Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Does your money run out by the end of the week? Are you paying bills at the end of the month and borrowing next months money to pay for this month’s bills?
I used to all the time. Raising 4 kids on your own without any extra financial help was daunting. My youngest 2 kids are the same age as my sister’s oldest 2 children. They started pre-school together, was in the same class all through the 8th grade and then attending the same high school. It was hard not to compare what their cousins got for gifts, or what “toys” they had at their house while growing up. The older they got the bigger the toys and the comparison became more obvious. My sister and brother in law were taking their 3 kids to Disney World. She asked us to come along. There was no way I could afford that. My two older children had been there a couple of times with their dad and step mom but how was I going to get my younger two there? My options were limited at that time but to pick up extra shifts on private duty clients or try and see more patients. I worked in Home Health at that time of my nursing career. There were only so many hours in a day and I had to sleep sometime right? So, I did what I hated to do and that was ask my sister for some help funding this trip. My sister was very gracious and said she would pay for our plane tickets and I could pay her back. The rest of the trip I had to come up with the money by the time we left. I did but the exchange was not seeing my kids very much for a couple of months to pick up extra nursing work to pay for the trip. The other exchange was I had to lean on my older two children to take care of the younger two and manage around all their sports and after school activities. That same sister was amazing in also helping with taking care of the kids as much as she could. As I look back on those times and I felt really bad for the older kids having to care for the younger ones. I was the oldest of 5 and my youngest brother is 15 ½ years younger than me and I baby sat all the time. He was like my own! I didn’t want that for my own kids! Now I realize I did my oldest a favor as he became a pretty good husband who cooks, cleans, and does laundry! Funny though he has never thanked me for learning those skills!
The trip was great and took in Sea World and Universal Studios besides Disney. I was grateful I was able to take the kids to Disney World. We went during Christmas break and being from the upper Midwest I found it very odd to see Santa in a tropical shirt! The kids didn’t seem to mind so we were good. It took me months to pay back my sister for those plane tickets but I did it.
My financial struggles continued through my years of being a single parent of 4 kids. I met my husband at the age of 41 and we both began the journey of starting completely over with both of our retirement plans depleted and gone. Not a great place to be at the age of 40!! This began the slow road back to financial independence on top of a move that shook up our families and found both of us looking for new jobs. James began to work with his dad, as he is a 3rd generation auto mechanic, in his small shop and eventually took it over. So now we were also small business owners. I was bound and determined to get us back on track. Before moving I joined a network marketing company and wanted to work from home. We had big plans of how well the auto repair shop was. James was a transmission specialist and if we could do 2-3 tranny jobs per week, we would be good. Ha!! Best laid plans! We did not do our due diligence in researching the area we moved to which was near James’ parents. We had moved to one of the 2 poorest counties in our state and people didn’t get their transmissions fixed they junked the car and go a different used car. We build a new home with a big mortgage and little income coming in. I was feeling pretty defeated so I went to what I knew best and went back to work as an R.N. Wages were good and we started to get out of the hole we dug ourselves into as James built up his auto repair business. I put the networking business on hold when I went back to work but I never gave up on the idea of leveraging your time and money to create passive income. Now I have returned to Network Marketing for a source of passive and residual income but I did switch to a company that the focus is on helping families and small businesses cut their expenses and save money plus provide an optional income side and this was right up my alley.
I share this with you so you know when I share what works and what worked for us you know we lived it. I want my blog posts to be real and hopefully relate to some of you and even if I can help you avoid some of these financial issues then I have achieved my goal of helping others change their lives and have more time and choices. Here are some of the things that helped get us back on track.
1. Establishing and maintaining a budget. I was old school so I did everything on paper. Now there are apps and web-based programs that make things easier and we will share some of those in a few minutes. I reference a lot to Dave Ramsey because his techniques and programs helped me the most. Right down to the envelope system I still use to this very day. Every dollar is budgeted. Every 2 weeks I look at what income is coming in and prepare for how we will spend the money. If I have some extra money after the bills are paid, and I have tithed and put money into our retirement accounts and savings slush fund I may choose to spend money on things we need or want. For example, I may end up with a couple hundred dollars left over and during the change in season we may spend some money on buying some new clothes or depending on the time of year start on some Christmas shopping. Christmas shopping is a year round thing for me to avoid the overwhelming expense come December. Between the 2 of us we have 7 grown kids and 14 grand kids and I am a sucker for Christmas!! This is a weakness of mine and I am not sure I want to hear what Dave Ramsey or Darren Hardy another mentor of mine, would say on that matter!! It is what it is BUT I always pay by cash now and do not charge any Christmas presents anymore! I have grown to love my budget. I always know where we are financially. We have an emergency savings account for unexpected expenses. We have enough money put away in retirement for funeral expenses. We also have enough money in life insurance to cover the remaining cost of the house and keep our kids from having a financial burden if we pass unexpectedly. Speaking of life insurance, the younger you are the cheaper it is. If you do not have it consult a financial or insurance agent and look at your options. This will save you a ton of money over the years!!!
2. Automate your Budget: Here is where I would like to share some of the programs and apps that you can use to help keep your finances and budget on track. 2 apps I like for tracking small business expenses is Tax Bot by Sandy Botkin and the app Hudlr. There is an expense to both of these but are very reasonable. The caveat is that you must take the time to enter in all the data so working up front saves time on the back end. Hudlr will produce and allow you to print completed tax forms. It took my oldest daughter to tell me to get into the 21st Century and start auto paying my bills from my checking account and said “Mom, we don’t use checks any more”! That is another way you can put your bills on auto pilot and make it less tempting to spend the money elsewhere. Most banks have bill paying features for online banking. For you younger ones you are probably laughing at the fact that I am suggesting this!!
