Tag Archives: family

How I Went Half-Blind

Not a lot of people know the story of how I completely went blind in one eye, only those with whom I’m close or who were around when it happened. I never talked about it online during the time of the event, or after it happened, but now that we’ve approached the one year mark, I realize it’s something I want to recount, if only for myself.

About a year ago, at the end of March and beginning of April I was renting a room at a house in Lake Elsinore, which I shared with a room mate. My twins were only just over two months old, and I had no transportation of my own. I should also mention that my boys were completely breastfed, and refused to take a bottle, so were completely dependent on me alone for all their sustenance. No one else could have fed them – even if there was someone else willing or available to do it – because the bottle just wasn’t something they knew how to use or would accept, nor did I yet (at this point in time) have stores of expressed milk pumped for them in the event of my not being around, though later this was one of the first things I made sure to do.

So, with all of these factors together it made me reluctant and hesitant to go to the hospital when things started going wrong, because of all the problems it would present. How would I get there?  Could I take the boys in with me? If not, who would watch them? How long would I be there? How would I feed them? What if I needed to be admitted? It went on and on… but I’m jumping ahead.

Let’s start at the beginning.

On March 31st, a Thursday, one year ago today, I woke up and my vision was a little hazy and obscured. I did what anyone would do, I covered each of my eyes in turn to see what was the matter. I covered my right eye and looked out the left, everything was normal. I covered my left eye and looked out the right, and noticed the bottom third of my field of vision in that eye appeared cloudy and gray, blocking everything out in that section. I blinked a couple times. I rubbed my eye a little. I looked again; no change.

For about a week or so preceding this I had occasionally felt a pang in my right eye whenever I cast my vision downward, like a small twinge of a pulled muscle. I assumed that I had pulled something, or strained my eye somehow. Since it only happened occasionally, and only when I looked down, I really didn’t give it too much thought at the time, but now given the fact that my vision was partly obstructed in the same eye, I became a little concerned. I wondered if it was even possible to pull a muscle in your eye, or strain it in such a matter – and if so, how I had done it. I put on my glasses hoping this would ease the strain, and decided to see if my vision would improve throughout the day by trying to rest my eyes as much as possible. By the end of the day it appeared to be the same, so I hoped sleeping on it for the night would help, and went to bed.

The next morning, Friday April 1st, I woke up and my sight was still obscured. I covered my left eye again and peered out of the right side once more and noticed the gray cloudiness seemed to have progressed a little more, now making about half of my sight blocked from the bottom up, completely covering the lower half of my field of vision in that eye. My left eye was still completely fine. At this point I was much more worried than the previous day, and decided I needed to make an appointment to see an optometrist on Monday, and started looking up eye doctors that were covered by my health plan. Most offices were closed on Friday in my area.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. I went to Olive Garden for lunch with my best friend, as it was her birthday, and one of my other best friends went with us as well. I told them about what was happening with my eye, and how I could only still see out of the top half of it, but about how it was concerning me. After they realized I wasn’t joking, they both agreed it was not normal, and I should go in and have it checked out.

Then, everything got worse. When I woke up on the morning of Saturday April 2nd, I could not see out of my right eye at all. Everything was completely black. I couldn’t see out of any part of the eye whatsoever, or even make out shapes or light. It was no longer a grayish cloud covering only part of my sight, but entirely obscured. It made no difference whatsoever whether my eye was open or closed. I could only see out of my left eye.

I panicked. I cried. I feared the worse. I was going blind. I wasn’t going to see my children grow up. I wouldn’t be able to see their cute faces, or watch how they developed as they got older. I wouldn’t know what my own babies looked like. I wallowed in self pity. I let myself freak out, needing the catharsis of the breakdown.

Then I pulled myself back together and took out my laptop. I started searching online for possible causes of losing vision in only one eye. Most of what I found was pretty scary and not very encouraging. I believe I found about six or seven different conditions, almost all of which were not correctable, or could only be fixed if addressed within the first 15 minutes or so after symptoms presented themselves, such as retinal detachment. However, this one didn’t seem to fit, since my vision progressively got worse, with loss of sight from bottom to top, not top to bottom as was noted on the information I found. Then I  discovered one condition that seemed to match what had happened to me more accurately than all the rest – optic neuritis – which was the only one that mentioned it was associated with pain during eye movement, which I had experienced preceding the event whenever I looked downward. It was also the only one where sight would gradually recover completely with proper treatment, returning over a period of a couple weeks after having reached the most severe point of total vision loss in the affected eye.

For the first time I was hopeful again. Not only was it the one that most closely matched my symptoms, it was the one from which complete recovery was not only possible, but typically expected with proper treatment. However, it was also noted in many places that it was oftentimes a precursor to multiple sclerosis, with about 30-40% of all optic neuritis patients later being diagnosed with MS – so that part was still unsettling.

I knew I needed to go to the Emergency Room and have the doctors determine for sure what was wrong with me, but I still had the issue of my two-month-old twin baby boys. I called the ER and asked how long I would have to wait if I came in, and explained the situation. They told me that there was quite a lot of people waiting to be seen, and that it would probably be all day before they would be able to get to me. They then advised me to wait until after 10pm in the evening to come in, because there was usually no wait by that time and I would be able to be seen right away when I came in if I did so after this time. They said if I was going to have to wait all day anyway, it was preferable to do it at home and not have the boys with me in the waiting room all day long. I listened to their advice and took their suggestion. When evening came my room mate drove me to the ER, and waited in the lobby with the boys, watching the babies for me while they took me back to be seen.

The Emergency Room had a rule that only one family member or visitor may be in the back with the patient at a given time, and since there were two babies, they weren’t sure whether I could have the twins with me in my room while I was being examined and tested. However, once it became apparent that it was going to take a while to figure out exactly what was going on with my loss of vision, and how many tests they needed to perform to properly diagnose me, they made an exception for my boys, and let my room mate bring them to me in my room, where they stayed with me throughout the night so I could care for and feed them.

As an aside, I need to note here that my boys were perfect little angels while I was at the hospital, and slept almost the entire time (during the evening) and didn’t fuss or cry at all. That part definitely made everything easier, and the nurses helped watch my slumbering angels whenever they took me to different departments to perform various tests. In fact, the nurses were arguing outside my door about who would get to watch them. Apparently they all wanted to babysit my cutie pies for me. I guess they don’t get healthy little ones in the ER often, and they were all so enamored with how cute the boys were that everyone wanted to be with the babies.

