Living Frugally, Part Two: The Frugal Mentality

Psalm 107:9

For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

How Much Is Enough?

Often, upon hearing the word frugal, inaccurate images float through the minds of many people. Some imagine a penny-pinching Grinch that hoards every dollar as if clinging to life itself. Others imagine a destitute fool who doesn’t recognize the so-called finer things in life. My hope is that this blog post gives a better picture of the mind of the frugal individual. Set aside the inaccurate, and sometimes insulting images some may conjure, and let’s discover the real reasons for developing the frugal mentality. 

There is a scene in the movie The Great Gatsby where Gatsby is on the second floor of his bedroom, throwing pieces of clothing down to the woman he loves. His intention is to entice her with his riches, impress her with expensive clothing, and therefore hold her affections. This is a far cry from the frugalist’s mindset and definitely far from the mind of God. I say this because of what is written in #Matthew 6:33: Seek the Kingdom of #God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (New Living Translation)

God prompts us to seek His Will, His pleasure and His mission for our lives above all else. We are not to be trapped in the vicious cycle of working hard for material gain just to be foreced to work even harder to afford even more. If we concentrate on our relationship with God first, He will align our mind and goals with His and therefore free us from such dangerous materialism that inevitably leads to greed. 

The Christian Frugalite (yes, I created a new word), following the Spirit’s direction, is free to see things as they really are. Free from the prison of materialism. The frugalist understands that the really important things are neither material nor monetary. Unlike the get-all-you-can attitude of most folks, the frugally minded actually view the goal of an ultra-lavish lifestyle as both sickening and greedy.

The movie scene I described earlier actually turned my stomach. Why? Because I think of all the desperate people in the world who could benefit from the generosity of the ultra-blessed. Can you imagine the problems that would be solved if every mega-rich celebrity or sports personality decided to sell their mansions and some of their many luxury vehicles, then donated the proceeds to feed the hungry or help rescue victims of human trafficking? What if all those millions were funneled into creating jobs for those in desperate situations instead of being used to buy expensive purses, over-priced shoes and jewelry?

That would be an amazing thing!

It’s About Action

James 1:27- Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans in their affliction and to keep ones self unstained from the world.

Many of us walk/drive by homeless or hungry people and think, “Man I wish I could help”. Most of the time we’re thinking this whole leaving a department store where we’ve just purchased at least one unnecessary item.

Two important facts:

  1. We can help
  2. God requires us to help

James 1:27 is telling us that one way we honestly live out our faith in God is to take action by helping those in need. After all, isn’t that the example Jesus presented as he walked the earth? He didn’t just walk by and think about helping, He DID it. Christ, our example, took action.

You may say “Taz, I don’t have the extra money to hand over to a hungry person, I’ve got bills and responsibilities”. My instsnt response is “So did Christ but He made it happen anyway”. However, I would never just ignore the fact that you have to be a good financial steward. But here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you have cable or satellite?
  2. When you leave the grocery store are there unneccessary items in your shopping cart? (Sodas, candy, alcohol)
  3. How many times per week do you pay for a fancy cup of coffee?

Here in America we’ve convinced ourselves we need certain material posessions and conveniences. Truthfully, we don’t need them. When you hang onto these things you give up the opportunity to help someone God’s commanded us to give a helping hand to. Yes, you do have the extra funds that can make a huge difference in that God-created individual you’re about to drive passed on your way out the department store parking lot. How about you figure the cost of your next latte’ & use that to buy a few fruits for the panhandler sitting out in the elements instead? Rather than purchasing yet another video game for the kiddos, set an example for them. Allow them to help figure the cost of the game-with tax-and purchase gloves and socks for the homeless woman with that money instead. How amazing to influence future generations to be content with a little less in order to help someone else have a lot more!

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Living out part two of James 1:27 requires keeping ourselves uninfluenced by the world’s mindset. The world around us says it’s ok to buy that expensive car, go on multiple vacations, get, get, get and keep getting even if you must go in debt to do so. Going to the extreme to help others is looked up to by many yet not adopted as a lifestyle by those same folks. Do you see the disconnect? We admire people like Christ, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman but following in their footsteps doesn’t seem to take hold in our hearts?

