5 Major Financial Mistakes We Make Daily
Money is always tight when you're a single working mother. We still make financial decisions that put us in an even more vulnerable position and doesn't set us up for rising above our current situation.
1. Buying Fast Food for Lunch
The operative word for a single mother each morning is, 'rush'. We don't have time to prepare lunch, so we rush out the door and worry about it later. Lunch can be very expensive, especially if we opt to buy it every day. We justify our choices by resting on the fact that we need to eat. Since we have to eat, we have to buy food, and for that moment in time, our only goal is to satisfy our hunger. We decide that we'll worry about it tomorrow. The problem is that we don't plan for tomorrow, we delay our worry until tomorrow.
Prepared lunches can be very expensive; a slice of pizza, even if it's just one slice can break the bank. It can cost between $4 or $5 dollars for one slice and of course you need something to wash it down. Salads are even more expensive and can easily cost somewhere between $9 and $11 dollar for mostly iceberg lettuce is in-fact supper cheap to buy at the grocery store. It all add ups. If you're spending between $7 and $15 daily for lunch, plus the coffee you purchased on the way to work; and depending on where made your purchase, you could spend $18 dollars a day.
That's a whopping $90 a week or $360 for the month! That's more than all my utility bills combined. This is costing you an arm and a leg. Taking the time to plan your lunch menu on the weekend before shopping for the week, and prepare your lunch either in the evenings or waking up a little earlier to do it, will not only save your waistline, but your pockets.
2. Buying Ready-Made Food for Dinner
I can't lie, I used to do this all the time, especially on the weekends. Who has time to cook dinner every day when you're arriving home close to 7 pm daily and having sat in traffic for 45 minutes prior to arriving home? I didn't have the energy to cook, and there was even a time when I stopped cooking altogether. I went semi-raw vegan (I didn't subject my kids to this dietary experiment) for a year and decided that cooking wasn't necessary.
Not cooking gave me a lot of freedom because I only ate a handful of things as a vegan. I often grazed on little things here and there, ate leftovers which meant eating the same thing all week long. The beginning and middle of the week was easy because they got the bulk of their nutrition from whatever they ate at school. Whenever they weren't in school, I opted to buy fast foods such as pizza, burgers, and other grab and run foods. They didn't mind bec
ause they didn't want to eat the copious amounts of tasteless greens, rice and beans I ingested.
I don't have to say that this wasn't the best idea. Buying fast food became a major expense. If you're ever wondering where your money is going, look at his category. I only did it once or twice a week, but even if I'm buying 'real' chicken at Chick Fila, it still cost me upwards of $16 dollars for 2 meals. I could've made chicken dinners for the entire week for that price, and with fries! It was saving a lot of energy from not cooking every day, but I was paying dearly for the convenience of not having to cook, and not just financially.
My kids were getting used to eating processed, sugar laden, nutritionally deficient meals and I couldn't reverse the damage. I created little sugar monsters, and they soon had no interest in eating anything else but pre-packaged fast foods.
3. Regularly buying stuff to reward yourself
As single mothers, we do A LOT, and sometimes we get no love for it. We may even feel like our kids take us for granted. We do so much for them, put them first and we get nothing in return. Is it wrong to reward ourselves for all the hard work we're doing daily?
There's nothing wrong with treating yourself to something you want and not need from time to time. It becomes a problem if the rewards are happening too frequently. We don't need a new impressive blouse every week so we can look fresh at work.
Sure that new blouse made you feel great that day, but how did you feel the next day? How did you feel when the electricity bill arrived in the mail you had to choose between eating that week and paying the bill?
These little decisions will not permanently harm your financial future, but a series of small setbacks can lead to a major financial disaster.
4. Wasting Time and Energy
'Time is Money', ' You Reap What You Sow', you've all heard these clichés. So, how are you spending your time? Why? Because time is a commodity. Your most likely selling your time for money and you're reaping the rewards for only those times when you're actively selling your time. The rest of the time, you may breathe a sigh of relief that you did the time and now it's time to rest, but the problem is that you may not be quality using that time. It doesn't have to mean that you're making money every minute of the day, but that you're using your energy wisely and paying it forward.
Examples using your energy wisely are: cooking a nutritious meal for dinner; helping child/children with homework; working on a project that will reap financial rewards, reading to increase knowledge and competencies, cleaning up to avoid compounding chores. Examples of wasting time are: going shopping after work, watching tv for hours after arriving home until bedtime.
Not Tracking Your Spending
I firmly believe that we should run a home like you're running your own business. In my twenties and early thirties, I was very lackadaisical with my money. I never kept track of my spending and would often get caught at the register with insufficient funds. I got a little wiser and started calling the bank prior to making any transactions, but this only helped a little. I endured monthly overdraft fees other fees to where I started viewing them as an expense. This strategy and attitude kept me poor and hopeless until a nice man from the bank gave me a little advice.
While I was arguing with him, saying that I cannot keep $100 in my account at all times, he suggested that I separate my monthly expenses from my personal expense. I go into more details in '10 Financial Tips for Single Mothers'. This small change made a huge impact, but I took it a little further than that. In the old days, I used to jot down the amount of money I had in my bank account and what bills I need to pay in a notebook or piece of paper. I never thought of doing anything as sophisticated as using a spreadsheet, even though I used it occasionally at work.
I setup a budget in a spreadsheet at first because I wanted to figure out how I could pay off my credit cards. Once I really started looking into my spending, it was an eye opener and I realized why I couldn't hold on to money and always came up short when I needed to pay my bills. First, my daily coffee habit which included the weekends was a major concern. I could've made coffee at home and take it to work with me, but a part of my habit was not just drinking the coffee, but stopping for the coffee. It was a part of my routine and it was hard to shake. Second, my inability to plan how I would allocate my paycheck had me in panic mode by week two when I realized that I had another week and a half to go until my next paycheck, and I barely had enough money to fill up my gas tank.