In the matter of money, the thing I’ve learned most, is that money matters.
I use to think that a penny was just a penny and a dime was just a dime. I use to reason, “Oh, it’s just five bucks; I can spend it on a coffee.” I use to think that five, ten, or twenty dollars wouldn’t make me or break me. However, when it is all accumulated, it pays the mortgage; or the car note; or the water bill; or purchases my son’s school lunch.
All too often, I was juggling bills from month to month. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul. The funny thing is, with that mind set, I still couldn’t understand why I was always short on cash. I use to think I needed to make one hundred more dollars on my paycheck. “If I could just bring one hundred more dollars home a week, I’ll be in good shape to pay my bills comfortably.” I didn’t reason that the little bit here and the little bit there that I was spending – just a penny – could be adding up to just the right amount I needed to make ends meet. In actuality, it’s not the size of your paycheck; it’s what you do with it that counts.
I realized I had to do something to rectify my situation. I was so tired of living on the edge of my wallet. Gradually, I started implementing little things that I could do. I made In and Out columns for my cash flow. The In column was the amount of money I brought home on my paycheck. The Out column listed all the bills I pay in one month. When I put it on paper, I actually had one hundred dollars a week beyond what was needed to pay my bills. Well, what do you know…there is the additional one hundred dollars I thought I needed to make on my paycheck. With that handy dandy tool, I tried to “budget”. I can only spend this much a week – for whatever – after the bills are paid. Sounds like a winning plan; however, I didn’t factor in EMERGENCIES!
The year 2011 proved to be my breaking point and my wake-up call for ‘get it together’. That was the year that my air conditioning unit in my house stopped working – $365; the air conditioning/heating element in my car went – $250.00; my car tires were bald and dangerous – $380.00; the breaks on my car wore down – rotors and all – $650.00. Finally, the catastrophic pièce de résistance that catapulted me into ruins, almost – at the same time, taught me a lot about faith -was the failure of the torte converter in my car – a whopping $1,300.00.
What in the world!?!?! I didn’t know what I was going to do. I certainly didn’t have that money. Let me set the scene and help you understand why this could be so devastating. First of all, I didn’t have the money. It would cost me two and a half paychecks to get it repaired; a.k.a., three weeks to get my car back. Secondly, I live 50 plus miles from my job. I drive an hour each day to and from work – two hours. If I don’t have the money to fix my car, I can’t drive to work; if I can’t drive to work, I can’t make money to fix my car…see where I’m going with this? Not to mention, take care of all my other obligations.
Someone advised me to call my creditors, immediately; so, I did. I contacted my car financier and explained the situation. The customer service gentleman graciously told me that I am eligible for a two month deferment. He informed me that I was all set for the next two months. Then I called the bank that loaned me money for my house purchase. They said they could not do anything. They did not allow deferments. Well, I stressed over it, but what could I do but get the car fixed, pay as I could, and hope for the best.
Now here is where my faith escalated to another level. It’s times like these when God puts people in your life that can really make a difference. My son was able to stay with my daughter-in-law, who got him on the school bus every morning. I stayed with someone, who drove me to work every day. I was able to get my car repaired in two weeks because a dear friend gifted me the last $100.00 that I needed.
The car was fixed, and I was back in business, but not without serious repercussions. Things seemed to be looking up, and then I got mail! You are overdue on your car payment. You are way overdue on your mortgage. I called my car creditor again, “I was told that I had a two month deferment.” “No,” they said, “The representative never put it through. He cannot just approve it over the phone. It goes through management.” Okay, so, I asked them to try again and submit my request via the proper channels.
I called back about a week later to check on it – it was NOT approved!
Here is where faith comes in…the representatives name that I got on the phone was Diamond – and, boy, was he a diamond in the rough. He said, “You’ve been with us for four years. You should be approved for this request. I will try again. I’ll write a ‘novel’ in your behalf to get you approved.” I graciously thanked him. So, the following week, I called back to see if I was approved. “Yes, Ms. Bradfield, you have been approved for a two month deferment.” Yea, how wonderful!
Now, my mortgage lenders were not so forgiving. I had to really do something to catch my payments up, or else!
Let me just sidetrack right here for a moment. All the stress I was under, I kept hidden from my 10 year old son. He was untouched, living his little life from day to day and just believing and trusting in Mom – no worries and no cares. WOW! Keep that in mind.
Okay, think…think. I am NOT going to lose my house. This is mine and my son’s home. It belongs to us, and we are not going anywhere. That was my attitude – my thought process – coupled with much prayer.
It came up into my heart to call my 401K provider. I had to withdraw for hardship, the amount that I owed my lender. Thank God, it was available to me. With that, I figured I would be paid up by the allotted time that was given me – by the skin of my teeth. To my surprise, I was all caught up approximately three weeks earlier than I anticipated. It was such a relief and such a blessing!
Now, we are alive and well, financially. Everything is caught up, and things are better than before this all happened.
