Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Fail at Life

This isn't necessarily finance-related, but I'm having a small breakdown and really just need to say some things.

Today was my son's last day of seventh grade. I haven't talked about him much. He was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 6, though I knew way earlier. And while I won't go into a long discussion of AS, it basically means he has a mild form of autism. He's super smart (IQ test shows 158) but has no social skills. He can't interpret tone of voice or tell what someone is feeling by looking at them.

Anyway, so today he brought home his final report card. He made two Ds, two Cs, and a low B in his core classes. And I feel like the worst mother in the world.

In the time since Jay's dad and I got divorced, I've pretended not to notice all the effects it's had on him. So many family members were scared he'd end up dropping out of school or using drugs just because his parents weren't married anymore. And I was determined that was stupid and stereotypical and would NOT happen to my child.

Middle school has been hard for him. All the kids are forming their little cliques and he gets teased a lot for being nerdy and naive about things. The teachers expect a lot more and are less willing to accommodate his educational needs. He has been stressed ever since he started sixth grade, but I told myself it was normal preteen stuff. Nothing to worry about.

Since my divorce, I work a job with long hours, lots of stress, and very little pay. As you all know, I also work a second job now. Most weeknights I'm gone until 9 PM. And I'll be honest - a lot of nights, I'm ready to scream by the time I get home. Jay doesn't want to do his homework because he's exhausted and stressed from school. So sometimes it was easier to just give him the answers to the homework. No arguing. No extra stress. No pleading with him to rewrite the illegible parts of his assignments (many kids with AS have horrible handwriting).

I thought he was still learning the material in class. I also thought his teachers would contact me if there were any problems. Yet his grades fell to nearly failing and I never heard a word from anyone. And was so busy I didn't take time to check.

I have a lot of guilt related to working away from home. I enjoy my career, but my mom stayed home with my sister and me, and deep down I feel I should do the same for Jay. Especially since he has special needs. Yet there is no possibility of me staying home. Ever. And now I am a walking stereotype: the single mother whose son has no real father figure and starts making horrible grades. The mother who works multiple jobs to make ends meet and doesn't have time to be involved in her child's life. The mother who just isn't good enough at her real job - raising her child.

I am so devastated right now. I can't even type coherent sentences. I just know I have failed my child in ways I may not ever be ever to fix. And it hurts worse than anything financial ever could.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Idiot-Proof Your Summer Spending

My son gets out of school this week, and it occurred to me that summer really is here (despite the best efforts of Harold Camping, and my brain's insistence that it should still be February). In my former life, summer meant shopping for new clothes and flip flops, taking weekend trips with friends, and going to a million weddings, baby showers, bridal showers, and bachelorette parties. When I was married, we were always flat broke in the summer - partly because of all the stuff we did, but mostly because I didn't get a student loan refund in the summer. Pathetic, I know. Last night I started freaking out a little as I considered how much all my summer activities were going to cost.

And then I realized, maybe for the first time in my life, that summer doesn't have to mean spending a ton of money.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not turning into this super frugal chick who's going to weave a picnic basket from old t-shirts or build my own backyard water park for twenty bucks. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I just don't have the time or energy. Instead, I decided I would try to map out my plans for June, July, and August to find a way to budget all the extra expenses rather than blindly swiping my debit card every five minutes.

I have three cousins graduating this week, two from high school and one from middle school. Normally all three of them would get a card with $20, but this year my sister and I decided to go in together and give each of them $25 (don't hate - we have a lot of cousins to buy for). So instead of spending $60, I spent $37.50. Not a huge savings but enough to make a difference.

Luckily I don't have many weddings or baby showers this summer - I think all my friends are married with kids now, so that's starting to slow down. But I did come up with a brilliant plan to save money on clothes for the weddings - instead of buying a bunch of dresses, I bought one cute black sundress. I can pair it with different shrugs/wraps, shoes, and belts to keep from looking like the girl who wears the same thing to multiple weddings. Or (gasp!) I can wear some dresses I already own. I'm usually not a big fan of repeating outfits, but I've learned that no one else notices or cares. You have no idea how much it physically harmed me to type the previous sentence. I nearly died.

Even though I can't afford a vacation this year, there are two small trips I take with my son every year without fail. First, we'll visit a nearby amusement park at some point in June. Thanks to coupons from my work, I can get by with spending less than $150 on gas, food, admission, and extras. I consider that an amazing deal for an entire day of rollercoasters and funnel cake! The second trip will be 4th of July weekend. I don't know where we'll go for sure, but we usually go to a museum (my kid's a nerd) before watching fireworks. That trip doesn't have to cost much as long as I plan ahead, which is something I haven't typically done.

Finally, there are two major events in August: my son's 13th birthday and the return to school. July is a 3-paycheck month, so I'll use that extra money to pay for my son's birthday cake, party, and gifts. My ex is responsible for buying school supplies and giving me money for clothes, so I'll pick up random sale clothing throughout the summer to put away since I know I'll be lucky to get the school supplies. (See former posts about the ex's financial irresponsibility if you don't understand the inference.)

None of the things I've mentioned are a surprise. They are just events I failed to plan for in the past, which cost me more money.

I know there will be some unexpected expenses throughout the course of the summer - I can't be prepared for every last minute cookout or outing - but I love knowing most of my plans ahead of time. This will make it easier to say "Sorry, I can't," when friends invite me somewhere expensive. Planning ahead means I won't decide to throw a random party that requires buying brand new outdoor furniture. Not that I've ever done that before or anything! It also keeps me from waiting until the last minute to try to come up with the money to pay for the things I know I'll be doing.

So that's my plan for the summer - so easy a child could follow it. Now whether *I* can stick to it is a whole other matter! What are you doing this summer? Do you have a plan to pay for it without breaking the bank?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why I Don't Have a Guest Post Today

Today I was supposed to feature a guest post here on the site about keeping debt from ruining your credit score. I was really excited about the article, despite the fact that it came from a guy I don't know. Unlike most people who ask to post here, this guy actually used proper grammar and spelling in his emails and appeared excited to post an article that might help my readers. The article was well-written, too.

So this morning I'm about to click the "publish post" button when I happened to hover over one of the links to his site. Guess what? Instead of directing to his supposed site about credit repair, the links were to a hair removal website! If I hadn't noticed, I would have bombarded you guys with spam. And that pisses me off.

There is a reason why I typically don't accept guest posts from random people. And I broke that rule because I thought I was getting something decent. Never again! I would call the spammer out by name and email address, but I'm trying to be a better person than that.

I'll be back soon with a normal post from me. No links to hair removal sites - I promise!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Your Questions About PNC Virtual Wallet - Answered!

A lot of my blog traffic comes from people searching for information about PNC Virtual Wallet. That's because I posted about how much I love Virtual Wallet back in February, and apparently Google thinks everyone should come here for information (not that I'm complaining!). I'm not affiliated with PNC in any way; I'm just a huge fan of Virtual Wallet.

I spent some time today looking through the search queries that bring visitors to the site and thought I would answer some of the questions people are asking. If you're not interested in Virtual Wallet, feel free to browse around and find something more interesting. :)