What these people have in common is their mindset is so different than the average worldly person. Their minds were influenced by a God-directed passion. They could no longer sit by, idle, while their fellow man/woman suffered; not while they were able to do something about it. The status quo just wasn’t enough for them and when worldly points of view tried to infiltrate and throw them off track their laser focus burned out any chance of wavering. This is the kind of dedication we should have to those less fortunate than ourselves. The command is clear and the example is given by Christ. There’s no getting around it, we need to take action, period.

Other verses to consider:

  • Hebrews 13:6
  • John 3:17
  • Phillipians 2:4
  • Matthew 25:35-40
  • James 2:14-17
  • Proverbs 19:17

It is the Christ-centered, frugal mind that can do this world the most good because it is not trapped by the unproductive idea of gathering more stuff to one’s self. The Frugalite is free to give to charities, churches, and the indigent on the street without feeling she has missed something. She understands the importance of paying a homeless person to wash her car instead of going to the car wash. In fact, giving to those less fortunate gives the frugal person a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. What can be better than knowing you’re following God’s plan?

So the next time you’re tempted to think of a Frugalite as stingy or cheap, you may want to consider that she is not hoarding her pennies, she is proactively funneling them to where they do the most good.

I’d really love to hear:

  • What frugal practices have you adopted?
  • What frugal habits do you plan to employ in 2016?
  • How has the Bible influenced your outlook on the poor?

Living Frugaly, Part One: Don’t Let Your Wedding Cost You Your Marriage

Wedding Bells Blues

The wedding industry is booming.20151015_093646

Everything from the bride’s dress, the photographer, and of course – my personal pet peeve – the wedding planner. All are big money. Brides-to-be have been convinced, “It’s the most important day of your life, spare no expense.”

And many a groom, wanting to please their soon-to-be wife, have fallen for the ridiculous idea that the engagement ring must cost at least three month’s salary. The concept is, If he really loves you he’ll spend that much on you.

Seriously, who came up with this stuff?

The truth is if he loves you he’ll want to lead you into good stewardship as Christ commands.

I’m about to say something that will probably be very unpopular. Concerning the “spare no expense wedding” & the “three-month-salary wedding ring”. Both those pieces of advice are very unwise and financially unsound! We have become a society that will spend thousands and thousands of dollars on an occasion that lasts a few hours, tops, while not preparing financially for the many years that follow..

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a momentous occasion for bride and groom, their families and friends.
It is a day that should be treated with respect. However, so should the actual marriage. You know, all those days that come after the rice is thrown? Yep, they are important also.

I have a family member who spent over $10,000 on her wedding. She had food catered, a huge dress, and a dress covering I can’t even begin to describe. There were a few limos involved, a huge bride’s cake, a groom’s cake, a reception at a fancy eatery on the bay, a cruise on a boat and tons of other stuff that still boggle my mind.

Imagine that $10,000 invested wisely for the next thirty years. Compound interest and time are amazing allies. Use them!

My ex-wife and I spent less than $200 on our wedding. The cost of the location was zilch, zero, nada. It was held at her oldest sister’s house. The mayor of Shelly, Idaho performed the ceremony for free in exchange for us donating at least a whopping $5 to a certain charity. We donated $15. The cost of food was minimal. It was a pot luck! Invitations were ordered online and I doubt we spent $100.00.

The number one cause of tension between man and wife, and the eventual cause of many divorces, is money related problems and a couple’s differing perspectives on money. The fact that society encourages such a large expenditure of funds from the very beginning is, then, more than a little disturbing.

Imagine the positive economic impact if the soon-to-be-joined were encouraged to spend as little as possible so they would have more for their future together. Doesn’t it make more sense to begin the marriage voyage with a healthier money outlook, helping to avoid the one thing that’s proven to end marriages the world over?

Let’s not set up future couples for failure. Teach youth to ignore the advertising ploys of the wedding industry. Teach them to consider their financial futures. Let’s encourage them to treat their marriage with even more respect than the wedding by fueling the marriage with the gift of financial freedom.

