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Picture yourself at midnight. Your to-do list is just too long for you to successfully complete before bed.  Your bank balance is just thirty dollars under rent, and maybe you have that between your couch cushions, but you also have to buy food.

If you are anything like me, this might be when your alarm goes off to take your medicine. And here is where you learn two things about me: one, that I take a number of medications to keep me sane. And two, that on this particular night, I’m down to my last few. Time to stock up again.

So here’s a little background. I’m a full-time freelancer now, setting my own hours and working for hire on all kinds of music related work…and I’m also bipolar with a small sprinkling of anxiety issues. This means that on top of the regular struggles of being a freelancer I’m also balancing doctor’s appointments, sessions with a therapist, and the financial cost of medication, which adds up very quickly when you have multiple mental health issues.

So when you’re in this situation, what do you do? What happens when managing your money plays second fiddle to staying healthy?

I have a few strategies to manage this:

  • If you’re on expensive medications, ask your doctor about insurance options, or less expensive (generic) substitutions. In the province of Ontario, there’s a government drug subsidy that limits the amount you pay per year – your deductible – to 4% of your taxable income. And generic drugs, when available, are typically cheaper than their brand-name counterparts, but contain the same active ingredients. But don’t make those decisions until you consult a medical professional!

  • When budgeting/planning your spending, have strict priorities – and then have a category or two with no upper limits. When I look at my monthly income, the first gigs and contracts go directly towards my rent, and the next towards transportation. But after that, I have two categories where there is no limit – food, and medical expenses. I would rather go without just about everything else than go without food, and I need my medication to ensure that I’m sane enough to work, and that other people will still want to work with me. (This also helps me manage the manic spending impulses – buying all the snacks at the grocery store is still cheaper than buying too many clothes on a shopping spree!) So if you need to cut back in other areas, do it; make sure your essentials get taken care of first. No one cares if you wear the same clothes every day (well, unless you smell as well). But they will care if you’re a good person or not.
  • Preventative measures are smarter investments than damage control later. Staying physically active and eating healthy is essential. So, if that gym membership down the street or your yoga classes or the gear for your beer league is going to be money you’ll be happy spending, then invest in it. If you’re out a lot and healthier choices are a little more expensive, it’s probably still a better investment than that third latte. And if therapy is the answer you need: there are cost-accessible options out there. But putting the time into therapy and doctors and care you need means that you won’t end up in the hospital later.

  • Money is no substitute for time. If you need to take the time off to treat your mental health – even if it means taking a little less work – it is an investment in your future, both personally and professionally. Self-care is important!

Money, for me, is always one of the biggest stressors in my life. And we need it to survive. But you only get one body and one mind, and you can’t take care of your money if there’s no you around to save or spend it!

Chelsea McBride

Chelsea McBride

Paid Contributor

Driven by an endless need for expressing herself creatively, young composer and multi-instrumentalist Chelsea McBride has burst onto the Toronto jazz scene. Whether it’s her big band (Chelsea McBride’s Socialist Night School), her jazz trio (Chelsea McBride Group), her pop-fusion band (Chelsea and the Cityscape), her Latin-soul nonet (The Achromatics) or her video game cover band (Koopa Troop), Chelsea is a diverse musician who refuses to stay in one creative box. Chelsea can be heard around Toronto playing several shows per month. She has released three albums with Chelsea and the Cityscape and two albums with her Socialist Night School.

You can find out more at

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