Tag Archives: money

‘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!

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‘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!

The #Frugal Life: Mute The #Commercials

I clearly remember Super Bowl Sunday 2013, not because of the game, the highlights, the commercials, or the advertised specials. I remember it well because all the commercials were muted!

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I know that many of you are pretty shocked right now.

You see, a couple from church opened their home to anyone who wanted to watch the game and just hang out. In order to make it more interesting, the couple created an environment where – during commercials – the TV was muted and someone would talk about something they were thankful for, how God blessed their life, or something they just wanted to share with their friends. What does this have to do with Living Frugally? Everything!

I love John 16:13
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. (NLTse)
If we say we are Christians then we are to be guided by the third member of the Triune God- the Holy Spirit. Often The Spirit speaks to us like a small voice reminding us of our priorities, goals, mission, etc. Advertizing for the newest gadgets, upgrades, new features etc. become competitors for our attention. The Spirit will not force Himself on us so many times the big sales and allure of shiny new toys wins out- tragic!

There is a reason retailers pay millions per second to advertise during the Super Bowl. It is the same reason that Super Bowl commercials are so much more creative than any other time of year. The marketers realize that it is the most watched sporting event in the world and therefore, it serves as their best opportunity to get into your pockets. You’re glued to the tube and they know it!

At the party I attended there was zero opportunity for these retailers to influence our buying decisions. I was free to remain in a thankful mindset, enjoying time spent with other Christians and therefore open to The Spirit’s voive. I was not tempted to spend based on an emotional response to advertizing creativity. However, the neighbors next door, whose TVs were not muted, were subjected to creative attempts at infiltrating their wallets, bank accounts, and credit cards.

Resist the Temptation

The power in having the ability to ‘just say no’ cannot be overstated. Imagine the temptations you would avoid if you decided, before hand, that you are going to say no to all advertising during Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Year’s, and Super Bowl Sunday!

It brings to mind the fact that many folks who have a desire to save, live frugally, invest, etc. are sometimes thrown off track by a commercial designed to do just that…throw them off track!

How many dreams have been wrecked because of one unplanned purchase which leads to regular unplanned spending? I imagine the answer is in the millions.

A well planned budget doesn’t include reaction or emotion-based spending. It is the result of a disciplined mindset that recognizes the importance of saying no to creative marketing ploys. My advice to those determined to live the frugal life? Mute the Commercials!

What about you , BBM reader:

*Are you able to tune out the commercials or do you occasionally fallen victim to those wily advertisers?
*What’s your plan for resisting New Year’s and Super Bowl advertizing tactics?
*Got helpful tips for your fellow BBM audience?

I’d love to hear your ideas!

The #Frugal Life: A Frugal Mentality

How Much is Enough

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Often, upon hearing the word frugal, inaccurate images float through the mind’s 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 in your mind, 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. (NLTse)

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 concentrare 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 lead 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 see the 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-rich.

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 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 and more stuff. 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.

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 2015?

BBM Interviews Melissa Dougherty: This Energetic Christian, Wife, Mother and Avid Minister to Jehovah’s Witnesses Gives Her Perspective on Money Matters

I met Mrs. Melissa Dougherty through a Facebook group dedicated to ministering to #Jehovah’s Witnesses and #LDS members. I always appreciated her attitude of tenderness and love for those we brought the Gospel to. I look up to her knowledge of the #Bible and what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe/preach. Her boldness was always a motivator and both her humbleness and passion for teaching are to be admired. Because of these, and other, attributes I decided I had to interview her on the topic of Personal #Finance.

Let’s dive right in!

BBM: Is the Bible One of your Financial #Education sources? Why or Why Not?

Melissa: Yes, but not like I want it to be. Mainly because I’m not really the breadwinner of our home, so though I have some control over finances, ultimately it’s in my hubby’s hands.

BBM: Do you believe that Small Business contributes positively to the Economy?

Melissa: Yes I do. They’re the ones that are going to help the country not become so monopolized, and give to the people. Not the corporations.

BBM: How do you manage your finances? Examples: Financial Adviser, checkbook register, a combination of tools or something else)

Melissa: A lot of math! We don’t ever really know what we’ll make every month, so we budget out our money by keeping a planner of bills and what’s spent

BBM: At What age did you begin to form a “financial freedom” mindset?

Melissa: I felt very good about saving and spending money around age 18.

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BBM: Why do you believe financial wisdom is important?

Melissa: Financial management is the cause of much stress! Knowing how to manage our money wisely can contribute to a much more fulfilling life.