3. Get Rid of Debt: Well, one thing I am not proud of is that during those years of struggling I think we were up to 15 credit cards. Yep 15. Pretty embarrassing. There is hope for you because we are down to 1 personal, and James and I each have 1 Business card and otherwise we use our Debit Cards mainly. We did it by not filing for bankruptcy but following Dave Ramsey’s method of reducing debt and that is the snow ball management system. We are not completely debt free yet but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel in the next 2 years we will have reached that goal. No payments of any kind, car and truck paid, boat paid, no other debt except the house and we are making extra payments to get the house paid off quicker. Do we buy brand new vehicles? No, not until we can pay cash for them. It is horrible to live in financial struggle. I never want to go back there again. I am very proud to say last September we went on a 2-week dream Alaska tour and cruise and paid cash for the entire trip and excursions. You can do it too!!! Briefly with the snow ball plan you take the lowest debt card or loan you have and pay as much as you can afford and continue to make the minimum payments on the rest. The philosophy of paying off the lowest first is that you can get a quicker win and stay motivated to keep the snow ball rolling. Once you pay off the first one take the payment you were making that paid off the first debt and now add the minimum payment to the second smallest loan or debt or credit card add them together until the second one is paid off and continue the cycle until they are paid off. I can tell you the feeling of paying off a debt is euphoric! It keeps me motivated not to spend the extra money and continue to build on that payment amount and then even the bigger debts get paid off quicker because the amount you are paying is also getting bigger!! This has worked for us and I encourage you to try it.
4. Set Goals: This is where you need to start in managing your budget. Write down all of your expenses including groceries, gas, entertainment, and those expenses that may come up a couple times per year such as filling the propane tank with gas if you live in a rural area. Here is a tip with that. Make sure you fill your propane tank in the summer before you run out mid-winter and you will save money. Most propane companies have a “summer fill” program that will allow you to get your fill less expensive. Our company even gives us a great discount if we pay in 10 days. Now if you are budgeting for that expense you will have the money to pay in 10 days or less and add some extra savings to your budget. How much should you have in savings? Experts say at least 3 months of expenses up to 6 months of expenses to cover emergency purposes or if a household member is unable to work due to illness or injury. When we first started out, we set a goal to have 1000.00 in savings at the end of the year. Not a huge amount but it was definitely more than we had now. Make some small goals and then yearly and finally five-year goals.
The more you achieve the more you will be motivated to keep going. I am not saying all this is easy. Living in a financial struggle is also not easy. Get disciplined and get mad. Fight your way out and I promise the load will be lighter and you will have a lot less stress in your life. Next decide what you need and what you want. Make sure the needs are budgeted first and then prioritize the wants. Make sure you are putting money away in savings even if it is 10.00 a week or month you have to start the habit of saving. What if the refrigerator suddenly goes out? It would be nice to have a little money put away in savings to deal with these unexpected expenses. Budget for the holiday spending. I shop all year so I can take advantage of the sales I find and not shopping “last minute” being forced to make purchase I normally would not like to make. I also save money by making some home-made gifts for extra gifts to have on hand when you need a “last minute gift for someone” or a work gift exchange.
Make sure you include money to tithe. Whether it is church, or a favorite charity, or a random financial act of kindness get in the habit of giving your money away. That might sound counter intuitive when you are trying to save money and pay off debt but it is about building the muscle that allows you to have a good relationship with money. If you have had financial struggles you probably have some issues with money. You have to learn that the more you give the more that comes back to you. When I finally got this right and stopped worrying where the money was going to come from to pay the next bill and stressing the money usually showed up in some way shape or form. I know this may be a bit to chew but I am just being real here and sharing what has worked for us. I address Money Mindset in a recent post you can find on by blog. LINK . There is a financial percentage system we use and that is the 70-10-10-10 plan. 70% of your income to live on, 10% savings, 10% charity or tithing in some way, and the last 10% on your personal education whether it is books, courses, seminars, webinars, etc. that will help you become a better person in any area of your life you feel you would like to get better at. This will be a future blog post on its own!!
5. Education There is so much information out there and I encourage you to educate yourself on managing your money. May be this is what you start using your 10% self-education money for. You might want to learn more about investing in stocks or real estate. It is said over and over most people cannot stay disciplined enough to maintain a budget. It has become a habit and an obsession with me. It can for you too. I know that if I want to spend any money, I better get my next 2-week budget ready so I know exactly how much money I have and can spend. I know at any given time what I am paying for during those 2 weeks and what I am saving for in the next coming months. How can you effectively manage your money if you don’t know where it has to go? To me that is just like spit balls shooting them at the wall and see what sticks! I still like to spend and am still working on curbing and tackling that beast but it makes it easier to know how much I can spend and not impact our finances in a negative way. This curbs the desire for me because I have permission to spend “X” amount. I used to feel so guilty spending money on myself I would literally put things in the shopping cart only to wheel it around and put everything back before I checked out with what I deemed “necessities.” I like Dave Ramsey for expert advice on my finances but he may not be your cup of tea so I encourage you to research and look at other experts that may reflect your personality and learning style. The bottom line is that the only way to get ahead financially is either to cut your expenses, make more money or both and we like to help with both! I encourage you to look at ways to leverage your time and create some passive income that comes in whether you are working or not. You can work several jobs but what do you have at the end? You may have more money but what you won’t have is time to share it with the ones you love.
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