They have been told

Last night I called a family meeting and talked with the kids. I explained to them the change in income. I showed them four pennies and told them to pretend that was all the money I used to get every month and now I only get this much, and I took away two of the pennies.  They looked a bit shocked so I told them we were going to be fine but that I am going to need their help to be very cautious with money. We cannot be wasteful and have to be very careful with what we have.

Then I talked about this weekend. I told them there wasn’t enough money for any park but that I asked around and a friend of mine gave me free tickets for one of the parks. So I scrounged together some money and we would be going to one of the parks this weekend. I told them it was Universal. I told them we would not be going to Disney this weekend. Baby started to cry. A little bit, and I could tell he was fighting not to do so, burying his fists into his eyes.

So I explained Disney was not cancelled. We would not go this weekend but that we would go. I told them we needed to save money for the trip. They asked me how much. I explained the cost of the tickets and the hotel (Daughter thought hotels were free!) and the gas and the food and said to be absolutely safe, we would need one thousand dollars. The number was met with wide eyes and wows and then they started suggesting different ways to make money. Eldest thought he could sell comics he draws out in the front of the house. Daughter suggested we hold a garage sale. Baby just watched and got excited because they were excited and that was good.

So I calmed them down and said that we would save the money and I would draw a thermometer and we would track the money and when we filled it to the top we would go. And then I told them I needed to measure them and that they should go to Universal’s website to see what rides and shows they liked the most and that was that. After the meeting, I drew the envelope and showed it to them. After Universal, we’ll start saving somehow some way.

It’s funny, yesterday I felt SO good. I mean I felt really powerful and ready– for anything, for everything. Today I’m sort of hovering. Not bad not great just sort of in the middle. But it’s weird because I can’t seem to push myself over into really excited and happy while at the same time, I feel it’s too easy to fall the other way.

Their dad sent me an email last night that he was going back to working for a company, that he already had two offers on the table, and was in the process. he said things would be back to normal soon and he was sorry. I just shrugged.

What exactly is normal anyway?

34 thoughts on “They have been told

  1. That sounds like a really good way to tell them, and to help them understand how much effort will go into saving for the actual trip, if they can see the “progress” on the thermometer. Also, it sounds like things might be looking up if Dad gets a real job again, but it doesn’t seem like something you can count on, of course :(

    • Thanks! All the ideas I got from everyone really helped me piece together an approach I thought would work.

      As for what happens next, I already know how things work I guess. He’ll get a job and the state will step in and garnish it and send me money regularly on his behalf. And then he’ll get antsy and quit or get fired and repeat the cycle. I just have to keep doing what I was doing before– saving as much of the child support that does come in and living off as little as possible.

  2. I am so happy for you. The thermometer is a good idea. The kids will be willing to be patient now. I wonder if the ex has heard from the state. He may think that keeping you mollifiied with promises will make you hold off. The state still needs to step in. Here, and in NY I know that the state gets the check from ex and sends it on to you. Some people mistakenly think the state keeps a “cut” of what he will send. Not so. Anyway, the collection and excuses will no longer come to you, just the money.

    By the way, unless he informed the court of his lack of money, he still owes the back support. He has to go to court to lower his support in his lowered circumstances–if he can get his payment lowered at all. He will no longer depend on your good will since the state will be the “person” to whom he makes excuses. Let him be the ones to cut corners to pay what the court ordered.

    What is this about your son selling comics he draws in front of the house? It sounds interesting!

    • You know, as soon as I saw the email my first thought was, “The State must have contacted him.” I much prefer the state handling things that’s for sure. It makes things a lot easier. Here they charge a fee for garnishment but that’s it.
      My son really liked the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Apparently the other day my parents took the kids to Costco and he got a Diary of a Wimpy Kid DIY book that encourages kids to write their own comic strips like the character does. So he’s been filling the book, having a great time with it. And he had the idea that he could sell his comics for a quarter in front of the house– like a lemonade stand. We live on a super busy street so I’m not thrilled with the idea but I think it’d be fun to give him a table at the garage sale.

      • If the state garnishes his wages, does the state pay for garnishment? Or, do you? Is forcing him to personally send a payment the same as garnishing from his job? He and his employer will not be happy about garnishment because he won’t pay to support his children! Oh well…lol. If you have to pay anything to the courts, you can apply for a waiver of fees. You have to fill out a form with all info on income and outgo. It is a pain. But, guess what? HE has to pay for your court fees if you win, which of course, you will.

        I know you don’t like it, but you have to depend on the hegemony of the courts. Even the thought might be enough to force him to pay in a timely manner. Of course, there are still men who would rather go to jail than pay for their children.

        His cartoons are probably worth more than $1. Put a tip jar on his table that says “Vacation Fund” or something like that. I would drop in some money!