Thanks very much to this amazing, Christian teacher for her time and honesty. I hope to feature her again in the future.

A Lot Can Happen in Thirty-Eight Days: A Lack of Priorities Can Be Costly

A LOT has happenned over the last few months. I won’t go into the details right now, they’ll unravell in the blog posts to come. One thing I can say is I’ve regained perspective and focus. As much as I hate to say it, I had lost focus and God saw fit to slap me around in order to show me my own foolishness. (OUCH!)

Ya know that “wake up call” moment when everything important to you starts slipping away and you hit your knees asking Him to please, please, please step in and allow you to keep that which is most precious? Yeah, I had that moment- for 38 days in a row. It was brutal, agonizing, painful and an emotional rollercoaster. But, it did cause me to run to Christ’s feet, reprioritize, rethink and come to certain realizations about myself. One question God kept asking me is, “Would you be this distraught if I were to threaten to leave you?” At this question I replied with the intelligent response of, “Aaaaahhhh…..well…..”

Needless to say I had to evaluate exactly where I was placing God in my list of priorities. You’d think this would be an automatic response for someone in the ministry, right? Shouldn’t a long-time Christian have this down to automatic pilot? Yes…..and no. See, I think I was relying on automatic pilot a bit too much. I made a conscious effort to please and love my wife. (I’m now divorced….more on that later) I text my son daily saying how much I loved him. Throughout my day I’d text or email folks asking how they were and if they needed prayer for anything in particular.

You may be asking, what’s wrong with that Taz? Nothing at all, except that I wasn’t speaking to #God as often as to these fellow-humans. My significant other, my son and other sinners got more of my time and attention than my Creator!

(Just thinking about that reality makes me hang my head in shame and annoyance)

Did I really mess up that badly? Did I really put my wife before my Savior? SHAMEFUL!

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of spending more and more time with Christ has been a goal of mine for quite some time. I always wanted to think of my entire day as a long conversation with God, interrupted by daily chores and interaction with others- I just wasn’t getting it done! So, God grabbed my by the ear, pulled me into a confined space, sat me down and had a good Almighty-to-sinner conversation. He didn’t pull any punches nor did He sugar coat anything. He ripped open this wretched heart, magnified my evils and brought me to tears. I trembled, shook, felt regret and remorse, apologized and begged forgiveness. I dove into The Word, read three Christian book, including “The Purpose-Driven Life” and “The Story” and got closer to Christ.

I felt “washed”, as if I had a #spiritual shower with extra highly-concentrated cleanser added.

Aaaaaahhhh, that felt good!

So, what does this have to do with #financial world?

Good question, the answer is simple: Do not put anything, including your financial goals, before your relationship to God, period!

Infact your financial goals, outlook, attitude, etc. should be a RESULT of that first-place relationship. Your devotion to Him should result in seeking His direction in finances. Following Him should result in seeing His financial goals for your life and His goals becoming your goals. You line up with #Him, not the other way around.

Need proof that this concept is a reality? Well let’s look at ancient Israel. Many times they have served as our Biblical examples of what happens when we follow God and also the tragic consequences of straying from His path. Joshua chapter 7 is where we find the account of Achan who disobeyed God by keeping precious plunder from a recent victory.

Pause for one second. Achan may have had really good reasons for keeping the treasure. Maybe he would have sold half and donated the profit to a local charity. Or maybe he planned to buy materials to help mend his neighbor’s tents. What about feeding the hungry? He could have had a grand feast planned form them, right? While all those intentions are not evil in and of themselves, the fact that he violated the Creator’s command is still sin!

The punishment for Achan’s sin is found in verses 22-24. He and his family, yes his family, were all stoned to death and their bodies burned. Seems a bit harsh? Not really. Remember sin is a violation of the most pure, perfect, Holy and magnificent being in the entire universe-God. The more we respect a person or that person’s position the more severe the punishment for an offense to that person. Assaulting your neighbor on the street is one thing, assaulting the President of The United States, i’m sure you’ll agree is something different all together.

We cannot allow our financial goals to be placed ahead of a close relationship with Christ. We must “keep the main thing, the main thing”.

A few of you may be tempted to make use of the old saying, “Experience is the best teacher”. While this is a true statement, most people are unaware of the rest of it. “….and it’s a fool who learns by his own”.

Don’t be a fool. Learn from the mistakes of others. Learn from those who have already- foolishly- tested the waters. Stay on the path that God has laid out for you, keep Him first, love Him more than precious stones, metal and American green. I speak from experience when I tell you that if He is not first in your life it could cost you A LOT.

I lost A LOT in just 38 days.