Whether you're married with children or single and with/without children, your future should be buttressed by a sound financial structure. Life has a way of beating you up from time to time, so it's important to have a reasonable plan for handling finances. The idea is to find a happy medium between what is necessary to survive and what will enhance the quality of your life. If you try to do without either, life becomes strained, and when life becomes strained it can create rifts between you and the people you love. "Comfortable" is a nice place to shoot for.
That means your monthly payments do NOT exceed your income, and you can put away a small (or even large) amount for that rainy day, kid's college fund, retirement fund, etc.
That sounds pretty simplistic, and it is, but the trick is get serious about it, and search out creative ways of making do with what you have, using up what you have, and just maybe not having so much of what you have.
For help in reducing your debt load, or getting ahead of the game, do a websearch using 'tightwad' or 'budget planner' or similar terms. You probably have some sort of budget planning program on your computer now. Or just pick up a pen and write your income in one column and your monthly expenditures in the other. Then start figuring out where you can cut down. If you're already cut to the bone, then you especially need to explore the tightwad and freebies sites. You also need to learn how to say 'no' to, or compromise with yourself (and with your kids!). Kids especially can be hard on the family budget. They want the best and they want it yesterday, and parents feel guilty if they can't provide it, so they put themselves in hock to give the kids something they might show an interest in for all of a week. Parents have been brain-washed into thinking their kids should have more than they did. Why? Maybe you had too much as a kid. Think about it. And if you had to wait for something, then it built character and taught you patience. There are creative ways to encourage a child's interests without actually having to draw out the smoking credit card and fan the embers into flames that will bring your financial empire (however big that might be) to a crashing halt.
How much money you have and at what economic level you will exist for the rest of your life isn't the issue. The point is management of those resources, whatever they are. We can actually be happy and fulfilled and achieve more in life, no matter the yearly income, if we establish a sound fiscal policy at the beginning. If finances get out of hand and the debt load is more than the income can handle, then it takes years of sacrifice and struggle to make it right again. Many relationships can't survive the intensity of this struggle.
Whether you plan on a single full time income as in the case of stay-at-home-moms (sahm's), or a single full time and perhaps an additional part time job with mother's hours, you need to set priorities. There used to be a great website full of help in managing personal finances, but alas, it's no longer functioning. I plan to keep looking for another, but if you find one before I do, please let me know.
Once you have a good handle on your financial resources, it's time to look around the house. What does it look like? Is it cluttered? Due for a major cleaning? Is it...(gasp)...boring? (oh not that!). To look at the inside of your home is to look at the inside of your mind...oh yes...that's true. When the job looks overwhelming, start in one small space and work outward from there. We have a tendency to collect "things" and pretty soon we're playing host to an assortment of "treasures" we either don't need any longer or don't want and are probably wishing we had that money back. Unless we develop a system of our own in dealing with household maintenance chores, it can become old, boring and sometimes overwhelming very quickly. If you need help and tips on getting organized with a view to enjoying your home...again, I repeat...search the web. It's all out there.
ABOVE ALL...BE ORGANIZED...HAVE A SYSTEM
I like to start in the kitchen. One cupboard at a time, one drawer at a time...cleaning them out, discarding what I don't need and being particularly cruel to myself at times by writing down (as I go along) how many of this and that I actually own. Besides being immensely useful for insurance purposes, this list is a stunning eye opener. Glancing at it keeps me from buying anything else remotely like it, or else convinces me that there must be a better tool on the market to replace 5 or 6 of these gadgets that are taking up space. Once I get the kitchen organized and scrubbed down at least I know exactly where all my cleaning supplies are. Then I'm ready to tackle the next room...after I've rested a couple of days to take notes on exactly what it is I hope to achieve in the rest of the house. I do the same thing as I go from room to room...make a list, discard anything I no longer want or find useless. The discards are either given away, put into a yard sale, or sent to the trash bin. Keep those boxes of discards around for about a month until you're really, really sure you don't want them. You may find it easy to be heartless with yourself on one day and then realize a week later that you just can't part with a sentimental favorite. Keep the sentimental ones...they're important. There are many charitable organizations that will gladly take your discards of still useful items. It takes me about a month to do one of these major reorganizing efforts and then I look closely at my furnishings such as curtains, linens, bedspreads etc. with an eye to condition and color schemes.
Fancy Smancy with Meaning
A home is not just a place to hang your hat. It's your own personal "sacred space", your "womb", the "den", the haven of safety you need to survive in this world. If you've just moved out to be on your own, then it will take some years to settle into a style that is uniquely your own...country casual, Victorian (acres of lace), modern (straight lines and monotones), or eclectic (this is the "hey! I-like-what-I-like" style of decorating).
Whatever your style, color schemes are vital to the overall feeling of "home" to each individual. Twelve years ago I chose offwhite for the walls, silvery pale green for the countertop and light peach for the curtains in my kitchen. I have never grown tired of the combination. When the room needs repainting...which kitchens do more often than any other room in the house...I choose a different stencil to use in strategic spots around the room. I have even used a border around the entire room near the ceiling on occasions. Stenciling is easy and inexpensive and a great way to personalize a room.
(These two sites will show you: How-to Stencil and Stenciling with cream paints).
We spend a lot of time in the kitchen out of necessity...everyone has to eat and we need to cook. It's a place we want to be if the ambiance is right. A kitchen should be set up by organization and color scheme to be inviting us into it to experiment with great recipes, to sit with our feet up with a steaming mug of coffee at our side while we read the paper, watch the birds outside our window or just enjoy the sound of silence for a few moments. It should inspire our creative senses. No matter what else your children will remember, it will be Mom in the kitchen and great cookies and meals that will always give them the "warm, fuzzy" memories later in their lives. Trust me, they rarely appreciate Mom-the-chauffeur, Mom-the-laundress, Mom-the-house cleaner. It's Mom-the-nurturer that stays with them.
If you took that inventory of your kitchen tools, you now know that you have plenty of everything or maybe you lack a few things. Start making a list of decorating ideas and things you would like to add to your working kitchen to make it a great personal space for creativity, family times around the table and a general feeling of warmth, safety and love both for the kids and the mate and for yourself. I've used the kitchen as an example since it is the hub of the household, but all of this applies to each of the other rooms of your house. Household decorating does not have to be expensive ...check the craft page here for my own personal ideas on household decorating. Ideas that I have developed over nearly 40 years of marriage. Showing that age and experience do eventually count for something.
I must admit that household decorating is a lot of fun...a lot of work sometimes...but definitely rewarding.
Create the world around you in your own image...define your space...make it a place which cheers you, comforts you, and says 'home'.
© 1998 & 2002 by Ernestina Parziale