Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Learning Financial Responsibility

Lately I've been thinking about finances and the future. You see, I'm a stay at home mom (SAHM) and while I love every waking moment of this life, the unfortunate truth is that being a SAHM doesn't pay. At least not in dollars. As embarrassing as it is to admit, it's about time I learn how to REALLY be financially responsible.
Image courtesy of hin255 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a kid, I grew up watching my mom work all of our lives while we spent a lot of time with our grandparents. I know she was doing what she needed to do for us and I had a great childhood. But I did experience feeling "different" when I'd visit friends and their parents were fully present in their lives and focused on THEM, I guess because they had the means and support to do so. It's what I wanted for my own children. When Josiah's father and I were a new couple, the idea of raising a baby with anyone else was odd to me because my mom had been a single working mom. I'd have to share MY kid with someone else? I couldn't grasp that idea at all because I never had that growing up. Fast forward to a few years later when we were actually trying to become pregnant. The idea of a complete family absolutely melted my heart! To imagine a life full of love, picturing family outings or a cozy Christmas with a snuggly little bundle of joy just made my ovaries tingle! I. Could. Not. Wait!

But then it happened... There I was, 8 months pregnant, hormonal, tired and stressing over issues going on at home when things took a turn for the worst. All of my hopes and dreams for a happy COMPLETE family, something I never had growing up, were ripped away from me. Now, I too was on my way to being a single momma. Life just does not play fair.

So I was a broken hearted mess for a while but still had to keep myself together. I moved back home with my mom, brothers, my then sister-in-law, niece, and grandparents. I leaned heavily on my family, church, and God for strength and I was able to get out of bed day after day. Josiah's dad and I were always civil though. Regardless of what was going on, I knew he loved his unborn baby and I definitely wanted to make sure my kid had his father actively present in his life no matter what. And maybe a big part of me secretly hoped that by being civil and strong and letting him still come to all of the doctor appointments and be there for the birth, that something would change in his heart and he'd realize that his family needed to be complete again. *Sigh* The things we come up with when we're hurting, right?

I worked up until about a month before I gave birth, so when I left, the money stopped coming in. It was never a thought in my mind that my family would fall apart the way it did, so I never had a savings planned. Not to mention we were having financial issues anyway before we split so it had already been hard to save. But in reality, the truth is I never really knew how to save my money the right way. If I ever had any extra, I was quick to spend it. I didn't have a savings account and was never any good at keeping up with my checking account either. I liked pretending I was a SIM with the "motherlode" cheat code and endless money to spend on whatever I wanted! Sad, but true.

When we split up it was agreed that he'd still help me out when he could and that Josiah would always be taken care of financially. It's been that way ever since. His dad and I are still very good friends. I still love the man very much, and love that we can always talk through anything concerning Josiah and co-parenting. Even when we disagree with each other, we can communicate that too. Like when I learned about his new girlfriend and when I finally had to come to my senses and stop saying "No" to him bringing Josiah over when she'd be there too. Now, almost two years later, Josiah loves her and looks forward to play dates at daddy's house with her. And you know what? Confusing as it may be to me, I even like her too! To say that it still doesn't hurt after all this time would be a lie though. But when I feel weak, God makes me strong and I can press forward another day.

Now back to the original topic, finances. I've been blessed big time to have such an amazing, supportive family. To let me and my son live in this house rent-free, is more than I could have ever asked for and I just can't thank them enough! But it's time for things to change. I absolutely love spending every moment of my day with Josiah, I do. In fact. I hate that I have to even consider changing that. But facts are facts. I won't be able to move on, move out or move up in life if I'm just "doing nothing" so to speak. I also won't ever be able to get to the position to be able to give back and bless others if my finances aren't in order first. Still, it bothers me that someone else will be spending precious time with my son, time that should belong to me. I just always want him by my side (most of the time).

However, more than the upsetting feeling of having to leave Josiah behind, is the thought that he might grow up like I did, with no understanding of how to deal with finances or how to prepare for the uncertainties that lie waiting in the future. I don't want him to blow every cent he earns on junk and I don't want him learning the hard way about credit. For this reason, I've been looking into different ways on how to teach children about how to earn and manage their own money. I figure, I could also stand to learn the basics this way too.

For his first birthday last April, Josiah received Financial Peace Jr. (affiliate link) and only last night did I get around to really looking at it. It teaches great concepts but Josiah is still just a bit too young to understand them. He was more interested in pretending the calculator was a phone! I asked some of my fellow bloggers on the Kid Blogger Network for ideas and, as always, they delivered!

My favorite of the responses came from Busy Kids Happy Mom, called "Learning about Earning." She used pompoms and a very small container as a visual to show kids how much they earned and how much they needed to fill the jar and earn a reward. Josiah likes to put change in his piggybank and into the offering basket at church but he has no real concept of the value of money or what it takes to earn it.  Since he isn't quite ready for real money yet, this sounds like something we might just try soon!

Kids Activities Blog shared 50 Ways to Save Money which is more of a list of tips for adults than children. I really enjoyed it though, especially those first 6 tips! Lord knows I still need help in that department!

KC EDventures has guides for all ages that list books and tips on the subject of saving.

The Art of Simple used storytelling and constant communication, which I really liked, to get the message across to her children.  

There are so many more resources and savings plans floating around the web as well. But as for me and my family, we have to start at the beginning, and that's with God. I'm learning what it really means to tithe and to give to bless others by placing God first in absolutely everything in our lives. It isn't always the easiest thing to do I'll be the first to admit that, but it does get easier with practice!

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we embark on this journey. I do apologize for an incredibly long post today, however I feel like I can't look toward the future without acknowledging the past. If you have any tips or creative ideas on how you save/manage money, and/or teach your kids about financial responsibilities, I'd LOVE to read them!

And as always, don't forget to check us out on Facebook and Pinterest!

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