To be clear, I’m not saying a big,  traditional wedding with all the bells and whistles is wrong. Having all the extras isn’t a bad thing IF you already have other things in place like an emergency fund, personal savings, college savings, retirement fund(s), your Will and Health Care Directive, etc.

Yes, I fully advocate having these things in place BEFORE that knot is tied. This adds financial security and a peace-of- mind to the marriage from the very beginning. It also shows and sustains good financial habits that will not be easily broken.

Keep your financial future in min & Stay Frugal!

‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles, Part Four: Protect Your Identity

In a previous installment of ‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles I mentioned that putting child support payments in my ex-wife’s hand instead of going through the State’s child support office backfired big time. It was definitely not a frugal decision as it caused much grief in the form of interest added onto my “missed” payments.

To make matters worse, as happens in life, two events occurred that would affect me financially for a significant amount of time. I’ll address the first of the two in this article – Identity Theft.

Safeguard Your ID

Many folks don’t understand the seriousness of this silent crime. The individual who pretended to be me emptied my bank account, put his picture on my drivers license, wrote several hot checks, sold my social security number to eight other people and also got two jobs in my name in another state.

It’s important to note here that this thief didn’t use my credit except for the cash from the bank account and writing hot checks. I mention this because many people mistakenly believe that identity theft is all about one’s credit and credit score. Not so! Your credit is only about 20% of the situation.

Pretend you’re the identity thief. You steal someone’s drivers license and replaced their photo with yours. You get pulled over for speeding, hand the officer your insurance and license. He does his job, you sign the ticket and drive off. So who actually got that ticket?

Hint…not you.

The person whose name appears on the drivers license now has a ticket but has no clue. Let’s further imagine that this same scenario occurs several more times. Again and again you, the ID thief, drive away scott-free while someone else has no clue they’re supposed to show up in court for all those tickets. Next, Failure To Appear warrants are issued. But, again, you have nothing to worry about because none of those warrants are in your name.

Your next step is to move several states away and use that same identification and stolen social security card to land yourself two well-paying jobs. Meanwhile the victim of this theft, that’s me, is slowly dealing with the consequences.

First the bank account you drained without me knowing goes negative since I’m unknowingly writing checks I expect to clear without a problem. Next my car is repossessed. Why? Because the checks I wrote bounced! Then I am evicted, also, because the checks I wrote for rent all bounced! (Having to move back into my mother’s house was adding insult to injury.)

The point of all this is to let you see how important it is to guard your identity 24/7. There are five areas identity thieves can strike:

    Drivers license
    Credit
    Social Security number
    Criminal
    Medical

For anyone trying to live a frugal life, save for retirement, invest and put money aside for a child’s education, being the victim of identity theft can, and in my case did, cause many of those plans to be put off for many years. The financial struggle that comes as a result cannot be overstated.

Financial Security Threatened

A very disappointing aspect was the effect on child support payments. With no car I couldn’t get to work. With no drivers license or Social Security card I couldn’t prove who I was in order to find another job. Interest started piling up, the ex-wife got less and less friendly and my son started thinking his dad didn’t care about him because he wasn’t providing financially. (I’m not ashamed to say it caused this non crier to shed more than a few tears.)

Thankfully, I was introduced to Legal Shield Inc. I made a frugal decision to sell my trench coat to pay for the membership. The top-rated law firm in Texas went to bat for me. I was amazed at the results.

Identity Theft is real and on the rise. Movies like Catch Me If You Can show the real life emergence of this crime. There is actually a bigger war on Identity Theft than on illegal drugs. It’s no longer a matter of if you’ll be a victim, it’s a matter of WHEN.

Need more proof? Go to google.com and search for  the following:
* Identity breaches in 2015
* Data breaches in 2015
* reported identity theft cases 2015

The results are many and varied.
One lady was informed that her tax return may be going to someone else.
A police officer found that “234 fraudulent unemployment claims were filed from his residence”.
The title of one article reads “Georgia Woman Sentenced for Filing Over 180 False Tax Returns”.

I could go on and on but I have to sleep at some point.

