Don’t Break the BANK for Christmas

Don’t Break the BANK for Christmas

With the holiday season here, it’s filled with cheer and plenty of spending.   The holiday season has turned into a time of the year where the quantity of material possessions trumps thoughtfulness and the true reason for the season.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah; they all symbolize spending time with loved ones.   This is the time of the year when stores and credit card companies make a killing getting shoppers to overspend.  The holiday season allows individuals the chance to rationalize overspending and to dust off credit cards.  These should be the days of Giving Thanks and being Jolly, Merry and Bright!  Not Broke, Greedy, Stressed and In Debt.  So who says we have to go into debt to enjoy the Holiday Season?  Let’s NOT break the bank for just Christmas sake!

We don’t have to give in to the temptation and overextend ourselves financially for the sake of buying unnecessary gifts.  So, here are some tips to attempt to get through the holiday season without any new debt. 

List & Limits 

Create a holiday shopping list, set a spending limit for each person and only buy for who’s on it.  Leave your emotions at the door. With sales and deals in every retail window, it’s easy to get sucked into purchasing items that you never planned to buy.  Using the money you have set aside in your budget, or using cash you have readily available (don’t use credit), create a cash-only Holiday budget – and stick to it!  Keep track of your spending. Remind yourself of all other debt responsibilities like your car payment, rent or mortgage, etc. that will be still be due after the holiday season. 

Cash Christmas

Pay cash, pay cash, pay cash. Christmas Savings Clubs and Christmas Bonuses are cash options that allow debt free spending.  Avoid using credit cards and do not charge purchases.  Buying gifts with cash will avoid the unwelcoming surprises, interest rates and fees that will come knocking in January. When the cash is gone, stop shopping and refuse to use credit. 

Thoughtfulness over cost

Pay attention to family and friends and purchase gifts that make the person feel special.  Pay attention to hints or comments throughout the year.  And, do not rule out handmade gifts. Sometimes handmade gifts mean the most.  Remember the cliché’, “It‘s the thought that counts”?  Well, it may be corny, but it’s true.  Put time into choosing the gift that the person wants, not the gift that makes you look generous. 

Start Saving for Next Christmas

Christmas is the same time every year, yet somehow we manage to wait until the last minute to make purchases, often without a budget. Consider joining a savings club or opening a savings account that you can’t touch. By putting away $50 each month you will have $550 to spend by the time Christmas rolls around. Also consider picking up gifts throughout the year, which will definitely be easier on your wallet come December. 

Buying gift cards monthly or every pay period is an automatic saver for year-end holiday spending.  These gift cards can be used to purchase Christmas gifts for family and friends or just given as gifts themselves. 

We tell ourselves it is fine, we will worry about it in the New Year. When the New Year comes we are faced with a “financial debt hangover”, where we then spend the entire year trying to pay off our debt, only to do it all over again! Don’t create new damage and repeat the cycle. 

Cicely Jones is the owner of MPA Financials, a Full Service Accounting Firm with 15 years’ experience.  Cicely has a passion to spread knowledge of financial empowerment by educating clients and giving sound financial advice.

Website: http://mpafinancials.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mpafinancials/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mpafinancials


Mom Attends Son’s School for Donuts with Dad

Mom Attends Son’s School for Donuts with Dad

She’s wasn’t going to let her son miss out on Donuts with Dad just because dad isn’t around. Yvette Vasquez from Fort Worth, Texas, made a second trip back home after learning about what was happening has her son’s school, to put on a semi-disguise. She sorta became ‘dad’.

I don’t know about you, but not only was she courageous, but I’m sure her son was just as proud.

Read the full story here! 

Being Prepared

Being Prepared

Being a single mom most times does not afford the luxury of having additional funds, that’s a heavy burden when everything is solely depended on you.  Single mothers carry the responsibility of taking care of the household, paying bills, grocery and clothes for the kids, and just MAYBE trying to save if anything is left. Child Support, Alimony or Government Assistance is not something every single parent receives to help, so it can be hard to be prepared for emergencies and save for a rainy day.

If you don’t have an emergency fund for unplanned events, you’ll most likely have to borrow the money or take money from a responsibility you already have. You know what that means?  That means you’ll end up in more debt!  Building an Emergency Fund will help you from incurring more debt but also create foundation of financially stability.

No two people have the same financial situations so your strategy to build an emergency fund should be catered to just your life.  Most say an emergency fund should be the equivalent of 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses in cash or liquid assets; that consists of paying for housing, food and necessities at least.  Or a better way to decide how much to store in cash is to think about how much of a cushion you would need if you lost employment for a few months.