Altogether I was in the ER all night long, from a little after 10pm Saturday night until approximately noon on Sunday. I saw several different doctors and had various nurses during that time. They asked me questions, looked at my eyes, performed blood work, gave me a CAT scan, and did an MRI on my eyes and orbital cavities. After everything was done, they determined I had acute optic neuritis, the same condition I had found that most closely matched in my own online research before coming in, and the one I had been hoping it would turn out to be all along, because it was fixable.

Optic neuritis means my optic nerve was severely swollen, which  is what causes the vision loss. It apparently occurred due to my own immune system mistakenly attacking my own optic nerve. The swollen nerve is treated with high doses of IV administered steroids over a few days, after which the nerve and vision recovers over time. Although it seems to be unknown within the medical community exactly why optic neuritis occurs to begin with, it’s generally thought to be caused by existing auto immune problems that may already be there or are occurring with the patient, and as such, further followup testing to pinpoint the underlying issue is recommended.

Due to the fact that they didn’t want to have to admit me for treatment, because of the difficulties that would be posed caring for the twins, they decided it would be best for me to return to the ER every morning for the next two days for an intensive steroid treatment administered via IV. They gave me my first treatment that same day, and I was to come back again Monday and Tuesday morning for the second and third doses – after which I was just supposed to wait, and my vision was to gradually improve over the next several weeks until it returned completely.

I was also told to follow up with my primary care doctor later that same week, and to be referred to a neurologist and have a second MRI performed, this time doing a full bran scan instead of on just the orbits, to make sure there weren’t any tumors or other possible causes for the problem “just in case.”

I did everything I was told, having all my scans and tests performed, as well as additional blood tests that the neurologist sent me to have done, and in the end two things were determined: 1) I did not have any tumors, and my head scans were all completely clear, and 2) I had markers in my blood tests that indicated I could possibly have either Lupus, or some other autoimmune disease, but there was definitely some type of autoimmune problems going on in my body, and that was probably what caused the issue to begin with.

Believe it or not this second bit of news was actually relieving to me, because I’ve suspected for many years preceding this that I most likely have rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. But since RA is very hard to diagnose, as there’s no specific test for it, but rather it’s a diagnosis of exclusion (when all other possibilities are ruled out) I’ve never had it confirmed by a medical professional. However, every doctor I’ve spoken with in regards to my symptoms seems to agree that it’s most likely the case, though as of yet it has not been “nailed down” so to speak and positively confirmed completely. So, now finding out that it was most likely the RA I’ve always already thought I probably had to begin with that was the source of the whole ordeal, and most likely not something scarier like a precursor to MS, or Lupus (though it is possible, Lupus and RA are very similar) I was a little more at ease.

I still have yet to do follow up testing with a Rheumatologist to have them make the final determination as to whether I have Lupus or RA, and make sure there’s nothing else going on – which was the next step in my diagnosing process when last I left off – because I moved up North and my medical plan changed, so I now have to start the process of referrals and testing over again from the beginning, and many of the doctors I need to see are not located within my area, but this is an ongoing process that will take a while to complete before the doctors are able to give me a firm diagnosis of exactly what is going on with my body.

However, after a few weeks my vision did start returning, with the black obstruction slowly fading back into the grayish cloud over my vision, where I could make out light and shapes again. Then eventually even that began receding where I could start to see out of the upper part of my field of vision again, each day moving a little further down, allowing me to see out of more of my eye, until eventually my sight had returned completely and I could see normally again. Or at least as normally as I ever could. (I’m still near-sighted and need to use glasses at times, but this has always been the case.)

The entire incident was incredibly scary for me, and it also served as an extreme wake-up call as to how suddenly things can go from normal to difficult, and how I needed more of a support network around me to help with the boys and contingency planning in the case of emergencies. In the end everything turned out okay and I was able to work it all out with a little help from friends… but what if it had been different? What would I have done?

What would you do?

It’s hard to think about at times, and many of us never do, because we don’t expect it, but these types of situations can crop up at any time, and happen to anyone. All of a sudden one day you can seem perfectly fine, and the next day some random, obscure medical problem can appear out of seemingly nowhere.

How would you handle it if something similar happened to you? What would happen in your household if you were suddenly forced out of commission one day and had to be admitted to the hospital? What if the problem wasn’t something you would recover from? What types of plans do you have in place in case of sudden or unexpected problems or emergencies?


Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Family, Health & Well Being


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Money Saving Tips For Grocery Shopping

Now, I am not an extreme coupon shopper that tries to buy a thousand dollars worth of groceries for less than five bucks. I’ve watched the shows (and been amazed), I’ve read and learned about all the techniques on the various websites and forums that exist for this purpose, and I know the general principles fairly well. But let’s face it, for the average woman or family, this type of shopping just isn’t practical. The amount of research and preparation that has to go into each shopping trip, plus all the time spent collecting and amassing the necessary amount of coupons to do this to begin with, is simply beyond the scope of most people.

I’m not saying it can’t be done. It is possible and there are plenty of individuals out there who do it all the time, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s useful information that a lot of people hoping to save a few bucks on their regular grocery bill can put into immediate use. If you’re looking for that type of information, there are plenty of those websites out there already – and I can even refer you to some if you like – so I’m not going to talk about those techniques here.

With that said however, cutting and using coupons is still very useful and can save you a lot of money, and I highly recommend it, I just don’t feel it has to be taken to extreme levels to be successful.

Besides, I have twin infant boys. I can’t cut out coupons half of the day. Do you know how hard it is to clip coupons with two babies trying to crawl on you?

So, I thought I’d put together a more practical list of shopping techniques. Most of these things can be put into practice immediately, and overall they require only a small amount of  pre-shopping planning to be effective. Best of all, they work. I use these methods all the time, and I can usually walk out of the grocery store with an overflowing cart of quality items for less than a hundred dollars.

It’s also worth noting that I don’t live off of beans and rice (or the like). I do buy fresh meats and fruits and vegetables. I buy the normal things that most families would when doing their shopping, I just do it a little better – for less.