I’m guessing you get the idea. Identity Theft is NO JOKE. To deny it is directly tied to your financial well-being would be- to be straightforward- ignorant. Don’t wait to react to being a victim. Prepare for the inevitability as Proverbs 27:12 reminds us:

A prudent person forsees danger and takes precautions, but the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

The warnings are all over the news, internet, magazine articles, websites, and on your neighbors’ lips. You have been exposed to the reality of this crime. It’s time to safeguard your family’s identities and financial situation.

Intersted in learning how? Visit my web site: http://www.ebright.legalshieldassociate.com
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Protect your family, Stay Frugal!

The Clothing Exchange: Bartering, Giving, Saving & Making A Difference

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You know what I love most about the above photo? Its location.

These folks aren’t camped out waiting to purchase tickets to the newest Batman movie. They’re not waiting to get into the V.I.P. line at a night club nor are they waiting in line to get to their Houston Rockets seats.

This was the scene outside the doors of Eagle Heights Fellowship in Mont Belvieu, TX. This is the Church home of Penny Glass & her three well-rounded, funny, adorable daughters.

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Mrs. Glass created an ingenious bartering system called The Clothing Exchange and it has grown exponentially over the last few years. As a result of her need to provide for her own children she wondered, “What if there was a place where I could give up what we don’t need in exchange for what we do need?” She approached her Pastor and pitched her idea. He fully supported her and gave his permission to use the Church as headquarters for this economically sound solution to clothing needs.

Viola, the Clothing Exchange was born!

How it Works
Many families are having trouble dealing with the current economic climate. They’re struggling to bring home the bacon (in my house it’s veggies). As a result clothing is an area that may be sacrificed in order to keep the family car running, keep electricity on, and stock up on groceries.
The Clothing Exchange allows families and individuals to bring in used but reusable clothes in exchange for a voucher equal to the number of items donated.
So, for example, Molly donates three jeans and five blouses which she’s outgrown-eight items. On exchange day she bring in her voucher and picks out eight items of her choice. She can choose 8 pair of jeans or seven jeans and one blouse or maybe she wants six pair of jeans, one pair of shoes and a scarf. Any combination is allowed as long as she doesn’t exceed eight, the number on her voucher. All participants are made aware that there is no guarantee they’ll find somethung in thier size or something they’ll like. But all are still willing to take part because it means they’ll be donating to others in need even if they get nothng in return. However, according to Penny, there’s never been a situation where a participant couldn’t find clothing they could use.

Simple, smart, effective and very much in need. In fact the need is so great that hundreds of people from miles around came to donate their used clothing in hopes of helping others while providing for their own families. Talk about a win-win situation.

Economic Ripple
So is there a positive economic effect? Most definitely! Most families shop at big department stores. Others, like myself, love thrift stores. When we shop at these locations the money doesn’t always stay within the local economy. Big companies need to spread their profits all over the globe in order to thrive. They have to pay for advertizing, put money into payroll and employee benefits and maintain thier facilities.
The Clothing Exchange allows local money to stay local—in the bank accounts of members of the community. So Mr. J donates his sons old clothes yet comes home with more clothes for his son without spending a single cent. With the savings Mr. J can put more money into an emergency fund or save for his son’s trade school education. Now imagine hundreds of families within a certain area doing the same thing. This creates more economical stability within the region. It makes sense, too, that if a family is more stable they’re able to donate to charities, give to missions and shop at local farmer’s markets. These all help give strength to the local economy.

An important aspect to the Clothing Exchange that builds a strong economy is what Penny does with the clothes that cannot be used in the exchange. See, if donated clothes have rips, tears, stains, etc they’re either given back to the donor, given to other churches or given directly to the homeless. This ensures only clothing of the highest quality are available on Exchange day. Providing the homeless with clothibg has several amazing results. It helps build confidence, gives a sense of added security and it offers an opportunity to excell. Imagine being homeless, sleeping on the streets, unable to shave and shower. Across the street from the box you live in is a NOW HIRING sign in the window of a locally-owned diner. You know you qualify for any open position. You’d work hard and put in extra hours if someone would just give you a chance.
Problem: You don’t feel presentable. And the fact is, most employers won’t hire someone who smells bad and is dressed like….well….a homeless person.

