I've been a single parent for 12 years. I've lived on a welfare benefit, worked part-time with a small baby and toddler, gone back to school, got a degree and now work as a teacher. My sons are now both teenagers. They were part of the spending problem, mainly because I let them be.
The first thing I did when I reviewed my budget was to sort out my bills, debts, and make some financial goals, then I looked at where my money was going. It was going mainly on a mortgage, which I don't mind, but it was also going on food, and fast food. My excuse was that I was a full-time working single parent and I deserved some nights off cooking, blah blah blah.
I had lived on a benefit before, and I was an extremely good budgeter out of necessity. I was able to feed myself and my children on special allergy diets very well and was able to save a very small amount for emergencies. It changed when I started working and had more disposable income.
This is what I did. I banked into a savings account 20% of my take home pay. I took out all the cash I needed for the fortnight according to my budget, when it was gone I went without. Goodbye ATM's. My goal was to reduce our food budget by 10% every week until it was down to $80 a week, including feeding a cat and large dog. I think there is still improvement there, but I know in time I'll get there. I started a money journal and write down everything I spend. This stopped my impulse shopping straight away as well as my little treats I thought I needed throughout the week.
My sons then got a monthly allowance. I found that I was subsidizing several other children's bus journeys by my sons paying for them on the school bus using their bus tickets. Now that they have to pay for the tickets with their allowances, this has stopped. Miraculously, so have the lost stationery, fast food wants and requests for junk food. I have gotten my wise spenders and savers back.
Yes, sometimes it is hard, but I can see my goal at the end. I have put a deposit on cheap airfares to Australia to visit family, and they will be paid off slowly in a few months. It is worth it. I feel a freedom I haven't felt for years. I am in control of my money not the other way around.
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it to MyStory@stretcher.com
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