Budget

To start saving, you must know where your money is going.  So your first step is to create a budget or write down all of your income and all of your expenses for a month.  Having those numbers in front of you will show you exactly where your money is going and the areas that you are spending too much money in. Know your monthly expenses will allow you to calculate your monthly take home pay. If your expenses are more than your income, your priority needs to be getting the two in line. You need to either cut your expenses, earn more money, or do both.

Just start

The most difficult thing at times is starting.  You’re saying, “But I don’t have it.” I’m saying, “Have you tried?”  Just start.  Don’t overthink it. Just start small and do it.  Even if you start with $10-25 every month or every time you are paid, guess what?  If you are diligent, it can add up.  Looking at a huge number of thinking you need a $1,000 saved up is scary and seems farfetched.  But if you change your perspective and break down the savings goal to monthly seeking smaller amounts, it will become easier and less scary to start.       

Save loose change

An easy way to save without much thought is to save loose change.  Ask the family to collectively contribute any loose change from their pockets daily.  To speed up the savings, include loose one and five dollar bills.  Doing this daily will add up but should be your only source of saving.

Plan

Planning is a key component to saving money.  Planning your day, meals, events, trips, etc. can all become cost effective measures that can potentially save you some money vs spending more money.  This can cut down on gas expenses from unnecessary errands and trips, to planning your lunch for work and not eating out wasting money on food.  Planning your meals ahead of time allows you to better plan your grocery list, which will also allow you to not waste funds on unnecessary items in the store. 

Unplanned events are almost guaranteed to happen when least expected.  So having a cash cushion accessible in case of emergencies is important. This may cause for a little sacrifice but it will prepare you for some unforeseen occasions that can cause additional financial strain.  Being a single parent sometimes means it’s all on you. So why don’t you go ahead and be prepared.

Cicely Jones is the owner of MPA Financials, a Full Service Accounting Firm with 15 years’ experience.  Cicely has a passion to spread knowledge of financial empowerment by educating clients and giving sound financial advice. 

Website: http://mpafinancials.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mpafinancials/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mpafinancials

Living Comfortably on a Single Income as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Living Comfortably on a Single Income as a Stay-at-Home Mom

Seems absurd right! Yeah, and so does living paycheck to paycheck seem to be so normal.

It doesn’t have to be that way, yet 71% of moms are in the workforce, and half need an additional income of what they already bring home. Women in the workforce and education levels have increased significantly and this shows that highly skilled women fleeing job opportunities and juggling family are becoming more and more obsolete.

Sarah Titus was left with just $5 to her name, the kids, no gas and homeless when her ex-husband just took off. She had to figure it out all on her own. And she did by selling free items from eBay and Craigslist. She was making $700 a month then $1500. Her inside drive led her to – read the story here!

 

Spring Break and the “Part-Time Dad”

Spring Break and the “Part-Time Dad”

I got pissed. Just like that I went from 0 to 100 real quick. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining bright and after a wonderful church service as we were driving home to get lunch, I looked in my rear view mirror and said to my son, “hey, before we go to the park, let’s call daddy!” Trying my best to inspire excitement at the thought of speaking to his part-time dad, I smiled and exerted happy eyes and the best happy voice I could. “I don’t want to call daddy” said my three year old. Without questioning him on why, I turned my smile upside down into a frown at his statement and said, “we must call daddy as often as possible son, and remember what I said last time about actually talking when he gets on the phone, like a big boy!” I said this with sternness. On the last phone call to his father (and plenty of other calls) I had noticed that my son always acted out of character- pretending like he was a mute or didn’t have words, changing on emotions – seemingly sad or mad when just moments before we were laughing and singing. I attributed the stark difference in his attitude and actions to the fact that well, he simply doesn’t see his father often enough and at age three, he just doesn’t know how to feel about it. Now, some other philosopher may beg to differ or say that a three year old doesn’t have that capacity to think that deeply but I can only go off of my first hand observations. The older my son seems to get, the more aware he is of his lack of connection with his dad.

I jumped into panick mode seeing my son become visibly distraught each time I prodded him with “let’s call daddy”.  After all, my one desire since his birth was for the two to have an undeniable relationship.  It saddened me that the happy go lucky coming of age toddler actually loathed phone interaction with his dad, which made me wonder, now that he’s a little older, how would he take to being sent off to be with his dad one-on-one? It had been 6 months since he last spent real quality time with his dad and at three years old, he hasn’t  spent time with him in his fathers atmosphere (away from mommies house) in this state. Yes, he spent time there as a “baby” and yes his dad could come to our place for a day or so to visit. Now that he has his own mind and can orchestrate thoughts and sentences, he can travel to his father’s city to a) be around his older brothers and b) to see how his father naturally responds and engages in his own environment. I’m always thinking of the small nuances that my son could observe and learn of his father by watching day to day interactions would be helpful to how he views his father and could build lasting impressions that could potentially sustain his connection to his father when they are many miles away.

