Life as a single Mother-Empty nest, Dating, Ex-husband, Best Friends, Full-time Employment, Unemployment, night school...How do these all relate to one another? Come with me:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it. Bob Hope

Money has been on my mind more than ever lately.

  • Being a single parent can make saving money difficult as many times there is barely enough to pay the bills.
  • Marrying young can put a real strain on your pocketbook as rookie paychecks and minimum wage doesn't go far.
  • Going back to school as an adult can add to the stress of debt unless you are one of the lucky ones who qualifies for waning government assistance.

There was a time I was not what you would call budget savvy. I would open a bill, write a check and send it off. I rarely checked the bill for errors, rarely kept my register up to date or balanced it with my bank statements. And paid the price.

Things got worse when debit cards became my payment of choice. It was an inconvenience to keep good records,  when swiping the card was so quick. I had little ones to raise, school assignments due and house work to keep up with.

But divorce, low single income, and rising costs of raising three kids solo when child support was slow or non-existent forced me to change my bad habits.

Numbers are still not my strong suit. But I have come a long way.
There is no way I would have made it through being unemployed for over a year without being frugal with my expenses and diligent with my bill payments. 

As a society, there are many pressures. Unemployment (for many long-term), insanely high gas prices, ever increasing tax rates, it seems everything is increasing these days. Directly proportional to the decrease in size of almost everything you pay for these days- a large pizza just isn't what it used to be. But I digress.

These pressures have forced us to take a closer look at what we are buying, what we get for the price, how it affects us and how long it will last us.
I have tightened this belt tighter than the smallest notch will allow... and I am not talking about waist size.
Squeezing every last drop out of the turnip of this crazed life. And that turnip is about to run dry. 

And yet- concurrently, I am doing the best that I can to send three young adults out into this Nation full of debt. And I am not just talking about congressional debt. Although isn't that a horrible example set?
Many citizens themselves are guilty of many of the same habits. Many American's could use a debt ceiling. 
There are bailouts for everything. 
Bankruptcy, credit card debt relief, unbelievably inflated lawsuit payouts.
And many, turn around and do it again as soon as the debt is relieved.


My own children are learning about budgeting somewhat from the school of hard knocks. I have given them the advice I can. They surprise me with their maturity. That does not mean they do not make poor choices. And just as in every other aspect of their personalities and lives, they are all three different.

My oldest was thrown into the solo living much younger than his sisters. Joining the army at the age of seventeen and with yet another year of high school to complete, he struggled the most. Military bonus's and pay being nearly twice the pay of his fast food employment checks. But it didn't last long with a teenage appetite. Not just food, video games, paintball, the latest movies...etc.
I have to wonder if some of that didn't come from the fact he was raised by a single mother who could not afford a lot of those things.
But now, a true adult, and old enough to vote. We spoke recently, again of budgets and saving and bad choices. He came to me. I am proud of him, just wish he could have seen this sooner. But, he is not in debt.

My second child working a full time job, making a slim check, has had to help out a little more with the finances than I hoped she would have to. She is in debt, a car. But never a late payment. We are working on a budget for her as well. She would like to start school soon. But she is doing tremendously.

And then my youngest. She is a saver. She is working a part time job, saving as much as she can but she will be headed to college herself this fall. A down payment on an apartment, some essentials such as towels and sheets and she is also out of money. For now.

But they know. They know what it is like to struggle, they know that sometimes we just cannot afford it. They know what credit is and what is good or bad about it. They do not use credit cards and neither do I. They know when to say no.

I wonder, when blinded by the thought of the American Dream, how many American's do not understand.

If you cannot afford it, do not buy it. Because you may be in a situation similar to mine some day, and it sure helps not to have a pile of debts to add to the stress.

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