Q: My husband and I have "filet mignon tastes," although our current incomes are more on the "artisan hamburger" level. We both work full-time and are trying to pay off debt while looking for better jobs. It's exhausting -- do you have any ideas?
Jim: I think your scenario is pretty common. 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 keeping up.
Far too many people 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. But more stuff means more spending, and around it goes. It's little wonder that couples at all income levels -- even the wealthy -- often feel the squeeze of debt.
Ultimately, there's only one solution that works. That is to learn how to live on less than what we make, no matter our income level. Admittedly, that can require some tough choices that force us to dig deep, sacrifice and change long-ingrained habits. On one end of the financial scale, it may mean downsizing our home or selling a car. On the smaller end, maybe we choose to eat out fewer times or limit our entertainment choices.
Living within our means might not fill our lives with material luxury. But it will give us a different kind of luxury that's priceless: contentment and peace instead of stress.
We have many resources and tips to help you get a handle on finances -- and lifestyle -- at FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My daughter is really looking forward to summer camp -- but is also very nervous about it. How can I help her?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: It's common for kids to feel nervous when they're getting ready to go to camp, especially if it's their first time being away from home for an extended period of time. If your child reacts anxiously to life in general, it's understandable if she's nervous about going to camp.
Here are three things you can do to help your child as she considers going to camp this year.
Listen. Ask your daughter to share her fears. Write those things down and talk about them. This will help her feel heard and will keep you both on track as she overcomes her fears. You learn a lot about your kids' thoughts by having them talk about their fears.
Validate. You can boost your daughter's confidence by helping her make sense of how she is feeling. For example, you can say, "If you think you'll be lonely or left out, it makes perfect sense that you would feel nervous. Tell me WHY you think that might happen?" Validating helps her know she's heard, understood and not crazy.
Challenge. Provide your child with alternative thoughts. If she says, "What if no one likes me?" you can challenge that by saying, "That would be tough and would feel scary. BUT what if you make a new friend on this trip? I'm proud of you for challenging yourself. Let's plan on celebrating after the camp."
You also get to practice patience as you manage situations that seem scary to your child. As you patiently approach these moments with your daughter, you're strengthening the trust between you.
For more information about how to address new situations like camp, go to FocusOnParenting.com.
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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