  • Buy fresh ingredients whenever possible instead of pre-prepared meals, or “heat and eat” dinners.
  • Look at the weekly store ads they send you in the mail and see what items are on sale, then try to plan meals around these. Keep this in mind for side dishes as well.
  • Make a list after you look at the ads and stick to it, trying to buy only things that are on sale each trip.
  • If you want something in particular, try to wait until it goes on sale. If possible buy a little extra to last until the next sale, so you don’t spend full price and waste money inbetween sales cycles. Most items (or types of items) will usually go on sale at least once every few months, though some items go on sale every few weeks, so try to keep track of the items you buy the most. (The period can vary depending on the item and where you live.)
  • Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and priced lower.
  • If you eat a lot of a certain fruit or vegetable, and it’s on sale at an extremely low price, consider buying a little more and freezing the extra for future use so you won’t have to pay top price for it later on.
  • Do the same thing for meats when there’s a really good deal on ones you buy all the time or use a lot of.
  • Compare prices at your local supermarkets and farmers markets to find the best prices.
  • Typically certain items will go on sale at several stores at the same time, but  each store will have slightly different prices/offers on each item, some which are better than others. Go to the store that has the best overall deals for the items you will be getting.
  • If a different store has a much better price on one particular thing you want (or only a handful of things) – like the meat you really want for dinner, for example – whereas the vegetables and pantry items and everything else are better priced at the first store, buy everything at the first store and stop at the second store (if not too far out of the way) and pick up just the meat (and handful of other items that were priced better) on the way home. I only recommend this if it’s a significant price difference though, otherwise it’s usually not worth the extra gas and driving time.
  • Try to limit grocery shopping trips to twice a month for your main shopping, where you buy all the primary items for your meals and stock up your pantry, and once a week (on the weeks inbetween your main shopping trips) for incidental and fresh perishable items that you use more quickly. The less trips you make, the less you will chip away at your food budget with little purchases here and there. I find that it’s the little trips that tend to add up more, because you’re less likely to keep track of what you spend during these visits, and it tends to add up quite a bit more than you might realize over the course of the month.
  • Look for combined values and savings. Sometimes stores run specials that will take $5 or $10 off your overall purchase if you buy a certain amount of items (usually 10) from one section of the circular. Look through the ad and see if these are items you might be buying anyway, and make sure you have the proper total amount. Sometimes grabbing that second extra box or jar of something makes the difference between 9 and 10 items off the list, which can save you more than that last item would cost on it’s own.
  • Don’t be conned into buying more of an item by “10 for $10” and similar ads if it’s not something you need a lot of that you will use before the next sale cycle. Unless it says “must buy 10” to get this price, it still means they’re only $1 each, whether you buy 1 or 10. If you only need 3, only buy 3. Don’t buy 10 just because the sign says so.
  • Don’t be fooled by “fake” sales either. Sometimes a store will list an item as “2 for $3” for example, which means $1.50 each, but the regular price may only be $1.29. If you keep track of how much the items you buy generally cost, and how much you usually pay for them, these bumped up prices disguised as “deals” should stand out.
  • Check the unit prices on items – that is, the price per pound, or per once – and try to buy the size that is the cheapest per unit. This is not always the largest size! Many people assume the biggest size is the biggest value, but this isn’t always the case. I often come across items where it’s cheaper to buy two medium sized (or smaller) units than one large one, and sometimes you even get more of the product overall for less.
  • Do clip and use coupons and combine them with sale prices for maximum savings, but only on the items (or types of items) you would regularly buy anyway, and only for the amount of food that you actually need and will use.
  • Consider buying a different brand if it’s on sale, or if you have a coupon, of something you would already purchase if it’s cheaper that way. Only do this if it’s really something you would buy and use though!
  • Consider buying value brands/generic items when possible. Many items there is absolutely no difference between the generic brand and the regular one. Sugar anyone? Could you tell the difference between store brand and name brand flour? Salt? Spices? Be practical and ask yourself if it really matters and save yourself the markup for a label.
  • Check the clearance bins and daily specials in the store. Most grocery stores have a bin, shelf, or rack somewhere in the store (usually in the back) of items that are still perfectly good but are priced to move because they have to rotate their stock. These items aren’t usually advertised, so you have to look for them.
  • Look for other sale prices and deals in the store that aren’t advertised on things you regularly buy and use.
  • Try not to buy extra snacks and junk food! It’s okay to treat yourself to something extra here or there every once in a while if you must, but limit these purchases to one or two items per shopping trip. Try to focus on what you need for your family’s meals.
  • Buy in bulk if the unit price for that item is cheaper that way, but only if it’s a product that you use regularly enough that a bulk purchase makes sense – and only if you will use all of the item before it goes bad.
  • Make sure you sign up for, and use, the store rewards card for the places you shop if they have one. These are free and save you a lot of money, and sometimes the stores even have programs that give you a certain amount of store credit back off future shopping trips based on how much you use your card in a given period, so keep your information up to date and use your rewards when you earn them.
  • Also look online at the store webpages for extra electronic coupons and deals that you can load to your store rewards card before your shopping trip. These extra savings will automatically come off your bill during your checkout when you swipe your store card.
  • Finally, don’t go to the grocery store hungry! You’ll be much more tempted to buy extra snacks and goodies that you don’t need or wouldn’t regularly buy.

Was this list helpful? Was there anything you saw here that you might not have thought of before? or that you don’t already do when shopping on your own?

What other tips and money savings techniques do you use when you go grocery shopping?


Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Budgeting, Family, Money, Shopping


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How To Make A Budget & Then Make It Work

Due to my extremely limited income, and thus, extremely tight monthly budget (of $725 cash, plus food stamps, per month, for me and three children – two of which are twin babies) and the fact that I’m still surviving somehow, and even able to plan ahead and accommodate things like holidays, birthdays, back-to-school expenses, and the like, I’ve had several friends and family members ask me how my budget works.

The answer is very precisely.

But in all seriousness, it got me thinking about how I never really ran a detailed budget before (we had a loose “general budget” when things were better) and then I thought about all the people who think budgeting is only for the poor, or who don’t know how to make or follow a budget at all.

Budgeting is an essential tool for maintaining healthy finances, and should be an essential tool for every family’s money management.

So because of this, I thought I’d share the basics of putting together a functioning budget, and a few tips on making it work well for your family. Most of this may seem pretty basic, but even if you already have a budget and think you manage it well, reviewing it again never hurts, and reading up on how others manage with less can often put things into perspective.

1) Make a list of your family’s needs. These should include both the immediate needs and your short-term and long-term financial goals.

