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How Often Do You Visit McDonald’s?!?!

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As a family of 6, we don’t dine out often – fast food or restaurants. Before we moved, we were dining out once per month at a restaurant. It was always scheduled on a Wednesday to avoid crowds, always something we looked forward to. I understand this isn’t common. Most families have two working parents and when Chris and I were both working, we definitely went out more…mostly due to lack of energy.

Lately, we’ve been swinging by fast food once per week. I hate the expense and I hate how unhealthy it is but when I’m working long days in the office and Chris is working on renovating the house while homeschooling, we just don’t have time to make a meal every day. We meal prep on Sunday’s but even then, it seems like we are consistently missing cooking at least once.

I was beating myself up about it a bit while budgeting this month. We spent over $200 on fast food which is WAY over our usual. I had to steal from other categories to cover the shortage. It got me curious to see what other folks are doing. Did you know that the average American eats out 5.9 times per week!?!? People in Texas spend $2,656 per year, on average, on dining out. Holy moly friends! How on earth can people afford that?!?

Here’s the thing, for a moment, I thought, “Sweet, I’m normal. I’ve got nothing to worry about.” WRONG! The average American also carries credit card debt, has car loans, has very little in savings, isn’t prepared for retirement, and isn’t prepared for an emergency.

Don’t be average. Don’t be normal. Be better.

We’ve probably got a couple more months of elevated spend and the reality is, that’s life. There needs to be flexibility. BUT, don’t let these blips be permanent. Don’t accept this as your new normal. Don’t be normal. Be better.

Just talk about it, be honest

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My parents paid for my siblings and I to complete our bachelor’s degree if we so chose. All this time I thought they had saved enough money to pay for 4 years of school for all 5 of us. As missionaries who struggled to raise support for most of the years I remember (my teenage years), I have always been in awe of this.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know my grandparents contributed in some part for each of us. At one point, before my 16th birthday, I was shown a check for $10,000 made out to me. It wasn’t given to me, but explained as a contribution to help with my car or college or something. My memory is fuzzy.

Idyllic years

While I was growing up, I knew there were times we struggled with money. My mom was frugal to a T, scouring grocery ads and visiting numerous stores to get the best deals. It was exhausting. And I remember the tears and fear. Most of the time, those were just my impressions, but a few times, I saw it.

But the only money talk we ever heard from my parents was “Give 10%, Save 10% and then…” with the rest. And that mantra would supposedly end up with what I saw my parents doing.

college books

I loved my years at college. They were carefree and some of my favorite years ever.

And I never thought anything of it. I just trusted this advice. (Not that I followed it.) But I always thought that doing this formula would result in savings to pay for 5 kids first cars and 5 kids to go through college, etc.

In fact, during college, I never once thought of or even saw the cost of my schooling. I never heard them discuss the thousands they must have paid for room and board and tuition. They just let me make decisions on housing and meal plans and classes and they paid the bill. I have no idea how much those years of idyllic living cost them.

The reality

It’s just been in the past month that I learned the reality. My dad would borrow money for college tuition and then pay it back at some point. I don’t know what platform he used to obtain these loans or even how long it took him to pay them off. But finding this out made me look back to a very different reality.

Not a blame game

I’m not writing this post to blame anyone for my choices. But hearing how my dad paid for our school, just made what I had believed my whole life a falsehood.

I wish my parents would have been more open about the costs and payments they made for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for those idyllic college years where I didn’t worry a thing about money. But I really believe I would have a completely different view of money if I had been more exposed to reality.

That is something I have done with my kids. Exposing them to our household finances, being open with them about my mistakes and also showing and explaining finances as they change and I make better decisions.

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