How to be financially self-reliant as a single parent

Rearing two sons has taught me many temporal and spiritual lessons. The counsel in D&C 88:119 has helped the three of us these past seven years concerning our family finances. We have learned the following:

Pray daily as a family for guidance from your Heavenly Father. Believe that with His help you can do it. Have faith. Rely on the Lord.- Prepare for every needful thing. Prioritize your spending needs, such as tithing, rent, utilities, food, clothing, etc. Put extra money in savings. Leave it there. Even little bits add up.

Pay tithing first with faith, no matter what! The Lord will provide in blessings more than the value of your tithing.

Clear all credit debts as soon as you can. Don't take on more. Don't carry excessive amounts of cash in your wallet. It tends to get spent before you realize it.

Beware of excess Christmas time spending. Instead of costly gifts, ask the Lord in fasting and prayer, "Who can we serve?" Then give something of your talents and abilities to them.

Make your home a house of order. Ask yourself if you are tempted to buy something out of your priorities, "If the Savior were here today, would He need this?" If not, chances are you don't either.

Realize that if you are having trouble paying your bills, you can contact the company or person affected. Don't wait. Most times alternate arrangements can be made.

Be humble; forsake pride. Ask the appropriate Church leaders for guidance or opportunities to learn better ways to live within your means.

Involve the whole family in some form. Children appropriately may not decide what specifically gets paid, but they can be involved in understanding what the process is. As they get older, they can have a more active role in the decisions.

Recognize and be thankful for the Spirit in our lives. Gratitude is a great gift to our Heavenly Father who gave us so much. After all, He gave us everything - even His Son. - Debora Dooley, Center Barnstead, N.H.

Additional Information

How we did it

Cut down spending

Re-examine your lifestyle. Figure out what areas you can change in order to cut down on spending. Most utilities such as the gas company or electric company have free booklets available with great tips on how to be more efficient. Use a crock pot when you don't want to heat up the house, or hang the clothes up to dry on a sunny day.

Better yourself whenever the opportunity presents itself. If there is a class you can take that will improve your job skills, or if you can go back to night school without stressing yourself out, do it! The Lord doesn't expect us to run any faster than we are able, but He does expect us to help ourselves whenever possible. - Kathi H. Ogden, Mesa, Ariz.

Back to school

Live worthy of receiving guidance from the Lord; pray for that guidance, then do not be afraid to follow it. The Lord inspired me to go back to school and get my degree. I hated the thought of returning to exams and term paper assignments, and was frightened about how I would pay tuition and survive while in school. With many years of work and the Lord's help I got my four-year degree and later finished graduate school. This increased my earning capacity significantly.

Do not charge anything until you are financially secure. Remember when you charge things you are literally spending your future earnings and paying interest on it. If you are already in short supply it makes no sense to spend from your future supply.

Develop an attitude of generosity. Pay fast offerings, no matter how meager. If you dwell on your faith and share what you have, you will find what you have goes further. - Victoria Chambers, Orem, Utah

Positive attitude

I remember great energy was required in getting through the divorce process and trying to support the children emotionally. There was not much left over to put into new job efforts, so I worked a less demanding job for a time.

My chosen work schedule eliminated overtime and travel so that the children and I could have evenings together as we concentrated on rebuilding our family. A positive attitude of success as a family really determined our family's material welfare. Job hunting and Mom's new work experiences were shared with the children to emphasize that we could survive as a family and have fun too. When Mom went to school, children saw more value in their own education. - Meg Behnke, Plano, Texas

Discuss budget

Discuss the budget with the children. It's a real learning experience. Get their cooperation in turning off lights, turning down the heat, using only a small amount of water for a bath and taking better care of what you have. Start a small savings account.

Make a list of all the fun things you can do as a family that are free. Do one of them often. Read stories every night, plus the scriptures. - Beth Ryan, Idaho Falls, Idaho

Lived on storage

Produce as much as possible. For us, this meant raising a large garden, sewing, canning fruit, baking bread and otherwise cooking from scratch.

A short period of want convinced me I had to have a supply of food. Therefore, with a tax rebate I purchased a year's supply of wheat and other staples. If we ran out of money, we lived on our storage. - Maurine C. Winterton, Salt Lake City, Utah

New skills

Gain work experience whenever possible. This makes it easier to remain employed while single or gives you contacts in the community that are useful when networking for a job becomes necessary.

Learn new skills. When my washing machine broke, and I had no extra money to fix it, I bought a how-to repair book and learned to fix the washing machine myself. The same thing happened when the roof leaked. I went to the hardware store, asked questions and repaired it myself.

Be pro-active and preventative. Keep your home, car and self in good repair so your finances run smoothly, and you don't live from crisis to crisis. It costs more to fix the longer you procrastinate. - Cindi Holmes Teichert, Martinez, Calif.

Get an education

For many years, the prophets have counseled sisters to get an education. When my husband died unexpectedly 10 years ago, I was deeply grateful I had the education, teaching credentials and experience necessary to return to teaching full-time. I had two sons in high school, a daughter in college and two sons just beginning married life as well as their college education.

My salary and job benefits, plus my small widow's annuity, gave us the basic money and health care we needed. The children got part-time and summer jobs and took out student loans when necessary. We paid our tithing. - Catherine R. Slaughter, Tacoma, Wash. WRITE TO US:

Nov. 5 "How to cope with the heartache of miscarriage."

Nov. 12 "How to engender understanding of differing religious beliefs among family members and loved ones."

Nov. 19 "How to minimize holiday stress."

Nov. 26 "How to help someone trying to come back into Church activity."

Dec. 3 "How to help your children develop self-reliance.

Dec. 10 "How to keep the Sabbath day holy."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

How to Checklist:

-Pay your tithing, no matter what; have faith in the Lord.

-Prioritize spending; live on budget; clear debts.

-Find ways to cut costs; learn to cooperate as family.

-Gain new skills; increase education, if possible.

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