Immediate financial needs are the obvious things that you have to have, and can’t do without. They are things like housing, utilities, food, transportation, toilet paper, clothing, etc. There are obviously many more specific things, and you should list them out, in detail, to give yourself an idea of all your necessities. Most people think they don’t have that many immediate needs, but when you start to write it all down, you can realize quickly how many more items (like shampoo, and laundry soap, etc) you might not have thought of at first.

Short-term financial goals should include the things you want and/or need in the near future, usually within the next year or two. A good example of a short term goal is to create an emergency savings fund, to pay off the balance on your credit cards, to save up for a special purchase, to take a vacation, or do some home repairs. Everyone’s situation is different, so write whatever is applicable for your family.

Long-term financial goals should include the things you want and/or need (as the name would imply) for the more distant future, and are things you should try to start working towards and saving for as soon as possible, because it will take longer to reach these savings goals. A long-term goal could be coming up with the down-payment for a house, saving money in a college fund for your kids, or planning for retirement.

Again, everyone’s situation is different and this list will differ from family to family, but try to be realistic and limit your list to things you feel are truly attainable and that you really want.

2) Assess the general state of your family’s finances by comparing total assets to total debt.

Your total assets are the value of everything you own, including cash, savings, investments, the value of your home and any real property, including vehicles, as well as your belongings such as furniture and appliances.

Your total debt is the amount of all money you owe, including unpaid and past due bills, outstanding medical expenses, any and all loans (including student loans), credit card balances, your mortgage balance, and other debts you might have.

Once you have your total asset and debt figures for your family, compare them to determine which is higher. If your debt is higher than your assets you should try to start steadily paying your debt down with a realistic payment schedule.

3) Determine your family’s total monthly income and expenses.

Although this step seems like the most obvious in creating a budget, it’s often the one that is not given enough attention.

Your total income should include all regular sources of money such as salaries and wages, as well as any income received from any and all other sources such as SSI, child support or alimony, food stamps, and interest and dividends from bank accounts or investments if you have these. Only count the amount of money that you receive after taxes and deductions for the purposes of creating your budget.

When determining your total monthly expenses, don’t forget irregular expenses that you only pay for every few months, or once or twice a year (like car registration) and divide their cost across the amount of time they cover to arrive at a monthly figure.

Divide all your expenses into two categories: fixed (those that cost the same amount every month) and variable (those that may be different from month to month). Fixed expenses usually include things like rent, insurance, car payments, loan payments, childcare, and certain telephone and internet plans, or cable bills, if the amount is the same every month. Variable expenses may be similar from month to month, or vary widely based on usage, and can include things like utilities, food, transportation costs (like gas), non flat-rate phone plans, personal hygiene items, medical and/or dental costs, and money spent on entertainment or going out.

It might be a good idea to keep a spending diary for a few months, review old bank statements or checkbooks, and even go over receipts to get an accurate estimate of how much you really spend each month. Many people grossly underestimate how much they really spend on things like groceries, or how much they use on entertainment purchases each month. Keeping track for a while to get a real picture of where your money goes each month is one of the most important parts in creating a working budget. If you don’t know how much you really need, then you can’t allot yourself the right amount of funds within your budget, and then it won’t work.

Once you have your real figures, as best (and hopefully, as accurately) you can determine, and compare them, then you can start creating your actual budget. The lower the expenses are in comparison to your income than the sooner you will be able to work towards and achieve your short-term and long-term goals that you outlined before.

If your income is higher, make setting aside a little bit of your leftover income in a savings account for an emergency fund part of your budget (if it isn’t already) so you’ll have extra cash to cover unforeseen expenses should they arise. Ideally an emergency fund should be able to cover your expenses for several months, but start with a smaller, achievable amount to begin with, and then add to it over time to build it to where you need. If you already have an emergency fund in place, or once you do get one set up, you’ll be able to start saving the extra income towards your other goals.

If your expenses are higher than your income, and there’s no way to increase your income through additional work, than you’ll need to find ways to lower your expenses. (I will deal with tips for this part separately, at the end, in step 5.)

4) Set up, and keep track, of your new (actual) budget.

Using the figures you determined in step three, physically write out an actual budget with a total that does not exceed your total (guaranteed) monthly income.

List all your fixed expenses first, since these do not change. Then write out all your variable expense items, and set a realistic spending limit for each one. Base the spending limit on your spending history and/or on the average bill amounts.

If you are trying to cut spending in any area, make sure the cuts and limits are realistic. It does you no good if your budget looks great on paper if you won’t stick to it.

Make sure you also create a section for your monthly savings goals.

Then, finally, write down (in a column next to your spending limits) what you actually spent on each item. Try to stay as close to your actual budget as possible, and refer back to it often to help stay on track. Make a new column for each month as you go along to keep track, and so you can continue to compare your spending habits.

Your total budget for each month should always balance. That is, your total income for that month should always match your total expenses.  Keep track of all spending and account for all purchases so you can see where your money is (and isn’t) going. Record both expenses and savings.

Review your budget every few months and make adjustments to your savings goals and adjust your spending limits accordingly until you find a balance that works for you and is right for your family. You may also need to review and adjust your budget if your family size changes, your expenses or income change, or if your family’s goals change.

5) Be smart with your money.

Try to find ways to lower your expenses. Involve your entire family to help come up with ideas and to make the budget work. Even little things like walking or riding a bike to school or for short trips instead of driving so you save money on gas can add up to significant savings over time.

Below are some suggestions and tips on how to lower expenses and save money in little ways that can amount to important savings in the long run. The more things you do to cut out extra spending, the more you’ll save, and the more you’ll be able to contribute towards reaching your goals.