Below are some tips on money matters that I believe will help you:
1.) Work – Work hard and work smart. Make a decent living and utilize your talents. I believe that everyone was created with special gifts. I work full-time as a Customer Service Representative; however, I’ve earned a little on the side by having a Salon at one point. I’m a hair stylist, and I can always fall back on that, if need be. I also am a writer and do that on the side. I have authored two books and plan to write and publish lots more. Find your niche and incorporate that to support or supplement your income. Volunteer O.T. as much as possible. It really does help; BUT, not at the expense of leaving your child, too much. Be balanced.
2.) Don’t Live Beyond Your Means – Yes, it is okay to treat yourself and your child once in a while, but after the bills have been paid. There are inexpensive things that you can do with your child, such as go to the bookstores – look around, have a snack, purchase a book (that’s one of our favorites); go to the library; go to the park; get ice cream; and the list goes on and on. Certainly, don’t try to keep up with the Jones’ – you’ll follow them right into a pit. Listen carefully here – be content with what you have, and you will receive more.
3.) Plan and Budget – Yes, plan your month and budget your funds; however, be flexible because things can change in an instant. Remember, I budgeted to catch up with my bills, but God had another plan – a better one. I was caught up three weeks earlier. He worked it out that way. So, if things change, don’t panic and don’t be rigid. Trust, and things will work out perfectly.
4.) Know When Your Bills are Due - Have you ever come home from work only to find that your lights won’t go on? If it’s happened to me, it’s happened to others. Not that I couldn’t pay it, but being a single mom, you are juggling so many things that you may drop the ball once in a while. Yes, you may forget to pay the light bill! Now, I write the date on my desk calendar at work – the Friday before it is due – and pay it. That works great.
5.) Pay on Time - Paying your bills “on time” is so important. If you don’t, your credit gets shot. Not only that, you are constantly paying late fees that are exhausting funds that can be used for other bills or recreation. NEVER pay more than you have to pay! It becomes a vicious cycle, and you lose so much. Do an experiment. Add up all the late fees you pay in a given month and look at the total. Are your eyes clued to the $ amount you see? Wow! That’s a lot of “extra” cash you could have used elsewhere, right? If you can pay two weeks late, then you can make adjustments to pay two weeks prior – on time.
6.) Give to Others - I use to reason, “Once I start making lots more money, I will be able to give to others more; I will be able to do more with my grandchildren; I will be able to buy something for someone, if it comes up into my heart.” WRONG! Do it now! Right now! Don’t be afraid to give. You can’t go broke for giving. It is better to give, than it is to receive. There is a reason for that Scripture. Just do so, and you will see the benefits.
7.) Utilize Consignment Shops - I started bringing clothes that my son and I no longer wear – you know children outgrow their clothes so quickly – to a consignment shop. They sell your clothing items and you get 40% of the profits. You probably won’t get rich, but it is a big help in supplementing your income. It’s great to use for gas money and other small items that we need. One of my co-workers checked on her balance once, and there was $93.00 in her account. What a great way to purchase your children’s clothes by using the proceeds from selling their older clothes. Also, you can find some good items in there to purchase. I bought an adorable purse for $5.00! Something to think about.
8.) It’s Not the Size of Your Paycheck – Don’t be so concerned with the size of your paycheck, as much as how you handle it. By implementing good practices, your paycheck can stretch further than you could ever imagine. Do you remember the two fish and five loaves of bread that fed a multitude?
9.) Don’t be Obsessed with Money – I was always obsessed with having enough money to have all my needs met. I worried, constantly about being broke. Guess what, the very condition that you ponder on, is the condition that befalls you. For example, say you worry and worry about gaining weight. That’s all you can think about all the time. Well, you end up gaining weight, and you can’t control your eating habits because you are constantly thinking about it. It’s the same with money… worrying that you won’t have enough, actually causes that to occur in your life. Instead, know that your bills will be paid. Know that you will have enough to meet your needs and beyond. That brings me to my number 10 tip.
10.) Pray and Believe – When all my monetary emergencies fell upon me, I prayed differently than I ever had prior. Usually, my prayer would go something like this, “Dear God, please help me make more money; so, I can pay my bills, in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” Didn’t work so great. This time, I prayed like this, “Dear God, please help me get all my bills paid on time this month, in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” The results – all my bills were paid “on time” that month. Remember earlier, I mentioned how my son had faith on how he would be taken care of by me… no worries? Well, we are told not to worry about tomorrow regarding what we will eat or what we will wear. We are also told to be as a child. When we pray for help or guidance, we need to believe – have confidence – that our prayer will be answered. We need not worry is my point. We are not in this alone. I once confided in a friend and informed them that I didn’t feel as though I was a very good provider for my son – even though his basic needs were met. Don’t think that because you can’t buy your child every new electronic device that comes out, you are not a good provider. His response, “You are a great provider. You provide 110%!” Well, in hearing that, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I knew that it was God who carried the 100% and me the 10%. All I have to do is “show up” – work and do my very best – and my Heavenly Father makes everything else fall into place.
I hope – no, I know – that these tips will be helpful to you. I am confident.
I stumbled upon these tips, gradually – mostly by trial and error; so, you can put them into practice, gradually; BUT, the quicker you do, the quicker you’ll find relief from your financial woes.
And, you can take that to the bank!
Written by Alice Monterio