But, if the clothing exchange provided you with a fresh pair of socks, a pair of shoes, nice slacks and a long sleeved shirt and maybe even a tie; well your future could look very different. You can wash up in the restroom of a convemience store, change into your new duds, then walk confidently into that diner and tell them “You sould definitely hire me”.

This is one way a homeless person can become a productive member of society. All because of the generous hearts of Clothing Exchange participants.

Want to Join In?
The next Clothing Exchange event will be in Feb or March of 2016. In the mean time
1. Set aside those items you no longer want or need: shoes, shirts, pants, jackets, sweaters, hats, etc.
2. Tell others about this blog so they’re informed on how they may participate.
3. Follow this link to the Clothing Exchange facebook page so you can stay up-to-date on future events-
https://www.facebook.com/groups/237924579719778/?fref=ts

‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles Part Three: Trouble Finding a Job- The Last Resort

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If you’ve been following this series you’ve become familiar with the various frugal options non-custodial parents can employ in order to keep up with child support payments during financially rocky times.

In this final installment of the series I’d like to discuss an option that can, honestly, be a bit painful but is very effective.

In 2009, I started applying for jobs out-of-state partly because finding local employment yielded only temporary jobs & I needed something long-term. I applied for anything that was legal and paid American greenbacks.

The hardest part was leaving my son for an extended period of time. He was about ten years old when an employer from Idaho Falls, ID called and asked if I could be in their office within a week for an interview. I said yes because I was determined to take care of my son even if it meant being away from him for a while. Plus, I needed to set a good example.

I bought a bus ticket and called the employer to let them know the date of my arrival. My next step was talking to my son. I explained to him that I had a job offer, finally, but it was out of the state. I asked how he felt about me going out of town. He understood the reason, asked a few questions and we spent the rest of the day hanging out and enjoying each other’s company. I would be on a bus to Idaho within a week and intended to enjoy all seven days I had left to spend with this blessing of a child.

Fast forward three months later. I’d been promoted from call center phone agent to “Floor Mentor” which meant I had a team of phone agents under me, I helped train new agents, scheduled team meetings, and evaluated agent’s customer service phone calls.

Most importantly my child support payments were on time and consistent. From a financial standpoint it meant avoiding interest, and keeping a negative entry from my credit report. Reducing or illuminating fees when possible helps support financial goals. Interest fees resulting from non-payment of child support was a fee I’d rather avoid.

Staying In Touch

My employment and my promotion meant setting a good example for my son. Did I miss him? Absolutely! He visited, we talked on the phone and texted each other often. I hated the distance between us but I felt very accomplished that I was fulfilling my obligation and helping take care of my precious boy.

Working far away from family isn’t easy. It’s not an option I’d readily run to. However, the possible positive outcomes cannot be ignored. Just as investing, saving and preparing for retirement are frugal steps toward financial freedom, so is accepting a job out of town if that’s what will help your financial situation.

I Timothy 5: 1-8 is a great passage to read right now.

1 Never speak harshly to an older man, but appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father. Talk to younger men as you would to your own brothers.
2 Treat older women as you would your mother, and treat younger women with all purity as you would your own sisters.
3 Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.
4 But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God.
5 Now a true widow, a woman who is truly alone in this world, has placed her hope in God. She prays night and day, asking God for his help. 6 6 But the widow who lives only for pleasure is spiritually dead even while she lives.
7 Give these instructions to the church so that no one will be open to criticism.
8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.

Verse eight is the one many Christians focus on in this passage. That’s understandable since that verse is so important. But looking at everything in context the message is clear: We have been charged with predetermied responsibilities to take care of our families. From the way we speak to each other to who takes care of grandmom when grand-dad goes to Heaven ahead of her. God has laid it out for us. Family members take care of each other first. If there’s no next-of-kin then the extended family- The Church, steps in.

Personal note:

I remember, painfully, sitting a counselor’s office and having him explain 1 Timothy 5: 8 to me. He explained that I wasn’t taking care of my child support and the Bible says I was worse than an infidel. This was hurtful for two reasons.
One, I knew I was working hard to take care of all responsibilities, including child support. I was waking up early, going to bed late, hurting, driving while exhausted, etc. Yet, despite knowing this I felt guilty for failing my son and my God. After all this was coming from my pastor, my spiritual leader.