  • Walk or bike whenever possible instead of driving.
  • When you are driving, try to combine errands into one trip, and if possible, park in a central location for multiple stores/businesses and walk in between them instead of driving to each separately.
  • Eat out less or cook meals at home instead of eating out.
  • If you already cook all of your meals, try to buy fresh ingredients as much as possible to lower costs.
  • Compare prices at your local supermarkets and farmers markets to find the best prices.
  • Look at the weekly store ads they send you in the mail and try to buy items when they’re on sale.
  • Use coupons and combine them with sale prices for maximum savings.
  • Consider buying value brands/generic items when possible.
  • Eliminate small costs that aren’t necessities, for example, use cloth hand towels that you can wash and reuse instead of paper towels.
  • Instead of buying soda, make tea, or better yet – drink water!
  • When you do go shopping, make a list and stick to it! Buy only what’s on your list and what you really need. Don’t get distracted with impulse buys. A good way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to not go shopping when you’re hungry, as you’re less likely to pick up extra junk food or “goodies” that you might otherwise grab if you were shopping on an empty stomach.
  • Buy in bulk if the unit price for that item is cheaper that way, but only if it’s a product that you use regularly enough that a bulk purchase makes sense – and only if you will use all of the item before it goes bad.
  • When shopping for non-grocery items, like clothing, furniture, or anything else, determine if it’s something you really need before spending any money on it. If possible, wait a few weeks to give yourself time to think about it and see if you still want/need it.
  • Compare prices not only in stores, but also online.
  • Whenever possible, see if you can get the item cheaper by purchasing it used. You can look through classifieds, your local pennysaver, craigslist, or even second hand stores or yard sales.
  • Also, buy the items that only have the features you really need, don’t spend money on “extras” that you really won’t use,  or aren’t necessary.
  • Always ask yourself if it would be better to spend the money on something else, or even save it, before you decide whether something is worth purchasing or not.
  • Pay your bills on time to avoid late fees, and if possible, pay online or over the phone so you don’t waste money on stamps.
  • Be careful when using credit, and use it wisely by only charging what your budget allows. If you can’t pay the balance off each month you will have to pay extra finance charges that can add up fast.
  • Save money on your heating and cooling costs by setting the heater slightly cooler, and the air conditioner slightly warmer. You can always wear warmer or cooler clothes to make up for the difference. A few degrees change on the thermostat can make a huge difference on your bills.
  • Also consider using fans instead of your air conditioner whenever possible, and try to let the sunlight in when it’s cold, and to keep it out whenever it’s hot.
  • Switch your light bulbs to energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs – these make a huge difference on your energy usage and your bill.
  • Use natural light instead of turning on lights when possible, and make sure you turn off lights that aren’t in use.
  • Also consider unscrewing extra lights you don’t need at all. For example, if there are four light bulbs in a ceiling for a room, or in a fixture, consider unscrewing two, or even three of the four bulbs. Use the bare minimum number that you really need. I know I lived in a place once that had “vanity” lights over the bathroom mirror. There were about ten bulb sockets in one bathroom, and six or seven in the other. Unscrewing all but one or two bulbs still gave off plenty of light though, so I just left all the other sockets empty.
  • Don’t leave your computer or television or any other electronic device you’re not using on if it doesn’t have to be. If it’s not in use, turn it off.
  • Consider minor changes, like cooking in a slow cooker or crock pot instead of the oven, as this uses much less energy.

Make your own list of money saving ideas! Brainstorm with your family and try to think of other ways that could shave off unwanted and unneeded expenses wherever you can.

Stay organized. Keep all your papers (bills, receipts, bank statements, cancelled checks, etc) together and review your records and your spending diary or checkbook monthly. This will not only ensure you pay bills on time, but it will also help develop good financial habits and help you keep better control of your budget, and you’ll be able to plan better for the future.

Evaluate your goals often to stay motivated. Remember what you’re working towards!

There are plenty of other ideas and tips that aren’t on this list, but it should give you a good start on how to start thinking thrifty and saving, and if you follow the basics to setting up your budget, you should start to see improvement in your money management techniques within a few months.

Remember, keep track of everything, and be realistic with yourself both about what you can – and can’t – cut from your budget, and set attainable limits and goals to keep yourself motivated and on track.

Good luck!


Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Budgeting, Family, Money


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Holidays On A Budget -or- How I Made It Through

I haven’t had a chance to post a new entry in a while. Part of this was due to the hectic holiday season and part of it due to the increased mobility of the twins, and the time consuming nature of taking care of two infant babies intent on destroying, er, I mean exploring their environment. However, I do want to post a summary of my observations and learning on the best way to make it through the holidays on an extremely tight budget. It is possible! I did it, and rather well I might add.

So, in my last post I stressed the importance of signing up for assistance and charity programs that are out there and exist expressly for the purpose of aiding families during the holiday season, and of course being on top of the signup dates and times and arriving early. This definitely helped.

For Thanksgiving we received a food basket from the Salvation Army with: a turkey, potatoes, butter, canned goods (including green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes), bread, and stuffing. In fact, the food basket alone probably would have been enough to make our Thanksgiving meal, but careful budgeting and planning ahead earlier in the month contributed to make it a much nicer dinner – and ultimately, holiday – than if we had relied on that alone. Not knowing exactly what (or how much) we would receive, and knowing Thanksgiving comes at the end of the month when the food budget (i.e. food stamps) is typically running low, a simple bit of preparation and pre-planning really went a long way.

Obviously you always want to shop sales and stock up on items when they’re at their cheapest when doing your shopping, that kind of tip is a no brainer, but making a list of everything we needed and doing my shopping earlier in the month really saved me, not just money, but also the stress of last minute grocery shopping in crowded stores. Plus I was able to compare deals and early sales and really get everything out of the way in advance. Having bought enough “just in case” ahead of time, anything we had leftover that we didn’t need to use after we received the food basket we were able to set aside for later.

The second thing that really helped keep the stress off of Thanksgiving for me this year was a division of duties. Since typically people tend to get together with their family and loved ones anyway, we made it a group effort. Everyone who was invited to dinner was assigned one or two dishes to prepare and bring, and this also kept costs down so we weren’t responsible for every item on the menu.

Between what family members brought and contributed, what I bought in advance, and what we received, not only was there plenty for everyone in attendance, but it didn’t even feel like a Thanksgiving on a budget. We didn’t lack for anything, and even got my pantry semi-restocked with all the leftover extras that didn’t need to be used, which came in handy come Christmas-time.

Shopping during the holidays, and being able to buy at least a few presents for your kids, is probably every poor family’s worst nightmare when money is so tight. Again though, a little foresight and planning goes a long way. Setting aside as much as you can in the previous months leading up to the season, even if it’s just a little bit each check, goes a long way in alleviating stress so you don’t have to worry about not having enough available in a single month come December, and you don’t have to stress that your bills won’t get paid if you want your kids to have a Christmas.