So the other wise sleeping fire in me FLARED up when I suggested the two take on an impromptu visit over spring break and the idea was shot down.

The two – the son and his father- had been on the phone a good few minutes dialoguing back and forth on the kids experience at church that morning and other topics. The conversation had been going pretty well up until the dad began reprimanding the son on being obedient throughout the week – a conversation that he and I had shared earlier in the week. As they were face timing, I observed the look on the son’s face as his fathers voice became stern, reminding him that he would get in trouble if he did not listen. I appreciated the reminder, as my son had been getting out of hand lately, but his timing was dead awful.

The episode his father was speaking of took place days prior in which my son lashed out into an uncontrollable toddler fit. Again, this was days ago, hence it was the furthest thing from my three years olds mind. This was the first time the two had spoken this week. So my son was oblivious to why dad was getting on him. Immediately his body language and facial expressions changed. He was ready to get off the phone. His eyes immediately went down. “Do you hear me son” his dad said. The son was quiet. “Do you hear me!” His dad asked again. “Yes ma’am.” He said to his father. “I’m not a ma’am, I’m a sir.” His father corrected him. I allowed their exchange to finish before I reared my face on the FaceTime. I usually never show my face. I leave it as an interaction between the two. Only on occasion will my voice from back chime in with information when it’s needed like when his father asks for clarity on something and my son doesn’t have the answer.

Sensing my sons uncomfortability, and noting his earlier reaction to my suggestion to call his father, it came to me that maybe this was why he didn’t like calling his father. It seemed that each time he was on the phone, there was a disciplining moment, his father attempting to portray authority, but there was not often enough an “off-set” moment. What I mean by that is traditionally, a father is in the household or physically available full time by being in proximity. The fact that my son lives states away from his dad and only engages him part time from a distance (voice over the phone or FaceTime) it could seem that my son sees his father in a potentially negative or passive light. I didn’t like the thought that came to me as I replayed my sons response, “I don’t want to call daddy.” With the the look now on his face as he was reprimanded. It dawned on me: “he doesn’t have enough positive reinforcement – physical or emotional interactions with his father.” Not only that, he can’t reach out and touch or hug his father later on after an argument like he does mommy, so no, most times he isn’t happy to “call” daddy.

My mind immediately went to a previous note that I had give. His father, “he really needs to see you soon.” I had just texted that to his father a week prior so hence today’s suggestion popped up in response to my mommy intuition: lHey what are you doing this week for spring break?” I asked. I had been meaning to ask him a week or so prior to this point but never got around to coordinating it. But what the heck I figured. “Do you have plans this week, MondayFriday?” I asked.
I got Cedrick this week he said, why what’s up?” He answered. I was thinking maybe I could bring the little one up there for a few days. I said. ” I got Ced and have to take him out of town with me in a few days because his moms out of town. I mean this is last minute.”

My sons father travels regularly so that was nothing new, and having his first born son Ced with him was nothing new either, in fact they live in the same city and he has him often – even picks him up from school regularly. I could agree that this “thought to fly his youngest son to see him” during spring break was last minute but yet I was pissed at his response. I was pissed at the undertone that my son would be an inconvenience because he had his other son for a few days and that he has to take him out of town with him. Bullshit I’m feeling. This was a bullshitish reply, point blank period. Whatever went thru his mind when he said it, it was the wrong thing to say, in my mind. “That’s fine, I know it’s last minute, we’ll just plan it better for another time.” I responded. Unsure if it was the irritated look that took over my face or my rushed tone to get him off the phone now that had him double thinking. “Well u can go ahead and bring him if you have time.” He said. It was too late, my temperature had already been spiked. “Nope, that’s ok. I responded. We’ll go somewhere else.”

With SXSW here in Texas, friends and family were asking for us to come down to spend time.

“What do you mean y’all will just go somewhere else. His father asked. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll better plan and bring him another time. I have to go. I said, “Tell your dad bye son.”
It sucks being a single mom having to coordinate with a long-distance part time dad. Was I wrong to get upset at the undertones of his reply? Maybe. But it’s an everyday struggle to balance communication, schedules and the emotional well being of a child. My prayer is that we all get better by and by. SXSW- Austin, TX here we come!

Question for other mommy’s: What would you have done? How would you have responded? Let Sky know your thoughts! @ispyskyhouston@gmail.com