Financially Surviving vs. Thriving

Struggling to make it in an expensive world on a cheap budget?  Sure,  most of us are!

One of the struggles facing many single parents today is the feeling of "surviving" vs "thriving" and how to make enough money to support their children in this expensive culture.  Food, gasoline, rent, utilities, insurance, medical expenses, car expenses...etc are all very expensive and are difficult enough for a single adult to afford let alone when kids are added to the mix.  So how do you survive within a tight budget and expensive expectations?

Unfortunately, the answers aren't very easy and take a lot of work.  Emotions can go into what I like to call, "roller coaster mode" when you get into "survival" mode, rather than "thriving" mode.  We all wish to thrive and it's hard to struggle daily and feel like we aren't getting ahead of our financial situation.  Here are some tips to help ease the stress associated with figuring out how to rise above your financial situation.  I am not a financial guru by any stretch of the imagination, however these techniques I have found and use are something to consider if you are feeling the financial pressures.

1) Create a budget.  Know exactly where you are financially.  A first-step budget making process can be simple and non-threatening.  Simply make 6 columns.  At the top of each write: Date Bill Due, Description of Bill (Electric/Rent...etc), Amount Due, Amount Paid, Date Paid, How It was Paid (check, cash, money order...etc.)  Under your list, write 2 more columns and label them, Date Paid and Amount of Pay (for your paychecks, child support etc.)  Use this monthly and keep it as a reminder of when things are due.  It will open your eyes to how you spend your money if you see what is spent in bills and what is received in pay.

2) Pay off Credit Card Debt- Pay minimums on all cards but one and tackle it with a larger payment until paid off.  Pick another card and do the same. Start with your highest interest cards. 

3) Create a savings account.  Pay your tithe and then a percentage of your check to yourself first.  Then pay bills and other expenses.  Even if you can only pay yourself $5, do it consistently and don't touch it.

4) Maximize your employment benefits.  Employment benefits like a 401(k) plan, flexible spending accounts, medical and dental insurance, etc., are worth big bucks. Make sure you're maximizing yours and taking advantage of the ones that can save you money by reducing taxes or out-of-pocket expenses.

5) Get paid what you are worth and spend less than you earn. This includes receiving your child support or spousal support.  Get help from the state if the Obligor is not fulfilling his/her end of your court order.

6) Eat in rather than out more often.   The average American household spends almost half of its food budget on eating out — out of about $6,000 US Dollars (USD) spent on food a year, about $2,700 USD goes to eating out. Alcoholic beverages alone contribute almost $500 USD to that budget.  More than 75 percent of Americans eat out at least once a week, and a full fourth eat out every two to three days. Some studies suggest that, on average, Americans actually eat one out of every four meals and snacks outside of the home.  You can save a lot by packing a lunch and making dinner.

7) Drop those extra habits that are costing you money.  Do you like your coffee in the mornings? Invest in a coffee maker as you can save on average $1,100 per year! 

8) Coupon. Coupon. Coupon.  Need I say more?

9) Buy in bulk if you have the capacity to store it.

10) Most of all, be smart! If a purchase doesn't feel right...go with your gut!

More tips here.

With Odds Stacked Against Us

Forty percent of children today, live in fatherless homes.  That statistic makes me sick to my stomach.  It is even worse to know that I am a part of that statistic.  My son is in a fatherless home.  What does that mean for him, for us, and for our society?  According to other alarming statistics it means that he is at risk for becoming a criminal, having a dysfunctional family of his own one day, and never really learning how to be a spiritual leader or man, among other disturbing things.  For single parents with girls the statistics are just as alarming for failure.  How does a single parent with those odds stacked against him/her, take their son/daughter and mold him/her into the person that God created them to be? How do we look at those statistics and not feel a sense of fear and urgency to do everything in our power to go against the odds?

