By Krisi Davis
We have all heard that you cannot serve both God and money and understand how important that directive is. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”
One of the most important titles in your job description as a single parent is that of the CFO, Chief Financial Officer. As a single parent you are the financial head of your household and that is a big job! The responsibility to budget, establish a financial plan and be a role model of fiscal management to your children is a role that you now have, and will hopefully embrace.
The biggest struggle that I experienced during my journey as a Christian single parent was that of trying to make ends meet. I knew that financial management was not the strongest element of my parenting repertoire and committed to pray for wisdom before every bank deposit. Sitting in my car, holding the deposit envelope, I would ask God for wisdom and direction on how to spend, what to save and how to prioritize.
The first 10% of my income is a tithe. My children and I decide together where the tithe goes; church, Salvation Army, Red Cross etc…Enlisting their participation in the tithing process is an important way to model tithing for them and let them see where the money goes. The pastor of our church has said on more than one occasion that if you come to the end of the month and are unable to pay your bills because of the amount that you tithed, to come to him and he will return the tithe amount. God is an amazing provider and we have never had to make that request!
The remaining 90% of my income is up to me to disperse. As a single parent, I was tempted to try to show my love for my children with money. I believed that they deserved the best of everything and that the latest widget on the market would make them feel important and valued. The reality is that children don’t equate love with money. Children feel loved when we cherish them emotionally, treat them with respect and dignity, and spend our time on them.
Once I learned how to love my children with time instead of money, the finances became easier to manage. I prepared a financial budget and shared aspects of it with them and as they grew older, I shared more. The motivation to share the family budget with my children was to bind us closer together and allow for them to participate in our financial success.
My daughter loves clothes and my son loves video games. Instead of feeling pressured every time we left the house to buy these for them, I set an amount available for purchase each month and included it on the budget which I prepared on a wipe off board and posted on the refrigerator. Tracking the expenses with my children gave them an important job- they began to budget themselves! They always knew the amounts available in their categories and began acquiring the skills needed to make sound decision and prioritize expenses- lessons that I hope will serve as foundations to their financial futures. I watched with such satisfaction as they looked at items they would have once begged to have, but decided not to purchase.
Sunday afternoon is a special family time for us. We love to go out to lunch after church and enjoy a time of relaxation together. During our lunch we recap highlights of the past week and plan out the next week. Our household budget for ‘entertainment’ is $100 a month and is included in the wipe-off board budget so we always know how much is in that category. We work together to plan our weekly outings using coupons, 2 for 1 offers or specials to make the most of our money. Whatever is left over at the end of the month goes into a special fund that I use once a year to go to an amusement park or other special outing.
I’ve applied this same approach to vacations, birthday parties, movies etc… Money goes much further when you can realize the cost savings available through coupons, specials, certificates etc…
Both of my children are very involved in sports. I believe sports are an important part of childhood and that the skills learned from playing on a team will serve them well in life. Playing a team sport is helpful in learning to work with others, strategize effectively and learn a skill. As a parent, you will acquire some of these skills in budgeting for this expense! There is often a cost simply to play the sport on top of which you will need to purchase equipment, uniforms, shoes, photographs and contribute toward team parties and fundraisers. I learned early on in this process that purchasing equipment, uniforms and shoes immediately before the start of the season was not a good plan as that is when everything is at its peak price. I pick up shoes and gear at the end of the season and keep it for next year. If you know that your child loves soccer or baseball keep a running supply of socks, shorts and supplies on hand and buy them as they go on the end of season sale. The parents in our community work together to pass equipment on as their children outgrow it and are committed to donating sports uniforms, equipment and shoes whenever possible.
I know the biggest financial hurdle was tackled when I stopped using the words “want” and “need” interchangeably. For example, the sentence “I need to go to the mall and buy a new outfit” is very different from “I want to go to the mall and buy a new outfit”. Say both out loud and listen for the difference. When you say “I want to go to the mall and buy a new outfit” there is an implied “but” may follow as you consider whether the finances are available to do so. This simple exchange of words began to make a conscious difference for me as I became aware of what were ‘needs’ and what were ‘wants’.
As I began to realize success in this area, I started to heighten my children’s awareness to the difference between wants and needs. God promises to take care of our needs, he never promised a new wardrobe for each season!
I pray that you will ask God to provide clarity over the issues of finance in your life. Pray for spiritual awareness about wants and needs and watch what happens in your life.
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