Q: My husband and I both work full-time. We're having problems making ends meet, so we're looking for better jobs. Meanwhile, we're trying to make a little extra here and there, but it's becoming exhausting. Do you have any suggestions?
Jim: It's a common statement: The money comes in; the money goes out. And for a lot of us, there's not much left over when it's all said and done. It's a never-ending cycle that leaves many families wondering how to get ahead when they're barely making it.
Many couples can only think of one solution to that problem: make more money. A little extra cash may ease some of our immediate stress, but it usually isn't a long-term solution for debt. That's because the more money we earn, the more we're likely to elevate our standard of living. And more stuff means more spending. It's no wonder that couples at all income levels, even the wealthy, often feel the squeeze of debt.
Ultimately, the only solution that works is learning how to live on less than what we make -- no matter our income level. That can require some tough choices that force us to dig deep and sacrifice. On one end of the financial scale, it may mean selling a car or downsizing our home. On the smaller end, maybe we decide to eat out less or limit our entertainment choices.
Living within our means may not fill our lives with material luxury. But it will give us luxury of a different kind: contentment and peace instead of stress.
We have a number of resources to help you get a handle on finances -- and lifestyle -- at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: Our son will be just old enough to possibly start kindergarten this coming fall. But we're not sure if he's ready (or we are). What should we consider before deciding?
Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting and Youth: Sending a child off to kindergarten can be an emotionally difficult task for some parents. Also, there can be a lot of pressure to get kids enrolled in school because of the fear that they may be missing out or falling behind.
I have found that children do best when they feel a sense of worth, belonging and competence throughout their academic years. Your child's maturity -- emotional, physical and mental -- will make a difference in developing this kind of experience.
It's helpful to consider whether you want your son to be one of the youngest or oldest in his class as he progresses through school. My kids, now 14 and 12, have done great with waiting a little longer to enter kindergarten. They have connected well and succeeded academically. In my counseling practice, I have seen more success stories in children who were on the older side in their grade than in kids who were on the younger side (when we're talking about just old enough).
However, each child is quite different. One child may flourish as the young one in the class, while another will struggle and have a lot of difficulty. My niece skipped a grade early in her elementary years and did well as the "young one" all throughout her schooling. She was a first-born, independent and driven girl and did very well academically and socially.
Ultimately, it comes down to assessing whether your child is ready for school physically, cognitively and emotionally. Take some time talking with his preschool teacher, Sunday School teachers or other adults who may be interacting with him to give you some helpful input before deciding.
If you'd like to talk to one of our staff counselors about this decision, you may contact them at 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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