Working at Family Talk, I am highly aware of the plan that God had for family, marriage, and parenting.  I am constantly and painfully reminded that times are really rough and that more and more, people do not carry all 3 of these wonderful blessings at the same time.  Whether you had your child out of wedlock, are divorced, or widowed you still fall into this path of Satan's destruction to eliminate any sense of family and God's purposeful plan.   Satan is out to seek and destroy what God has created for good.  Your children are a gift.  When plans change and you are left to parent your "gifts" on your own, things do not have to flow with statistics.  We can rise above the odds and do everything in our power to create a godly, loving, stable, and instructional environment.  Our kids are living in more the "norm" with a one-parent household.  Let's train them up on how to bless and encourage others who are living in their same situation.  Let's raise them to know that two parents are God's design but that our own desires or life circumstances can change what we envisioned His design for us and our children to be and that God can still bless our lives through these changes.

If you are not a single parent, please find someone who is and take them under your wing.  I cannot speak loudly enough about how much this is needed! From experience I can tell you that that loneliest times are when I cannot do for my son what a father can.  It's a helpless void that sometimes only someone of the opposite sex can fill.  I am all too tired of hearing people speak about how much they care for a single parent's situation, yet do nothing to help those kids be as influenced as possible by healthy relationships. Help a single parent show the goodness of God to their children through your interaction.  If you are currently blessing a single parent home, "THANK YOU" as you are an answer to prayer.  Maybe, just maybe, if we all bind together to raise these children with both the influence of a mother figure and a father figure, we can stop the negative statistics from rising! 

It's Valentine's Day!

Many people view this day as "commercial" or a way for businesses to make money off of the feelings of their consumers.  They "bank" on the pressure that this day causes to men who feel they have to adorn their wives or girlfriends with tangible things this day to "prove" they love them.  What a horrible way to view this day!  It is not a day of proving anything.  It is not a day that has to be restricted to romantic love either.  This day can cause many unlinked human beings to become lonely and to feel the ache of being without a partner far much greater than any other day.  I know a couple woman in my life who choose to let February 14th go unacknowledged or even despised.   While I can understand the feelings that would drive such decisions, I think it is a waste of a day to not overly express your love for those people in your life; romantic, parental, or friendship!

Why not jump on the bandwagon and tell all those around you how much you care! My son has been my Valentine since 2004 and we love this day! I may not always have a romantic valentine, but I can enjoy this day with my son, friends, family, and co-workers and just beam love!  It really should be like this year around but there's something special about acknowledging a certain day to go over the top. 

At my house we leave little gifts or notes around for each other.  I usually buy a little candy, card, or toy and he usually will draw me a picture that is beaming with the theme of love.  I have every single one he has ever given to me and on my hardest days, out they come!  They are great reminders of why I do what I do. 

If you are finding yourself wishing for the romantic love this Valentine's Day just take a moment to write down all the names of those around you whom you love and shower them with your attention! This day shouldn't go unacknowledged or dreaded; it should be a day for you to go over the top with your love-o-meter!  Share it and be blessed with how much you receive in return!

Happy Valentine's Day! God loves ALL of you!

Finding Joy. Dig Deep!

"Lately it seems like one thing after another."

"I'm tired of feeling this way!"

"When will this all stop?"

"Just once today I'd like things to work out!"

"I wish I could just go back to bed!"

Do you find yourself saying those lines or something similar? Life is full of unfairness, unhappy feelings, exhaustion, and disappointments.  It is easy to jump to those statements or the questioning of our circumstances when things go against our expectations. 

Do you feel like your load increases drastically on certain days where one thing after another tests your endurance and patience?  We can find ourselves accepting that we are having a bad day but we also can have the upper hand because we know exactly who creates the lies that keep us from moving on from it!  Satan loves nothing more than for us to believe that we are 1) alone in what we are feeling  2) should remain victims of our circumstances and 3) there is no way out. 

Those are lies.  We know they are lies, yet sometimes we can find ourselves falling into them and mistaking them for truth.  Yesterday was a really bad day for me, but I found that reciting all the good that happened that day and keeping in perspective of how blessed I really am, kept me from falling victim to what the day held.  There really isn't a fail-proof formula that will keep you from ever feeling beat down from a bad day but it helps to know what the bible speaks of in truth.

Next time you are having a bad day, ponder on these:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jeremiah 29:11-12
  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.