Two, it didn’t seem this verse fit my situation. I thought to myself, “So I’m worse than an infidel even though I’m honestly trying? Surely not! God sees my efforts and knows my heart. I felt like this counselor, who I respect to this day, wasn’t listening, didn’t understand or didn’t care. Very painful.

It wasn’t until I was researching information for this blog that I saw an important detail- the word WON’T.
Read verse 8 again: But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.

Seems to me this verse is speaking directly of anyone who refuses to care for their family, it says nothing about those who are unfortunately unable or struggling. I make this personal note because I know there are many, many fathers and mothers out there in the same position. You feel horrible because you can’t provide in the way you’d like. You feel you’re missing the mark. You feel your child doesn’t respect you because you don’t produce the income of the Jones’. And to make matters worse you feel betrayed by those closest to you who just do not understand.

It is the strong opinion of this blogger that this verse describes those who turn away from or don’t even consider helping thier earthly family members, not those of us who are trying our best to do so. I pray this is an encouragement!

So is moving away from your offspring easy? Obvioudly not. I would not recommend it unless you have no other option. However it’s better than getting further behind on payments. Be brave enough to do what needs to be done, set that good example for your child(ren). They’ll love you for it eventually.

Lastly, I’d like you to remember that scrutiny from outsiders doesn’t automatically mean you’re guilty of beaing a deadbeat. Keep your mind on Christ, keep working hard, search for those odd jobs, donate plasma and even look for work out of town; whatever it takes, do it!

Stay strong and stay frugal!

‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles, Odd Jobs Part Two: The Costly, Though Well-Intentioned, Mistake

Today I’m not only continuing with the story of how I worked odd jobs in order to stay current on child support payments, I’m also going to share with you a certain non-frugal mistake, made in the past, that has brought me a lot of grief later.

There was a period in my life where I was conducting secret shops and also working at a labor hall at the same time. I’d get a check each day at the end of my shift. I’d cash the 60-80 dollar check, drive from my place in Pasadena, TX to Liberty, TX and put a bit of cash in my ex-wife’s hand. I did this because if I sent the money to the child support office it would take a lot longer for my ex to get the money and there were things my son needed right away. I’m sure non-custodial parents out there can relate. After giving my ex the in-person payment I’d fill my gas tank and eat off of what was left.

Did you catch the mistake? Here it is again: cash in my ex-wife’s hand. Ya see, at the time of my divorce my ex-wife and I were the happiest divorced couple I ever knew. We got along, talked, didn’t argue and even made each other laugh. I had heard of the horror stories but enjoyed not being one of them…yet.

Time went on and sure enough things changed. We became one of the horror stories you hear so much about and then I was hit with something I had heard of, but never imagined would happen to me. I started getting letters from the Attorney General’s office. They wanted to know when I’d be sending a payment. I explained the situation to the person on the other end of the phone line but they were less than sympathetic.

Cash Transactions

I had made a huge mistake by assuming cash payments directly to my ex-were okay. And now that she considered me less than a friend, I was always in danger of her choosing to go to the State and have them enforce payments. This is one of those times where I felt more than a little stupid.

Obviously, this was not a frugal decision. Just as with loans, back child support comes with a not-so-friendly attachment called interest!

Great...now I gotta play catch up

Great…now I gotta play catch up


Great, now I have to play catch up!

This is not a situation any of us want to be buried under. Just as purchasing a bigger home than one needs, using your credit card for a massive shopping spree or keeping up with the Jones’ can result in a dark, financial cloud hanging over one’s head, haunting you and suffocating your financial plans for the future, so can making poor decisions regarding child support payments.

My advice to anyone that is paying child support is to send every single penny through your state’s Child Support office.
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It’s the wiser, frugal decision because it will help avoid interest and your possible future arrest due to falling behind despite your best intentions.

In the next edition of the ‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles I’ll share one of life’s unforeseen events that didn’t exactly help the situation at all.

