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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paychecks and Bills and Payments, Oh My!

It seems one of the implied definitions of single mother is “broke” and while that is mostly true, I have found some benefits of being the Head of this household financially. First, there is no miscommunication about where and when money is spent. I never have to wonder what is in the bank or get that question mark in my mind when I review statements. I have no one to blame but myself when I mismanage money or plan poorly, so that is plenty of motivation to behave financially. In addition, I have no excuse for selfishness and no one to blame when there isn’t enough to donate. Yes, I could rationalize that we’re living well below average, anyway, and ‘should’ keep the funds in-house. But the truth is, I don’t want that attitude of hoarding and doom. We live well above much of the world with our modern appliances and air conditioned suburban life. Our first-world problems are small when compared to the struggles many face.
At our house, I set the tone of “Enough” with statements that imply we have plenty and God provides for all our needs. I never want my little ones to feel insecure about their basic needs, but to be aware that they do not get everything they want or at the time they want it. Often when a child has a request, I state that “I’m not choosing to spend my money on that today.” Or “Did you bring your money?” My children don’t earn an allowance for basic help around the house like making beds, clearing the table or picking up toys. The older two do have a chance to earn extra with bonus jobs. So far one is more of a giver and one more a saver. They know that I work so we can have a home and food, and do some of the fun stuff in life, too! They heard me talk about saving for vacation and know that we plan for larger purchases or expenses.

Personal &a Household Financial Goals

- Fully tithe on my income: It is my privilege as a single woman to make the statement of trust to tithe each month. Trust that God will supply, that the church will support us if needed, that obedience positions me for blessing. It is not always easy, but this sacrificial choice keeps my own priorities in line rather than selfishly spending on us or hoarding for just in case. I’m not sure of what is right about tithing on child support income, but I’ll share my thoughts soon.

- Complete house repairs: Insurance paid for recent storm repairs but I need to get ice maker working, kitchen sink to stop leaking and now the children’s bathroom functional. Why? My darling baby child dropped a small flashlight down. And flushed. It’s still glowing.

- Get completely debt free and establish savings:  I've been debt free for brief moments, but something seems to throw me back into bondage again.  I'm making it a priority to have some emergency backup.  I listen to Dave Ramsey in the background at work which helps me stay motivated. My emergency fund will likely never be “fully funded” according to his definition (it would mathematically take me eight years!) and I’m okay with that. It’s still important for me to have a backup account in case. In the short term, I’ve got to start saving now for Christmas!


- Train the Children: Provide more chances for my children to earn and then save, spend, and give their own money. I may consider helping them sponsor a child to increase their awareness of how well we live and continue to instill my philosophy that we “Gather to Give” not to hoard.

- Increase Income: The bottom line is that we live well below the national average for a family of four. To accomplish the standard of living and giving that I want, I truly need to increase my income. In two years, my childcare costs will decrease but until then I’m looking for ways to earn money from home or in non-traditional ways. I’m seriously considering putting my name out there as a speaker. It worked for my mother for many years.

Finances are a topic often avoided and certainly frustrating for most of us. The responsibility of managing income, outgo and the deficit falls squarely on our shoulders and the anxiety of it can keep me up night after night. God has chosen to provide for us in ways I would not have dreamed. Sometimes, He inspires a friend to send a grocery gift card out of the blue which makes ends meet so much easier. One time I won a free oil change on a website! Most of the time God provides by giving me health and the ability to work hard, a considerate employer and flexible job, the ability to shop well and find great deals, the wisdom to distinguish between wants and needs along with patience to wait for the wants.

So, what do you splurge on? What inspires you to save? Have you done any radical giving? I’m going to talk more about this soon, so I’d love to hear thoughts from moms everywhere. I don’t doubt for one instant that it’s just the single mamas who deal with financial decisions daily!