Finally, and I know this isn’t something most people want to do, but if you’re broke it really is the best option: take advantage of Black Friday sales and be a door-buster. It may seem inconvenient to wait in long lines in advance and deal with crowds, but if you prepare yourself for it and can try to get all your shopping accomplished on this one day, not only will you save a lot and be able to shop on whatever your limited budget is, but you also don’t have to stress for the rest of the season, because everything is already taken care of.

Do your research in advance and have a game plan.

Be flexible about what types of gifts, or specific items, you’re going to purchase for your family.

Buy for the smallest amount of people you can. Most of your friends, coworkers, and other relatives will understand if you don’t buy them all a gift – and probably won’t be expecting one anyway, if you’re on a limited income – so don’t try to buy for everyone.

Save the ads they send you in the mail the week leading up to Thanksgiving, and buy the newspaper Thanksgiving Day to look through the different specials. Decide which store (or stores) you will be shopping at and look at those ads (or on their websites) in advance to see which items they will have on sale, and make your list.

Try to limit your shopping to one store (if possible) or the smallest number of stores you can, by purchasing as many items as you can at one location. Make that main store the first stop, and arrive early (or line up in advance) so you can assure you get the most amount of sale items on your list as early as possible, because if you go to more than one location there’s no guarantee the items you want will still be available by the time you arrive.

Buy only items that are at a significant discount to take full advantage of the sales that are offered on this day. Anyone can do shopping for non-sale items any day of the year, so don’t waste your time or energy on this one special day when so many items are offered at such low prices on anything other than sale items, and particularly aim for the extremely reduced priced items and offers if you can.

Stick to your list and don’t get distracted or lured into spending extra money on other items that aren’t on your list. No impulse buys! You have a plan and a budget and you need to stick to it!

Plan for a few alternate gifts. If one of the items on your list isn’t available anymore by the time you get there, have a second-choice item already selected in advance (that is also on sale) so you don’t have to scramble and try to find something else at the last minute and end up spending more than you had intended.

Don’t go overboard. Buy the bare minimum number of gifts you are comfortable with and can easily afford within the set amount of shopping money you’ve saved.Your kids don’t need to have a hundred gifts under the tree to unwrap. A couple presents each, or one nicer “big” present, for each person you’re shopping for, along with one “Santa” gift for each younger child should be more than enough.

If it’s the first holiday for your kids (like it was for my boys) don’t worry too much about having to make it “extra special” or try to “go all out” – your kids won’t remember it anyway, or really understand what’s going on. Make it nice, buy a few items as long as you don’t spend too much, and keep it simple.

Don’t dip into other funds that are set aside for other things in your budget. Never say, “Oh, I can wait on paying this bill this month, and use that money…” That money will have to come from somewhere later on, and you don’t want to throw off your budget for the following month (or months) playing catch up. In the end, it is not in your family’s best interest to be behind on bills or in debt for months to come over one holiday.

Finally, as I’ve stressed previously, arrive early. It may seem like a hassle, but getting in line ahead of time and saving a spot gives you the highest probability of finding all the sale items and extreme deals you have marked on your list before they all get snatched up by other shoppers.

And that’s that. That’s exactly what I did.

I did my research, picked my primary and secondary stores, and made my list based on what gifts were for sale at extremely reduced prices. Everything on my list was priced so low, I was even able to add a couple extra items to the list that I wanted to buy in advance and save until January, for the twins first birthday. I figured buying it now, when it was so cheap, and holding onto it until then would also save me money in the long run.

After we finished our Thanksgiving meal I drove to my first store and got in line, where I waited several hours until the doors opened and the line advanced enough to allow me inside. Once in, I began looking for the items on my list and did not distract myself with any other non-sale items. Amazingly I was able to find everything I wanted from my list, with no items out of stock yet, then I waited in line again to check out, which took several hours.

By the time this was over I was very tired, but the end was almost in sight. I went to my second (and last) store to look for the last handful of items on my list, and surprisingly, found those still in stock as well. I waited in line again to pay for my final purchases, and went home. I was very tired, but also very proud of myself, because I had managed to do my entire Christmas shopping in one night, with such a small amount of money, and the rest of December I didn’t even have to think about shopping.

Then of course, I knew the kids would be receiving a few extra items as well from the Salvation Army’s Christmas Angels program, but again, without knowing exactly what those things would be, wanted to make sure they were still covered. However, knowing that, I also didn’t feel the need to spend too much (though I managed to get much more than I thought I would be able to on such a small amount of money) because there would be some other gifts to supplement whatever I bought, so that also kept my mind at ease.

Then, as a last minute surprise, on Christmas Eve, I received a phone call from Toys 4 Tots letting me know they had extra last minute donations, and offering a few more items for each child.

Between my planning in advance, signing up for programs and special services available to me, and careful shopping, not only were we able to get through the holiday season with little to no pain on our limited budget, but it actually turned out to be quite a nice one at that.

And the icing on the cake? I don’t even have to spend any money on gifts for the boys first birthday – which is exactly in one week – because I set aside some of the items I bought for super cheap during my Black Friday shopping spree for exactly that purpose.

Like I’ve said, a little planning goes a long way.

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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Budgeting, Charities, Family, Holidays, Money


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You Have To Arrive Early…

So, when economic times are hard, we all know things become tougher for many families. However, when lots of people who aren’t accustomed to having to ask for help or assistance suddenly drop down a few rungs on the figurative class ladder, they find themselves turning to these organizations for the first time.

Case in point: The Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is a wonderful organization, and as anyone who’s ever been outside a store during Christmas-time and seen the volunteers with their red tins and bells may already know, they offer assistance to families in need during the holiday season. They call it their “Christmas Angels” program in most places, and they will help provide gifts (toys and sometimes clothes) for your little ones under twelve years of age, as well as a Christmas food basket that’s custom sized to the size of your family, which includes all adults and children in the household.

What you may not know is that the sign-up period for this program begins in October, and ends in the beginning of November, long before Thanksgiving, before most people are typically thinking or worrying about Christmas yet. So by the time many people realize they may need some help, it’s already too late to apply.

Then there’s the issue of those who do know. The people who take advantage of the services these charities offer every year. The “lower class” that the press loves to demonize. You know, the people so far below the poverty line that they can’t afford gifts for their children for Christmas. Many are the working poor, and many are on social services, like me. We’re all people on a tight budget to get by month to month, with little wiggle room for other expenses. Now, granted, these charities offer these programs exactly for people like this, like us, in these situations, but if you’re not a regular beneficiary of these types of services, have never used them in the past, and aren’t used to the procedures, you might be a little overwhelmed and surprised by the process.

The key lesson to be learned? (Not to mention my number one piece of advice.) You have to arrive early.

And by early, I don’t mean during the early part of the business hours, or even five or ten minutes before opening. I mean early, like door-busters or Black Friday early.

Because I currently live in an area with a large percentage of the population on fairly low to extremely low income, I knew well enough that there would be a high demand for these services. I also had the foresight to call well enough in advance inquiring about the program to find out when the signups were, even though I didn’t expect them to be as early as October. Still, I knew. I found out ahead of time.

In my town, the first day of the sign-ups was yesterday, from 1:00pm-3:45pm. I showed up at 12-noon. I had wanted to be early, but I do have infant twin boys that are still breastfeeding, so even when someone else is keeping an eye on the kids, I have to feed them first before I leave, and can only be gone a limited amount of time before I have to be back and feed them again. (I do pump and store, but they refuse to take a bottle.) This obviously limits exactly how long I can stand in line, and how early I can show up. I assumed one hour would probably be early enough to get a good spot, and hoped that after the Salvation Army offices opened, it wouldn’t take that long.

Even at noon – an hour early – there was already a decent sized line. Still, it didn’t look like it was so extensive that it couldn’t be handled within  3 hours and 45 minutes. I assumed everyone would be served and taken care of, we’d just have to wait our turn. Hopefully the office was used to this, and efficient, and would take care of everyone quickly. Many, many more people showed up and arrived after me. The line grew.

I had brought all the documents I assumed they might require, such as proof of residence, proof of income, identification, etc. They hadn’t told me over the phone exactly what to bring, so I just grabbed it all, to be on the safe side.

I waited. I talked to the people around me. I waited some more.

At 1 o’clock they opened the doors and employees started coming down the line, asking people how many children were in the household and handing out numbers. When they arrived to the person in front of me they gave her the last number and informed us (i.e. myself, and everyone else behind me) that they could only handle paperwork for 40 people that day, and that we would all have to come back the next day if we wanted to try again.

I was the 41st person in line.

It was incredibly frustrating to be so close, and yet still denied. I had just wasted over an hour with nothing to show for it. However, I now had an idea about how many people to expect the next day. I knew, that at the very least, all those behind me would probably be coming back the next day, based on all those who were turned away. In addition I assumed there would be people who would show up later that same day (who weren’t waiting in line ahead of time) who would also be turned away once they arrived, as well as people who might prefer the morning hours of the second day versus the afternoon hours offered the first day. Add to this all the people who might not know about the first day of signups, who would find out from friends and family as word of mouth spread, and I figured day two would be much worse.

In total, there are only six sign up days for the Christmas Angels/Baskets program in my area. Two this week (yesterday and today), two next week on Wednesday and Friday, and two the week after on Monday and Wednesday. Then they’re done. That’s it. After November 9th, if you haven’t signed up, you can’t participate. Now this might seem sufficient time for people to sign up for a service, until you take into account that they’re limiting the amount of people that can sign up each of those days, which means there’s a limited number of total spots.

Day one they only allowed 40 people. They had three hours and forty-five minutes to help those 40 that received numbers and process the paperwork, but Day 2 had much shorter hours (from 9am-11am), so before I left, I had the foresight to ask. “How many people will you be taking tomorrow?”

The answer: probably no more than 30.

So I asked for a list of all the information I needed (so I could make sure I had everything I needed ahead of time) and I went home and planned my battle attack.

I had to be there early. I absolutely had to get one of those 30 spots. I couldn’t risk waiting until next week, when even more people would probably be showing up.

And today I’m proud to announce that even though it was very, very cold this morning, and the twins were at home nestled all snug in their bed sleeping in after an extra-early morning feeding (with their Uncle Andrew watching them, prepared to feed them baby food if they woke before I got back), I was in line – holding a number 18 in my hand. I wasn’t first, but it was good enough.

They only took 30 people today.

I felt badly for the people behind me. I didn’t feel too bad, however, about speaking up to the women who tried to cut in front of their friends in the line and push everyone else who had been waiting back a spot.

And now? Well, my kids are signed up, but I still feel badly for the people who may show up on the remaining four signup days. I feel bad because they may not have found out early enough when the signups were, or thought since there were multiple days, they could pick the one most convenient for them. Like me, they may not find out until they’re there that there are a limited amount of spaces each day, and waiting until a later date might mean they can’t signup at all.

And even if they do know, they better arrive early.

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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Charities, Family, Holidays


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Self-Imposed Spending Filters

Something that happens rather quickly when one is on an extremely tight budget, is you start viewing all potential purchases through what I like to call a spending filter.

A spending filter is when you look at what you’re considering buying, and then compare it with all the other items you could be buying instead for the same amount of money, or a portion thereof, and weigh which items have the highest priority. If you can think of another item that is needed more, has a higher priority, or is more practical, for that same amount (or less) than you don’t make the purchase.

This is a self-imposed habit, and there’s nothing wrong with it, but it does make shopping, even for basic necessities rather a chore. It’s also a valuable lesson in priorities, and for a mother, it’s often simple equates to a “the kids come first” mentality, whereby items I need are almost always postponed or foregone altogether in favor of buying something my children need. In fact, their wants often precede my needs as well, as trying to maintain the happiness of a child when in a difficult situation often seems like a top priority in and of itself. I tell myself, “My kids deserve this.” And they do. It’s just a matter of finding a way to fit it in, which usually means cutting something else out.

So my priorities basically look like this:

1) Family necessities: Things we all need, general household expenses (rent, utilities, food, toilet paper, etc).
2) Children necessities: Things the twins or my daughter absolutely cannot go without (diapers, wipes, feminine products, etc).
3) Children high-priority non-necessities*: Things the kids need, but will usually not cause an emergency if it has to wait a few days (clothing, shoes).
4) Children regular-priority non-necessities: Things the kids could use, or items that are needed but with more notice, a longer lead time, or are less urgent or have more flexible timings for purchase (i.e. “I need Item Z for school by next week” or “I’m running low on Item Y and need more before X date” in the case of my teenage daughter – or – baby gear items, like: highchairs, a crib, the next stage car seats, etc. in the case of the boys – items I know they need, but usually can plan for in advance, or make due some other way in the meantime).
5) Children’s wants/non-necessities: Any and all other items that my kids want, or I want to get for them, that they can live without and don’t absolutely need but as a parent I would like for them to have, because it will make them happy or enriches them in some way (toys, books, entertainment, etc).
6) My needs: Only if absolutely necessary (i.e. over the counter medicines like Ibuprofen, replacing an item – like if my nursing bra breaks, or my shoes wear out – unplanned expenses, etc).
7) My wants: Not really on the list to be honest. By the time we reach this priority level the money is spent.