‘Deadbeat’ Dad Chronicles, Odd Jobs- Part One

As a non-custodial father paying child support, I live life under the microscope of scrutiny from not only an ex-wife, but society in general. Not only do I wake up determined to succeed financially to provide for myself, but I have the added pressure of providing for a son who does not live with me.

I’m not saying this financial responsibility is more burdensome than a custodial parent’s job, nor am I saying that one should feel sorry for, or be lenient with, a parent who is paying child support.

However, I have recently become very familiar with society’s misconceptions concerning the toil of supposedly deadbeat dads. So I think it’s time we explore what a father goes through financially in order to provide for his child, keep up with court-ordered payments, avoid jail and be a good example to his child.

The Odd Jobs.

Jail is not exactly my idea of a good time. I can’t even stand to be in my own house for more than two hours. I get anxious, like a caged dragon I feel the deep need to escape and spread my wings.

With this mindset I have always been motivated to seek odd jobs if I was ever laid off. So, what jobs did I take in order to keep up with child support?

First, there was Secret Shops. Many folks have a misunderstanding of how this industry really works. There are horror stories but I can tell you personally that there are legitimate secret shop companies that will literally pay you to shop.

Side note: If you Google “secret shops” you’ll be flooded with choices. Avoid any company that states you have to pay to become a secret shopper. Most of these are not legitimate.

One company paid me to go to Burger King, order a meal and fill out a report. The report included details about the taste and temperature of the food, the cleanliness of the store and if proper signage was displayed in the location.

For a recently laid-off individual this was a great way to keep my head above water because I’d be reimbursed for the meal and be paid an extra $5 – $10.  Therefore, the groceries I had already bought would stretch a bit further while I ate these “free meals.”

Another secret shop company sent me to Mattress Firm to pose as a customer interested in a new bed. This is by-far my favorite kind of secret shop. During the visit I’d take mental notes about the employee’s performance, level of professionalism, the cleanliness of the store and which model features the employee demonstrated along with several other key aspects of the employee’s job. I’d do this while the employee demonstrated the many positions of the adjustable bed. Yeah, it was tough but somebody had to do it.

Secret shops are easy and convenient. I’d have lunch at Burger King while out looking for a job and enjoyed knowing I’d be reimbursed for the meal. Then as I go about the rest of my errands I’d stop into Mattress Firm, lie on some really comfortable beds and get paid for it!

There are some folks who are professional level secret shoppers. I never rose to that point myself but shoppers who are dedicated and reliable are eventually given higher-paying shops. There are even some secret shoppers who earn above $30,000/year.

Obviously this would help a struggling mom or dad avoid jail time which can sometimes result from falling behind on court-appointed payments.

Generally speaking, secret shop companies pay their shoppers once a month. So, my advice is to be very detailed in your record keeping as an independent shopper. Keep your receipts, keep track of the shop location, expected payments, etc. At first, look for shops that don’t require you to buy anything. One example is the Mattress Firm shop I mentioned. A shop at James Avery requires you to ask questions about jewelry but not make a purchase.

The profits from one month of these shops may then be used in your second month for shops like Burger King for which you’d be reimbursed.

With discipline you can earn a good part-time income which can help you stay current on child support payments. If you are a non-custodial parent, it pays to be prepared to take on work where you can find it and practice frugality…and avoid those annoying silver bracelets.

A good verse to keep in mind is Proverbs 27:12
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

The “dangers” we face as non-custodial parents are varied.
A. Failing to set a good example for our childrem
B.  Additional interest due to falling behind on payments
C. Jail time

But, spending time in prayer,

asking God for guidance and seeking wise counsel  from others in similar situations (Provrrb 15:22) can help us avoid these financial pot holes.

Another favorite verse is Poverbs 6:6-9
6 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise!
7 Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work,
8 they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.
9 But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up?

Ants, animals not as smart as humans, are smart enough to plan ahead, work, store up for a rainy days, etc. Non-custodial parents need to plan ahead. Save for those unexpected lay offs, injuries and economic storms so that you don’t miss any payments, ever!

Have you had to take on the odd job – or two – to keep up with child support payments, lest you be called a deadbeat dad (mom) and potentially face dealing with the judicial system? I’d love to hear your stories!