        • There is a small administrative fee that in the state of Florida the one who pays child support must pay for as well so that’s the way it goes. The employer just tacks it on to the amount they garnish from his paycheck so it’s not a strain on them. If he were to pay the state himself, he’d still have to pay. He does not have the option to pay me directly thanks to the child support order that was written up. He MUST pay central depository and they pay me. It’s much better that way because it really takes the emotions out of a lot of things.

          That’s a great idea too for his cartoons! I hadn’t thought of that!

  3. It sounds like the kids actually took it really well. While it might not bring as much in as they’d hope, it’s awesome that they were willing to put ideas forward on things they could do to earn money and reach their goals. Not only have you taught them to taper their expectations, you’re teaching them very valuable lessons about money. Well done :D

    • Thank you!! Yes, they took it pretty well. I tried to get over the bad news part as fast as possible and kept focusing on the good news. Like I said, the bad part is that it’s the youngest two that wanted to go to Disney so badly. But at the same time, it’s a good thing because they have much smaller attention spans!

  4. That is such a great example of teaching kids about money! It’s a lousy situation for you to be in, but especially with the older 2 you are doing a great job of setting them on the path of good financial habits.

    • Thank you! I am happy with the way it went as well and hope to keep bringing them into the conversation about finances. They have great ideas and it’s good to see them understand things.

  5. You are AWESOME! You gave your kids the best gift ever; they know mom can handle difficult circumstances, we are a family that sticks & works together, how to live in the real world and manage money. Sure, there will be tears and sadness over disappointments but your family will make it. Kudos to you for doing the hard but right thing!

  6. I have totally missed this whole thing, but I just got caught up. (Cross country trip took a toll on my Reader) Anywho, you’re just amazing. I am glad you had this conversation with your kids, too many try to shield their kids from money situations and they grow up just as clueless. You can still have a great childhood and be aware of how money works. Best of luck to you during this time.

  7. Spreading pennies on the table to represent income and placing them in piles to represent budget outlays is a way I have used to conceptualize things for many years. It is wise to help the children understand such financial operations in that things are not placed in our lives magically. They will realize the inadequacies without father’s “help” without your mentioning it. They will ask him questions without initiation or suggestion on your part and having no fingerprint on those conversations enhance your position all around. In Florida administrative fees for child support disbursement are paid by the payor and not the payee and do not reduce child support total.

    • You know, using pennies to demonstrate budget is another great idea. They’ll love that!

      Yes, I found that out as well about the admin fees. Some people are just clueless and make assumptions but that’s exactly right!

  8. You did the right thing. When I started cost cutting measures myself, I had to explain the concept of saving and budgeting. They seem to understood and has never bugged me for anything. They feel everything they need, they already have.

    • Thank you! yes, we are going to work some more on understanding budgets. I think it helps them a lot more instead of the more abstract “I don’t have the money for that”.

  9. That’s an awesome lesson your children learned. I remember when my son said once that it was a good thing that I was paying by credit card on some big purchase. When I asked why, he informed me that he thought stuff you put on a credit card is free as well. Kids make assumptions and it’s great you explained it so well.

    This may change how they think of spending for the rest of their lives. What a wonderful gift. Living frugally while being content doing it was one of the best lesson my mom taught me.

    • I am constantly surprised by the assumptions kids make about finances. And I bet it gets even more confusing now that they are growing up with gift cards AND credit cards!

  10. I love your kids’ enthusiasm with raising money to help go. Do you notice a lot of coins on the ground where you live? Do you come across vending machines often? I’ve always picked up coins from the ground, checked vending machines, and looked at movie theaters as I left (cell phone flashlight helps a lot with that!). It is not a huge amount, but it can add up over time. Also, my habit of looking for money has meant I have stumbled across larger bills from time to time. Perhaps you can start a change jar for collecting found money to help add to the savings.

  11. I’m proud of you. I didn’t think it was a good idea to go but didn’t want to say that since you had your heart set on it as much as the kids. But then peace of mind every day of the month means more to me than 3 days of fun.

    Here’s a funny (sort of) on Disney and money:
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/bunch-of-numbers-from-where-daddy-works-means-no-t,29329/

    Don’t underestimate the benefits of kids learning the hard way that they can’t have everything that they want right away and that learning to save for the things you want is a wonderful lesson – and actually fun (half the fun of trips is the anticipation I find). At their age, your kids see money like some 20-somethings see credit cards where there’s no consequences to over-spending.

    • Poor Onion piece.
      Thank you. I feel better about it. We’ll make it eventually. Little by little. I am trying so hard to have more and more money conversations. This morning I explained three ways to buy a car; With cash, A Lease, and a Bank Loan.

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