Friday, May 20, 2011

On the Right Track

It seems as though as parents we are always playing catch-up.

After the kids go to bed, we play catch-up on laundry or dishes.

Over the weekend, we play catch-up with housework.

If your child goes to a friend's house -- or is still at a napping age -- you take the opportunity to catch-up on sleep.

Whatever it is, as parents, we always seem to be a little behind.

When we're playing catch-up with our money, however, the stress seems to rub off on everyone.

There is nothing more stressful than sitting down with a pile of bills on payday, and feeling like you're just not getting ahead.

I felt that way for years!

Having lost my job almost four years ago to economic downturn, I know what it is like to be barely scraping by.

I lived well outside of my means for years! At the time I was laid off, I had accumulated thousands of dollars worth of debt, and I had very little savings to speak of.

Because their father is deceased, my children receive Social Security instead of child support. In many ways, it has been a blessing. Instead of being dependent on someone who may or may not be gainfully employed, I knew I could count on their monthly checks to keep a roof over our heads...

It was the rest I had to worry about.

Sadly, I lived my years of gainful employment in a constant spending mode. Losing my job - and my income - put me into an immediate state of panic!

How on Earth was I going to make ends meet without a steady, consistent income? I could barely do it on a very nice salary!!

What could have been a complete train wreck in my life instead proved to be a critical turning point. Instead of allowing my job loss to send my household into a downward spiral, I was forced to evaluate how I was living my life.

I promise you - I did not like what I saw in the mirror.

In addition to living a life of excess - well outside of my means - I was forced to consider the life lessons I was teaching my kids.

Did I really want them learning that life was about immediate gratification?

Was it okay for them to be learning that they could have anything they wanted, as long as they had enough credit cards?

Absolutely not!

But in order to change a lifetime of bad spending habits, and to dig myself out from underneath a mountain of debt, I was forced to dig deep inside and really evaluate my fundamental belief system.

As a result, we - my children and I - have developed our family mission statement. Our purpose as a family unit.

By identifying what is most important to us, we have been able to make some very critical spending (or not spending) decisions. Over the years, we have been able to crawl out from under the pile of debt I had irresponsibly put us in.

While the concept of need vs. want is still lost on my now 10 and 12 year-olds, they do have a pretty good grasp on the "if I get this I can't get that" concept. They're rarely pleased when I tell them they can't have something, but they now understand why.

We certainly have a long way to go.

With my new full-time job in place, I need to re-visit the family budget. (Never an exciting task!)

And with the teen years right around the corner, I am going to have to come up with an impactful way to teach responsible spending to my children.

Fortunately, I feel I am in a far better place to do that now than I was 5 years ago...


Losing Brownies said...

We are in the hole right now. We both lived beyond our means for many years and now are trying to fix it. We have a plan though. Why does it take so long to dig your self out when it take 1/4 of the effort to get you into it in the first place?

Andrea said...

A huge applause for you. That's excellent. We're in debt that we're trying to work through and not live beyond our means. It's hard to recognize it, and makes so much sense how so many people don't until it's too late. I'm hopeful we'll get out of the debt and move forward with mega savings from there!

April said...

The girls sometimes watch Suze Orman with me, but I don't force them to (yet). They're starting to get an appreciation of what "we can't afford it" really means. Interestingly enough, my 10-yr-old has shown more interest in wanting to see our budget than my 13-year-old!

Alexis AKA MOM said...

I think it is a great lesson to teach our kids. My husb (who is the crazy spender) hates when the kids say oh we have to wait until pay day or we can't have that because we don't have enough in the budget. My parents were great at budgeting BUT never taught me too much about it. They did make me have my own money and work for it, but not how I could use it.

I'm so happy to hear your on the other side of the tunnel :)

Anonymous said...

great lessons to teach!

ps - I am following you back :-)

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