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Shadow's From the Past
Learning your new spouse in a second marriage.

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Balancing discipline in a
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Expecting the Unexpected


Making Finances Add up as a Single Parent

     Are you pinching pennies so tightly you can hear Abe Lincoln cry for mercy? Does your week stretch out longer than your dollars? Adding up your finances as a single parent is tough enough, but the pressure can be especially taxing emotionally when your child is involved in school activities. Sometimes good news for your teen is dampened by the nagging question in our minds: How am I going to pay for this?


     For example, Jennifer came home elated over the news that she was chosen to be a sophomore homecoming maid. Over the next week, she and her friends browsed through dress catalogs, talked about which salon did the best "up-do's," and examined all the cute shoes and accessories that would complete a fabulous look. When she finally presented me with a picture of the "perfect" dress, all I could think about was my $22 checking account balance and how I could pay for everything.


     Many single parents are faced with similar dilemmas as their teens make the football team, cheerleading squad, band, or gymnastics team. Even mission trips can cause stress. We want to give our children the best, but just paying the basic bills stretches our pocketbooks to the max. 


     God tells us in James 1:5, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. So I began asking God for the wisdom to meet this need without crushing my daughter emotionally.


      God answered my prayers by bringing a friend to mind. Lucy had three daughters who had graduated, but they were the same size as Jennifer and had gone to all the proms and school functions. Thrilled at Jennifer's good news, Lucy offered to let Jennifer "shop" in her store of several prom dresses for just the right one to wear on her big night. She even had shoes, handbags, and wraps to match!


     We never could have afforded the one she picked; and because the dresses were so pretty, Jennifer never felt the least bit slighted. After Jennifer and her friends did her hair, makeup, and nails my daughter was the loveliest lady in the homecoming court?and none of it cost me a dime!


     There are ways to make your finances add up by applying wisdom, balance, and discipline. Raising teenagers as a single parent can actually be exciting and fun. The key is not allowing the financial pressure to steal the joy of the moment. God tells us to seek Him first and He will provide the things we need (Matt. 6:33).


     As a single parent, I had to be creative as well as practical.  Listed below are a few ideas to help you with everyday living as well as those unexpected expenses you can expect when parenting teens.


Everyday Living Expenses

  •     Get set up on a budget.  If money and math aren't one of your strong points, seek out someone in your church to help you.  Your pastor can probably recommend someone who is trustworthy and who would be willing to help without charge.
  •     If possible, budget a small amount for your teen's activities. This fund will add up and relieve the pressure when you need to pay for pictures, equipment, uniforms, and other special activity needs.
  •     Resist the temptation to charge the unexpected expenses. Instead, look for creative ways to meet the need.


Teen Activity Expenses

  •     Limit activities to one per child. By allowing your child to choose one activity a season, you can control the finances without cutting out all the fun.
  •     Look for sponsors when your child is involved in a costly activity. Your teens can send letters explaining the activity, their involvement, and the financial need to family members and friends. 
  •     When a large sum is needed, ask your teen to help raise the money. You'll be surprised at how much they can earn doing odd jobs, baby-sitting, or dog walking.
  •     Prom dresses are usually only worn once. Get the ladies of the church to include all their daughters' dresses in a borrowing exchange. This will save everyone money and get the value out of those dresses.
  •     Renting tuxes for prom can get expensive too. Ask rental places for the simple black  jacket. They cost far less and work just as well with black slacks. Some places offer a free tux when you rent four or five at regular price. Gather the guys together and either allow one to go with the free tux or spread out the cost among the group.
  •     Beauty colleges offer low cost hair styling and manicures. You also can make an appointment for a free makeup makeover at some stores.  Naturally, they want to sell their makeup, but there is no obligation.


     To relieve some stress, budget in a little extra time just for you and your teen.  An inexpensive way to communicate love to your teen is to invite the gang over for popcorn and a movie.


     Always pray for wisdom in all your decisions. Be realistic and disciplined in your spending, and enjoy your teens while they are with you. Adulthood and independence are just a few short years away. 


The Two Shall Become One


     Blending two financial minds into one can be another challenge. Before two families blend, they need to be on the same page when it comes to money. Here are a few tips to make the merger go a little easier.


  •      Prioritize. Align your financial goals with your spiritual values. If you want to see what is important to a person, take a look at his or her checking account. Weigh your values against your spending.


  •      Communicate. Discuss the things that are important to both of you. That will help you make financial decisions without offending each other.    


  •      Compromise. Put everything?the bills, the assets, and all your expectations of each other?on the table. Talk about how to approach them as a new team. Each of you bring habits and patterns for spending into your marriage; blending those mind-sets will come through compromise. 


  •      Plan. By disciplining yourself to live on a budget, you will greatly reduce the money related stresses in your new marriage and family.


  •      Cooperate. Allow your teens and younger children an opportunity to contribute ideas to your family's financial planning. Consider their ideas for vacations, outings, and purchases. The more your kids are included in these discussions, the more they will feel like this is their family.
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