Autism families can use all the breaks we can get, and that includes opportunities to save money. Here are some ideas to help us keep our money in our piggy banks.
1. DMV handicap placard. Many children and adults with autism qualify for DMV handicap placards due to disabling intellectual/functional disability, physical disability or both. These permits allow you and the permit-holder to park in metered spaces with no charge, or exceed time limits, or park in designated handicapped spots. They are also helpful for supported living or group home staff to use on behalf of their clients. The disabled person must be in the car to use this permit. To learn more, see https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/disabled
2. National Parks. Allows people with permanent disabilities to have a free lifetime pass for our national parks and recreation areas. This includes Yosemite, Muir Woods, etc. To learn more, see https://store.usgs.gov/pass/access.html
3. California State Parks. A 50% discount for people with disabilities. See https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/737/files/dpr818a.pdf
4. Save on taxes. IHSS providers who live with a disabled person may not have to pay taxes on their earnings. To learn more, see http://ihssadvocate.com/news/ihss-income-not-federally-taxable
5. Discounts on public transit. For example:
Clipper Card: https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/discounts/rtc.do
http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/advocacy/Clipper/QA.htm Attendants can also get a discounted rate when accompanying a person with disabilities using mass transit
6. Tax-free savings. ABLE Accounts grow tax-free. California will be rolling this out hopefully in the early fall. A possible alternative to, or addition to, a special needs trust. Google ABLE Account in California for the latest information.
7. Free or cheap events. Autism Fun Bay Area offers a year-round calendar of free or very inexpensive concerts, performances and hikes. See autismfunbayarea.org. A variety of other low-cost events are listed on the sfautismsociety.org/events site, including Special Needs Jump Sky High, and sensory friendly hours at The Tech and Children's Discovery Museum.
8. Energy savings. The PGE Energy Savings Assistance Program helps low-income households save energy and lower their bills.
9. AT&T Lifeline. Low-cost phone service for low-income households.
Have fun saving money! What other penny-pinching tips do you have?
Connie is the mother of a young man with autism and is a member of the Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area board of directors.