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Five Ways to Beat Penny-Pinching Fatigue
by Mia Cronan

Well, you've had enough. You're tired of just scraping by month after month, or of carrying a balance on one or more credit cards. It's frustrating to never see the light at the end of the financial tunnel. And it is very unfortunate that when we take the plunge, leave our jobs, and decide to be at home with our children full-time, it only gets even scarier. Frankly, the whole thing is exhausting. Here are a few things to think about to prevent the fatigue and frustration that go hand in hand with looking that monthly budget in the face:

Write up a budget, and don't spare anything! Write down your total income, then subtract every single thing you can think of on which you spend your money. This includes the periodic birthday or shower gifts, cleaning supplies, auto insurance, everything.

Do you have any large expenses coming your way? Do you need a new roof or a new car? Put it into the budget! Then, assuming your expenditures are larger than your income (they usually are for the average family), start cutting.

What can you do without? Cable TV? Your monthly dinner out? Could you survive on one car? The point here is that you need to feel in control of your money, not your creditors. That begins with planning out your expenditures. Anticipate the worst, and hope for the best!

Many women today are turning to work-at-home careers, or telecommuting for their companies. What a dream! For some, that's all it is though, because it's just not possible for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the needs of the family are simply too great. Or maybe previous work experience didn't prepare the person amply for a home business. It's also possible that the type of home business that the person is interested in would require too much initial cash outlay, whether in training, inventory, or rental property. If a home business appeals to you, do your homework first; I can't stress that enough.

Let me give you a few rules of thumb:

1. Please, please do not fall victim to the thousands of scams out there. They prey on desperate parents who will do nearly anything to be at home full-time with their children. They have no interest in you as an individual; they merely want your money. If they do not ask for a resume or references, but they require a "processing fee," run as fast as you can! If they promise you'll be making thousands of dollars "while you sleep." they're probably no good.

2. Write out a sample schedule for yourself, and really scrutinize it to see if you could stick to it. Can you carve two hours out of your day for your work? Four hours? Six hours? Whatever you decide to do will have to be done in that time frame, without deviation.

3. Make sure you do something you love to do (sell crafts, books, makeup, or do transcription and typing?)

4. Discuss it at length with your family. Starting a home business is like adding another member to the family. Everyone's affected! Try to look at frugality as a game. Make it fun, and include the rest of the family. Try this: if you can reach 20% of your grocery bill in coupons, you can have a family picnic in the park. Or, maybe your phone bill is a problem. If you can cut your phone bill in half for three months straight, the family can have a backyard campout with snacks and scary stories, and each child can invite a friend. You might try a competition with a friend to see which of you can cut your grocery bill by 25% for a few months in a row. The loser has to wash the winner's car. Make it fun! Keep the lines of communication open. Discuss these things with your spouse so that you're both on the same page. Talk about your fears and concerns, and discuss your individual goals, as well as shared goals. It's amazing what can be accomplished by a team that works well together.

Don't let society pressure you into thinking you need more "stuff" than you do. In the end, it won't matter if you had a DVD player or not. All that will matter is whether or not you did your best with what you had and did not waste your resources. The world is already too concerned with material wealth. As parents of the new millennium, we could demonstrate a lot of virtue by putting our families before our toys! The bottom is this: be realistic. Know your limits, operate within your means, and don't succumb to societal pressures.

Mia Cronan is a married full-time mother of three girls, ages 5, 3, and 1, living in Pennsylvania. She owns and edits, the magazine for modern mothers with traditional values.

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