As a working single mom, while others joked about the terrors of tax season, I looked forward to the refund I received every year in the spring. The windfall gave me extra space to breathe and allowed me to have a little fun after the long austerity of winter. Over the years, I learned to plan carefully and spend my refund in ways that would most benefit my household. The following are a few ways I invested that money to take care of our needs.

Save cash for an emergency fund. Stashing a few hundred dollars gave me peace of mind and helped me feel ready to face the inevitable crises that would arise throughout the year.

Payoff credit cards and small debts. One less debt is one less thing to worry about, so paying off credit cards gave me a clean slate feeling to the year ahead.  

Save for Christmas shopping. Yes, in the spring, Christmas looks far away; but the holiday arrives at the same time every year, so we might as well be ready for it. I also shopped clearance shelves throughout the year for gifts and toys that could be hidden away for the next holiday season.

Put new tires on the car, schedule an oil change, and arrange for any necessary vehicle repairs. We depended on the car to get us to work and school, so every act of maintenance I could muster gave us more reliable transportation.  

Schedule doctor appointments and dental checkups. I never enjoyed them, but they had to be done.

Buy something for home. New towels or bedding made our apartment more comfortable and homelike.  

Enroll in a class or a workshop. Education is never wasted, and I am always happy to improve my skillset.

Get a good haircut. For most of the year I got trims at the discount place, but once and a while it felt good to have a luxurious haircut with the full salon treatment.   

Invest in a professional outfit and a nice pair of shoes. A few new clothes gave me more confidence at work and job interviews.

Buy kids’ clothes on winter clearance. Depending on what kind of growth spurt my daughter was going through; I bought coats, snowpants, boots, hats, and gloves at the after-season clearance sales and stashed them away for the next winter snows.

Let the kids shop. Sometimes I gave my daughter a small amount and let her buy something she had been wanting.

Have some fun, already. Every year I tried to plan something fun to do with my daughter. An afternoon at the movies, the zoo, the aquarium, or indoor waterpark makes memories of the time your family shares together.  

Remember to be grateful and give thanks for the abundance God sends our way each day throughout the year.

How are you looking forward to using your spring tax refund? How do you plan to invest in fun with your family?

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A flock of geese landed on the surface of the pond, spraying water and splashing until they settled and headed straight for us. At the water’s edge, the geese strode onto the muddy bank, confident and swaggering. They nudged the quacking ducks out of their way and demanded their share of snacks.

My daughter and I tore bread and tossed chunks onto the mud at the birds’ feet. We spent many summer mornings at this pond, feeding the ducks that paddled on the water, and laughing at the bravado of the geese.

My favorite summer memories are of the simple moments I shared with my daughter. We didn’t have much money, so activities had to be inexpensive or free. We found simple entertainments: rollerblading to the park, browsing books at the library. I learned to find joy watching geese land on a pond and appreciating time with someone important to me. The simplest memories make summer special.

Of course, the internet is filled with frugal summer fun ideas. Click here or here for a few, or check out my summer fun board on Pinterest. I pray you enjoy a simple and fun summer!

Where will you go to spend time with special people this summer? What are your favorite summer memories?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

A friend suggested I share some little-known facts about Liz. Here are fifteen:

When I was six, I was on a local kids’ TV program. I sat next to a dog puppet in a box.

In high school I won a composition contest. My essay “Investing a Career in Education” explained why good teachers are important and was printed in the town newspaper.

I’m a Batman fan. I grew up watching the old Adam West Batman series, and I named my teddy bear Robin. Now I like the Chris Nolan Dark Knight movies and the Gotham TV series.

I met American Idol winner Taylor Hicks in Las Vegas. He signed my CD.

I have traveled to Germany and Paris, and I ate lunch in the Eiffel Tower; but my favorite trip was to Hannibal, Missouri, to see the writing desk of author Mark Twain.

The day I got my first car, I ran into a tree. It was a small tree, and my car knocked it down.

I don’t like avocados, raw onions, or green peppers on anything.

I have never eaten sushi or gone bungee jumping, and I have no plans to do either.

My daughter took my wisdom teeth to school for show and tell.

My first blog was called lizology101, but it ended when I started howtobeasinglemom.com.

My first published short story appeared in the magazine Tattooing by Women.

For a year, I worked as a proofreader for the state legislature.

During that year, I went to work one morning with gum in my hair and didn’t notice until after I’d had an entire conversation with a coworker.

I collect owls, ceramic pitchers, and children’s books. I buy old clothes in thrift stores and cut them into pieces to make quilts. The quilt I’m making now includes old tee shirts, sweatshirts, and a pair of jeans.

I am grateful for my family and friends who support my dreams. I want to know more about my readers and would love for you to leave a comment with a few fun facts about yourself.

What are you grateful for? What are the happy memories that have made you who you are?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Sometimes life stinks. At the Fair, animal barns flank the entry gates. As we enter the gate, my companion always comments about the smell of the barns, as if complaining will change the situation. Life is often messy and offensive, and complaining doesn’t improve it. If we stay home because we can’t handle the occasional stench, we miss out on the fun things life has to offer.

Look for the sweet stuff. At the Fair, food stands line the walkways. Hungry people stand in line to sample decadent treats like bacon-wrapped corn dogs, deep fried donuts, ice cream, waffles, or cookie dough on a stick. Life presents us with an endless array of blessings that make it delicious.  Sometimes we should accept, be grateful, and enjoy the good things life has to offer.

Be patient. A day at the Fair requires standing in line. While we wait for the bus from the parking lot, for our ticket at the gate, for iced tea or lemonade at the food stand; all we can do is accept where we are and be patient for the line to move. Much of life involves waiting for the right time, the right circumstances, the right conditions to propel us forward. When we are forced to wait, we can use that time to learn what we need and practice patience for the change that will arrive soon.

It is OK to rest. Walking all day through Fair crowds and summer sun can make us tired and irritable. Sometimes we need to buy a lemonade, claim a bench in the shade, and watch the crowds pass for a while. In life, we need to know when to step back, take a break, and regroup while we watch the world go on without us. We will know when it’s time to jump back into the flow and move on again.

Wear good shoes. Fairgoers walk for miles across dusty sidewalks, gravel paths, steep and curving trails. Uncomfortable shoes shorten our endurance and make the journey miserable. We see more of life when we are sure of our goals and the footing that carries us. When we are comfortable with ourselves, we can travel farther and faster than when we try to follow someone else’s tracks.

Watch where you step. All those animals at the Fair can leave a mess on streets and sidewalks. Prudent people are mindful of what lies before them on their path. Wise people take care of themselves and watch the road ahead as they travel throughout life. When we are aware of where our walk is taking us, we can avoid those pitfalls we don’t want to encounter.

Life, like the Fair, is a wonderful mix of danger and risk, fun and opportunity. At the Fair, we have to be cautious and know where our limits of endurance lie. In life, we can test those limits and be grateful for the experiences we share and the lessons we learn.

What have you learned about life this summer? What do you enjoy as you walk your unique path?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail