his entire life. There is no one I know healthier than he is. He just finished chemo for lymphoma. Now he is about to begin radiation treatment for thyroid cancer. There are some things that strike — no matter what you do.

    And, I agree that one’s donation budget should be considered. As someone who is LDS, I know how important this is for some. But, like everything else, it is a priority. We’ve decided to make tithing a priority — along with other charitable contributions, and we feel we have been blessed for it.

  9. Janette says:

    We tithe 10%, though we’re not LDS. I subtract the 10% of our gross pay automatically and act as if it was never there. So, even though technically only 90% of our income remains, I think of it as 100% of the pie, and then use various budget guides to help determine the way the rest should be allocated, saved, spent, etc.

    I guess instead of thinking of it as a slice of the pie is missing or already spent, I just think if it as the crust is cut off all the way around, making a smaller pie. :)

  10. Carmen says:

    Kate – you are extremely lucky for your largest monthly outgoing to only equal 10% of income. I imagine this situation is very rare, especially for those who are not of retirement age and thus having the benefit of having paid off their mortgage and eliminated work travel expenses.

    For us, travel is the biggest number; at an ever increasing 20% of income, on a good month with no significant car maintenance costs. The mortgage is next at just shy of 20% too. We’re in our mid-30’s. Just four years ago our mortgage payment alone was 50% of income. That is the reality of living in an expensive city/town where house prices are high and not relative to comparatively small salary differences.

    My sister in law lives in San Francisco. Her first family home (2 beds) which they bought a few years ago after having their first child was almost $700k. Their joint income would be 10-15% of that, which means a high percentage of their income goes to the mortgage. Thankfully they consider themselves lucky.

    Life is expensive. Or maybe too many of us have our (location) priorities wrong.

  11. FFB says:

    Thanks for the reminder that we’re all not the same! I sometimes see national averages for this and that and wonder why our family lives differently. We have to remember that any book is only giving a guideline not a hard rule. I like that you put emphasis on tracking you own budget and working from there. That way future budgets can be more realistic for you.

  12. RobinH says:

    Actually, working from home (and therefore not having daily contact with lots of other people) probably accounts for your healthiness. The reason people get sick more in winter is because they spend more time indoors in proximity to other people.

    There was also an interesting study done on kids and health that found that the more kids go to the doctor, the more often they’re sick (all that hanging around waiting rooms with other sick kids- and yes, the cause and effect was that kids going in for more healthy kid checkups were more likely to be sick afterward). So health begets health. Also good hygiene practices like washing hands can make a huge difference in the number of colds you get.

    Good article! We need to remember that the point of being frugal isn’t to turn us all into misers who spend the least amount of money possible, but
    allow us to live within our means, plan for the future and spend money on the things that are important to us, not waste it on things that aren’t!

  13. Bethany says:

    graduate school is a fascinating place to watch this play out. All my colleagues who have masters degrees have the same salary I do. It’s fascinating to see how different people make different choices about how to allocate their funds, or how they find ways to bring in more money. We can often detect the place where others are spending less to make up for where they splurge too. For example, one of my colleagues lives without a car and can afford to eat out and buy more drinks than I do, and has new clothes more often.

  14. Kevin says:

    I agree with RobinH – I have been sick more in this past year than the previous 5 total, maybe more. I attribute it to my son starting day care 3 days a week and bringing home a bunch of stuff from the other kids.

  15. Brandon says:

    I do not look forward to my first cold (northern Oklahoma) winter. At least I have an office where I can take refuge instead of being in a cube-farm where I’m inhaling other people’s sneezes and coughs all winter.

    Agreed that washing your hands is a MAJOR preventative measure to avoid getting sick. I also drink OJ like a fish to try to stave it off.

  16. Tip Dad says:

    Good advice, and perhaps we should all make an effort to use percentages of income when discussing budget categories, rather than actual dollar figures. I know most people want to see a dollar amount, but as Trent points out, spending is relative to your income available in many categories.

  17. K says:

    Carmen – I assume you were talking to me, not Kate. Before you jump to conclusions, I am 28 years old, have a mortgage on a large house in the suburbs and my husband and I both work full time and have a child in daycare. Our tithe is still our biggest expense. I guess that goes to show how the cost of living in a city really makes a difference. The argument is always “well incomes are lower so it balances out,” but I don’t think that’s the case.

    Janette – I like the image of the smaller crust.

    I also don’t fully agree that eating so-called healthier is the reason behind your low medical costs. Expensive food may taste better but there is no proof that it’s better for you. In grad school I ate at McDonalds every day and got sick less often than I do now, when I eat “healthy.”

  18. Jason says:

    >>Because we eat a healthy diet, we’ve had very low health care costs over the last year.

    Correlation is not causation

  19. K, I’m totally jealous! lol We’re not LDS and we tithe 10% off our gross income, but that’s still WAY lower than our mortage.

    I’m comin’ to live where you are!

    Janette, we do the same. It gets taken off the top before we do anything else. And you know, there are just so many blessings from tithing that can’t exactly be counted. God promises to bless that obedience, and He is faithful. In all my life, I’ve always given 10%, and we’ve never gone without, despite not having a large income.

  20. Kenny says:

    I agree that not everyone is the same, but I think the budget percentage guidelines are just that… guidelines. If the recommended budget for housing is 25-30% and you’re paying 50-60% there may be something wrong. Of course, in some areas, it’s hard not have have a high percentage of your income go to housing. Living in LA, in a VERY modest 2-bedroom apartment and a decent salary — our housing is still about 32% of our net salary.

    For me… after debt is paid off, my 2 priorities are going to be 10% tithe and 15% retirement savings. Everything else in my budget will have to fit around those 2 priorities. Which means we may spend less on a place to live, vacations, or eating out. That’s fine with me.

  21. Kandace says:

    I’m LDS, tithe, and can agree with everyone who says that the blessings of giving 10% first are something that can’t be budgeted.

    I looked up feeding a family of two on the USDA charts that Trent had in his recent post. We fit the low to moderate range, at less than $500 a month. We still eat quite well and many months my grocery bill hits below $350.

    Being LDS, I’ve been taught to store food, so I have flour, sugar, staples, etc. in bulk that I use for about half of what we eat. Between canning, gardening, freezing, and being careful not to waste too much, it certainly helps with our food budget.

    BTW, my mortgage is about the same rate that I tithe. I live in a mid-sized city but have lived in urban areas where my mortgage/rent ate up 40-50% of my income.

  22. oneofnine says:

    Wow, I was intending to write my thanks for acknowledging the importance of eating healthy in your post, Trent, and instead I am SHOCKED at the responders who take issue with the premise that a healthy diet doesn’t influence low health care costs!!!

    A nutritionist or dietician will tell you in a heartbeat that FOOD IS MEDICINE– what you put into your body DIRECTLY contributes to your overall health. Congrats to the person who ate McDonald’s every day in grade school and was less sick at that time than they are today– they probably got far more exercise as a child and were still balancing the McDonalds with other healthy foods. But seriously, haven’t you seen the documentary “Super-Size Me?” After 30 days of McDonalds, the man’s physician told him to STOP eating fast food because he was experiencing LIVER FAILURE. If you are wise, you will build your body’s immune system with natural, wholesome food and nutritional supplements, and your body will be better positioned to ward off MANY preventatable illnesses.

    One of the reasons we have so many of these lifestyle-related diseases in our country is because people don’t believe diet affects their health. There are MANY people in their 30’s who suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments related to poor diet and obesity. If CHILDREN can suffer these conditions as a result of poor diet and lack of exercise, it seems ludicrous to say that just being 30 years old is the main contributing factor to low health care costs.

    In addition, being in the psychology field, I see that a positive mental outlook will also greatly affect your body’s response to environmental and seasonal stresses. If you fully expect to get sick during the winter, it is very likely that you WILL get sick. If you expect that your children will come home from daycare will all sorts of germs and bugs, they WILL. And they WILL pass them on to you! My 3 year old son has been in childcare at our local YMCA since he was 3 months old, and now he is in preschool. He has only had ONE ear infection (easily solved by garlic oil ear drops– no antibiotics) and FAR fewer colds & viruses than the “average” day care child. He eats a very healthy diet, takes his vitamins, and sees a chiropractor every 6 weeks during the winter for regular adjustments (it costs $20 a visit– far less expensive than even buying over-the-counter cough & cold meds every month).

    We as a family enjoy wonderful health and our health care costs are ZERO (literally: ZERO) because we never have to see a doctor and we invest in preventative measures as opposed to reacting to health care emergencies.

  23. L says:

    @ oneofnine I think the other commenters were implying that you cannot rely on a healthy diet to keep you healthy and that there are many factors involved in maintaining good health.
    For example we always ate well in my family growing up (and I still do) however I was diagnosed with a serious, costly, chronic medical condition at 21.
    Not everything can be prevented and you should be prepared for the possibility of your zero healthcare costs going up.

  24. Kathy says:

    @oneofnine

    Wow, your 3 year old sees a chiropractor? Every 6 weeks?? Whatever you deem best for your kids, I guess but I can honestly say that has never occured to me.

    I remember my dad’s approach to childhood illness-we had to produce physical evidence of illness: a measureable fever or a disgusting bodily fluid- all others must go to school or get up and do chores or go to church.

  25. Alice says:

    @oneofnine
    I think it is great that you take care of your family the way you do. Seeing a chiropractor before there is a problem is a great way to not get sick in the first place. However, I do not think it is accurate to say that your “health care costs are ZERO (literally: ZERO),” only that they are incredibly minimal, or maybe that your illness caused expenses are zero. A $20 chiro visit is a good investment in your child’s health, but it is an expense.

  26. Chiara says:

    I think the point is we have a lot less control over our health than we would like to believe – so eat good foods, but make sure your health insurance is in order. The vast majority of health is age and genes and luck. Of course there are some big whammies you can do to your health and good habits usually lead to long-term benefits, but good genes can cover a multitude of sins and bad genes can overwhelm even great habits. And then there’s the just plain luck of not catching a serious illness or getting in a disabling accident.

    I have rarely been sick in my life, but can’t take that much credit for it – I have my father’s strong constitution. My husband has a lot of allergies and intolerances and gets sick frequently – just like his mother. There have been discussions of this on forums like (I believe it was) Freakonomics – that people in general vastly overestimate their own control over their health.

  27. Diane says:

    Thanks for the great post and for this blog..it really is a great wealth of information. I am also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and since your mentioned us in your blog I would like to share some advice that I have heard and read over and over again as a member of the church. It is, “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” This is great financial advice for anyone and easy to remember the next time you have an impulse to buy something your really don’t need.

  28. Nienke says:

    I totally agree on this post! I am a student from the Netherlands and my ‘spending-pattern’ is so different from the “average” student. My boyfriend is from Belgium, so I spend a lot of my budget on train tickets and/or restaurants (most of the time we meet each other on Saturday in a town that isn’t too far away for neither of us, and then we ‘have to’ eat dinner in a restaurant in order to get some vegetables). Other students might spend their money on clothes or going out, I don’t. I barely drink and I buy my clothes second-hand at extremely low prices (just bougt a pair of trousers at $0,30, yay!).

  29. Carmen says:

    K – I was, apologies for the confusion.

    No conclusions drawn on your situation at all, just noticed how fortunate you were that 10% was your biggest outgoing given you have a mortgage. And daycare! Quite amazing. Well done; a very lucky situation to be in financially speaking. So dare I ask why you both work full time?

    Most churches have the the 10% tithing recommendation (in the UK anyhow); when our mortgage was over half our income, sadly we were in no position to tithe anything regularly.

    I totally agree with you that salaries are not much different wherever one lives; yet living costs can vary enormously.

  30. Astrograd says:

    I’m in no position to tithe either — low grad student salary, wonderful stay-at-home-wife with two small boys who make frequent trips to the doctor’s office — but I do anyway. And somehow things work out. Part of that I attribute to God’s blessings, and part to the psychological aspect of taking it out first and making everything else around it. The same principle is true with saving money — if you start spending money and wait to see what’s left to spend or tithe, there won’t be any. If you take tithing and savings out first, and then budget everything else around that you can find a way to make it work (like the pie crust analogy mentioned earlier).

  31. Astrograd says:

    Sorry–a bad mistype might skew the meaning of the above. Here’s a corrected version:

    I’m in no position to tithe either — low grad student salary, wonderful stay-at-home-wife with two small boys who make frequent trips to the doctor’s office — but I do anyway. And somehow things work out. Part of that I attribute to God’s blessings, and part to the psychological aspect of taking it out first and making everything else fit around it. The same principle is true with saving money — if you start spending money and wait to see what’s left to *save* or tithe, there won’t be any. If you take tithing and savings out first, and then budget everything else around that you can find a way to make it work (like the pie crust analogy mentioned earlier).

  32. Andrew La Barbera says:

    A healthy diet has NOTHING to do with health,it has more to do with gene’s than any one thing else. Sure it helps,but there are a lot more sick people who eat healthy than there are healthy people who eat a healthy diet!

  33. Thanks so much for providing, as usual such clear examples to help illustrate your point. It seems that these points can also apply very well to business dealings, since I think a lot of owners and those that work with businesses on key components (technology providers, etc.) tend to forget that each business is different and will have different needs and different items to add into their budgets. Similarly, tracking a budget (the actual document or spreadsheet you use) will work very differently depending upon your needs and the time you have to invest in it each week (which for particularly one-man operations and small business owners is not always very much time at all).

  34. PetMom says:

    Excellent post Trent. Budgets vary based on so many factors that I don’t find it useful to compare the details of my budget to anyone else’s. We have 16 categories in our monthly budget, based on how we manage our income and expenses. That might be fewer categories than some people, but more than others. Our food category might be shockingly high compared to someone who eats as cheaply as possible, but our clothing budget is miniscule compared to those who must dress well for work. If I lump all our expenses into 4 big categories, many people might think it outrageous that 22% of our income goes to all the expenses associated with our home and cars. But that’s not uncommon living in California, where homes, property taxes, auto registration/insurance are expensive. Our other living expenses take about 20% of our income, we allocate a little over 30% to various retirement and personal savings, and 20+ % comes off the top for Uncle Sam!

  35. Denise says:

    This is in response to food being a certain percentage of your budget. My sister lived in Paris, France for two years. For many, food was thirty percent of their budget and that is considered normal by many. Food is expensive, they eat very well and most of the transportation in the city is public. My sister made adjustments and lived happily for two years.

  36. J says:

    Great post. I figured out a while ago that keeping up with the Joneses was a silly game, the only thing you need to “keep up with” is yourself and your family, and live your life the way you want to.

  37. reulte says:

    Great post! Although I do have to say I slightly disagree with the advice to not use someone else’s spending as a model for your own. That can be valuabe when starting to learn how to use a budget. It’s a good idea to compare the spending figures of your habits with the spending figures of a national average to better understand where you might find the ‘fat’ in your spending and where you can pat yourself on the back for doing well.

  38. Mallory says:

    Really enjoyed your post. Actually, liked it so much we used it in our blog (http://wherefamiliesconnect.com/2008/09/08/determining-your-unique-budget/) as a reference today. What I agree with the most is that you have to be honest about what you’re going to spend. I think that would be the hardest part for me, deciding just how much I actually am going to spend on going out to eat or for coffee. Either way, it could be good to look at other people’s budgets for guidance but definitely have to focus on your own habits when making your personal plan.

  39. Celeste says:

    Nice post. It’s so important that we remember that all that advice isn’t really advice it’s just someone’s point of view. That “budget” is just like the “diet” word. And we know that diets don’t work for everyone.

  40. Lori says:

    Totally agree. I have always choked when I’ve read in those sample budgets categories like “entertainment $200.00 per month” or “Clothing $200.00 per month”……and then see a separate category for “dry cleaning” and “satelite/internet” ….our entertainment budget is the cost of our satelite and internet services…. and clothing budget is we get what is needed when its needed (back to school/band uniform etc)…..and it is no where near $2400.00 a year or even $1200.00 a year.

  41. Olivia says:

    One of our biggest budget items is kids recreation — our daughter’s competitive swimming and our son’s tennis and chess tournaments. Tough to curb since it is hard to say no with all the opportunities kids have today.

    As a couple with differing interests and values, it does make budgeting difficult. That’s why we have a “personal money” line item.

  42. Rosa Rugosa says:

    Before we bought our house (24 yrs ago)I did find it very useful to gather intelligence from other people’s budgets. For example, my Mom had records of monthly utility expeditures. A good friend had recently purchased a small home in our town, and was comfortable sharing financial info with me (not everyone would be comfortable doing this). So we went into home ownership with a realistic sense of what we could afford, with adequate provisions for things like utilities, property taxes, insurance, etc. I also had talked to my Dad about how much $$ he made, because that helped me gain a realistic picture of how much it took to support the lifestyle that my family had.

  43. Georgie says:

    “Because we eat a healthy diet, we’ve had very low health care costs over the last year.”

    You provide excellent principles, but sometimes your examples are off. Take this, for instance. Diet obviously effects one’s health. But despite what many USians seem to think, you can’t necessarily eat your way to health. Some people eat crap all the time and they’re fine (or at least, they function in a way which is acceptable to them), and some people suffer from severe chronic conditions which are only slightly effected by diet or not at all. Those in the latter category almost inevitably have significant health-related costs, so their spending plan will have to be adjusted to account for that – so of course your principle holds.

    By the way, have you ever written a post on what to do if dealing with a combination of poor health, unemployment, and getting screwed by your insurance company? It’s pretty common and obviously the combination of poorly-treated health problems and unemployment are mutually reinforcing.

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