* The only reason the items listed in point three are not considered necessities and grouped with point two is due to the fact that they have these items already for the most part, but when we reach this point on the list it is either to get new items in place of things outgrown, add something that is missing but needed now (that may not have been needed before, due to weather or other circumstances), or get something that is otherwise worn out and/or unusable any longer and is in need of replacement.

So, I realize that all sounds rather complicated, so let me give you a real world example of my spending filters in action.

I go to the store to buy something we need and have to have, like diapers, and while shopping I see something I could use, like a pair of pants (since I only have two pairs that fit) that are relatively inexpensive. Immediately in my head I think of all the other things that I can buy for the same amount of money as that pair of pants.

“I could get another box of diapers for that price, or two value boxes of wipes, or that could pay for a third of the price for the second highchair they need. Alternatively, I could buy four new outfits for the boys, or a pair of toys, or three books for my daughter, or pay for her to go to the movies. It’s also a bottle of ibuprofen, some dish-soap, and a large pack of toilet paper…”

This can go on for quite some time. In the end, this  means the pants go back on the shelf. Now, it does not always mean I seek out and purchase the other items I realized might be a better buy. Quite often the money isn’t even spent at all other than on the specific things I came to get in the first place. But this mental exercise helps me see the value of things, and avoid frivolous and non essential purchases.

I never just pick up coffee or a burger and fries, because I don’t see a quick snack, I see shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, or baby powder and wipes, or a ticket for my daughter to go to a school dance.

So in the end, all that money that might have been nickeled-and-dimed away gets set aside for necessities, or saved up to purchase the larger items I need for my kids that I can’t usually afford out of what is left from any one check by itself.

When I went to the fair a couple of weeks ago, it was only because my mother and her boyfriend decided they wanted to take me and the kids as a treat, because in my head I couldn’t justify the expense. I didn’t see fair tickets, corn dogs, and carnival rides, I saw baby clothes, new shoes for my daughter, and/or (possibly) money set aside for Halloween costumes for the kids.

Just because we’re on a very limited income, does not mean I don’t believe my kids shouldn’t still get to celebrate holidays like any other child would be able to – and my teenage daughter, especially, is very excited about dressing up for Halloween. A desire that trumps her whim to go to the fair, though – thanks to my mom – we did not have to choose between the two this time. I’m happy to announce that we did, in fact, buy her costume, and it was the one she wanted. I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have this filters in my head that prioritize my spending, and limit me from using money on other items.

We may not have a lot of extra things these days, but we have the basics; and my kids are cared for. I’m even able to get them the items they want a lot of the time as well, it just requires a little planning and budgeting, but when your children don’t ask for much, or often, you find a way to make it happen – even if that means you’ll continue to only own two pairs of pants (that fit) for the foreseeable future. It’s well worth it.


Posted by on October 14, 2011 in Budgeting, Family, Money


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It Could Never Happen If…

I was originally going to make my next post about my spending priorities, and how I look at purchases (and that post is still coming as well, as I was almost done writing it), however, there was a comment in reply to my first post which was frustrating enough, that I’d like to dedicate a pieces exclusively to addressing this misconception.

The comment in question asked this: “My only question would be where’s your husband???? How come you didn’t marry your daughter’s or your twin’s father?” *Original punctuation of poster left intact.

Now, those of you that know me personally already know the rather complicated answer to this question. However, I personally don’t see how my relationship issues are anyone’s business, nor what they have to do with the welfare situation in this country whatsoever, and therefore I’m not going to go into the specifics of them here, because it simply isn’t relevant to the issue.

What does being married (or not) have to do with the fact that a family with three children is expected to live off of $725 a month?

Whether I was, or am, married to the father of my children, and/or where he is at (or why) isn’t the point of this blog. The purpose of my writing is to give a realistic description of how hard it is to live and support a family off of a very small amount of money, and to illustrate accurately what social services (i.e. welfare) truly provides to its recipients. I’m doing this because most people are not truly aware of what welfare truly consists of, and have false impressions of both what is given, and about the people who receive it.

My original first reaction to the question when I was about to respond to the comment was to start to explain the unique situation that brought me to this point where I am here, alone with my three children. But then I stopped, because the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter “how” or “why” I am alone.

The very fact that the question is being asked to begin with is just one of the societal stereotypes so many people embrace, as if being married or being with a partner in and of itself can magically fix a bad situation – economic or otherwise. Often times the extra burden or added expense for another person is just too much strain to handle with the limited increase in funds one would receive. Then there’s the assumption that “the man” (be it husband, father, etc.) would be able to support “the woman” and/or find work where she could not – and this, quite often, is also not always the case.

The simple fact of the matter is at this point in time, I’m doing this alone – and I’m not the only one. There are plenty of single parents out there, male and female alike, for a myriad of reasons. People separate. They divorce. Some leave bad relationships. Some part amicably. Sometimes people even pass away. Other times mothers can’t even track down the father of a child. Not everyone who becomes pregnant is married, and not everyone who has children together gets married, nor should they.

No matter what the reason is, it’s not really anyone’s business. The story is worth hearing, and the issue still deserves attention. This whole idea that marriage fixes all, or it could never happen if you were married is down-right absurd.

As a side note, and further evidence of the inadequacies and injustices of the welfare system, if you do receive child support from the father of your children (and you collect cash aid, food stamps, or Medi-Cal) you are expected to turn it over to the state District Attorney to “reimburse” what they are paying to you in benefits. So any help from the father of the children does not go to help cover additional costs not covered by that the tiny bit of welfare you do receive. So you end up with the exact same (little) amount of money that social services deem is adequate, and the state actually pays less out of their own coffers.

So tell me again, if you believe this is an adequate and fair system to the benefit of the children in proports to help?

I always welcome comments. (Link is at the top of each post.)


Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Family, Marriage, Money, Welfare


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