In December of 2011, I joined this board after being a fan on the site for a few years. I sought help in trying to find a way to avoid collapsing under the pressures on being a new father, and someone making very little money.

Now in 2013, My eldest Son is almost 2, and my new Son is 2 months. My relationship has survived a lot of terrible moments, but it is well worth it. I left my white collar job at Aflac to return to the restaurant industry, and it seems like everything is going well.

Unfortunately, we were not able to make it where we were living and had to move. That onus is all on me, as I started to neglect my duties as a father and a boyfriend. I appreciated the advice I was given the first time, and the majority of it applied and worked for a small time. Now I am not sure what I am doing wrong, and what to do next.

I only make $10 an hour and clock around 38 hours a week. It is not glamorous and definitely not profitable, but it is the industry I want to be in while I figure out what to do next, and even where to live next. 

My girlfriend will be returning to work part time at the start of April, and we haven't figured out what to do in regards to our children. I work night shift, she will be working during the day. I haven't been able to bring home enough money to afford even the very basics..

Should I change my filing status on my W4 from 0 to 4? Do I find a daytime job? I am at a loss and my children deserve better then the life I was given at a young age. Thanks once again for listening, and hopefully advice.

- Joseph

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You have an income problem, not necessarily a money management problem.  $10/hr is not enough for a family of four, no matter what you change on your W4 (but, yes, change your W4 for less withholding).  You need a plan for getting a better job.  Why'd you leave Aflac for a $10/hr. restaurant job? Were you making less than that at Aflac?  Did you just hate it?  You can probably do better than $10/hr. by just working at a better restaurant.


Your wife getting a job may help for a while, but it'll be tough on the marriage, so its a temporary solution.  And, it'll only work as long as you don't need to hire a daycare.  If both of you get a day job, you will need a daycare ... so you can't do that. Either, or.


My two youngest -- 5yo and 1yo -- are in daycare right now, and it runs us $1400+/mo.  You can shave some off that by shopping around ... but what you gain in cost savings, you'll lose in quality.  Still, you're looking at a minimum of $75-$100/wk. or so per kid ... and thats if you find a daycare in a demilitarized zone.  Not too good for the kids.


You need a temporary solution, and a long term plan.  For a temporary solution ... you or your wife need a day job ASAP, and you need to look into finding a better restaurant gig.  Waiting tables at a good steakhouse or something should bring in more than $10/hr.  You need a restaurant gig that brings in well-to-do customers that drink a lot, and tip well enough.


For a long term plan, you need a light at the end of the tunnel.  I don't know what that light is ... but working two jobs at restaurants is not a long-term plan for financial success.  What do you want to do with your life?  What skills do you have?  What skills can you get?


I left Aflac because it was commission based and at the end of the day, I was not nearly as happy as I am when I put in a long day of hard work. I wasn't making that much more then I am now, so I suppose why I left is a moot point.

We currently live in a apartment on the third floor, with her mother living on the 2nd floor. It is convenient when we need a sitter in a pinch, but I don't think we can rely on her long term for watching our children, as she has her own life and sets of problems.

Our rent is $640 a month, even though nothing works here. At our last place I fixed it up the best I could, but that was because I had the intention on staying there, and that just didn't work out. So this time around I can't be bothered replacing all the loose outlets and leaking faucets because I am paying nearly $200 more in rent then we previously did. That is entirely my fault.

In terms of temporary solution, the only thing I can think of is obtaining my serv safe certification and wait till my 6 month anniversary (which will be next month) or wait till my year anniversary and ask for a raise. I have shopped around for other restaurants but they want more experience then I have. I consider myself a very talented cook, but I lack actual hands on experience.

My only real skills that I think are viable is cooking and art. I stopped anything related to art around the time my son was a few months old, as I just couldn't seem to find the time. Unfortunately, as I start to describe all the things that are wrong and that I lack, it just discourages me even more. I mean, I feel like a failure  due to a misguided youth with not a soul to educate or direct me. I know this is all my wrong doing, but I feel so overwhelmed with what to do, I don't even know where to start.

I can tell you my long term goal is to move out of Pittsburgh for good and start my family somewhere new. I would love to work in a kitchen, or get back into art so that I can try to make a successful career out of that. But because I have no education and barely can put food in the fridge, I feel helpless..

turn it around.  I know for a fact that if you look at the doom and gloom side of things that's exactly what you will see, turn it around and look at what you have that you love, your wife, your son, your family, your friends, cooking; things like that.  Don't dwell on the negative.  It sounds "New-Age" but just as when something happens and I get angry it is a self-feeding mechanism and I get angrier the more I think about it, so I quit thinking about it, at least for a while.  After you get feeling better then think about what you really want to do in life.  You want to cook?  Then cook, get two jobs cooking for the experience.  Look into going to a culinary arts school.  I don't know about art I don't think it is often very lucrative unless you're working for a larger company such as Disney, television, or movie studio.  Sole artists have a much harder time supporting families.

My only real skills that I think are viable is cooking and art.

Don't sell yourself short. Most people have far more potential than they realize. You don't need to rack your brains out trying to figure out a niche in life, you just need to open up your mind to possibilities and opportunities, and then act on them.

The fact that you have a job puts you ahead of the something like 20% of people who would like to have a job but don't (official unemployment rates count for only about half of these, because long-term unemployed drop off the list as "discouraged workers").

So things are not so bad for you relative to others. Small consolation, I know, but make the best of the situation. Handle money frugally and whatever you do, don't get into debt. It costs a lot of money to be broke.

Your sons need you more than they need "stuff". Give your sons and your girlfriend as much quality personal attention as you can afford from your time budget. When they want your time, give them 110% of your positive attention. Appreciate them every moment you're both alive, even when you're not with them.

What is discretionary in your time budget, invest in yourself. Be open to developing skills that will create more opportunities for you. Don't rush into something out of desperation; when the opportunity is right, you'll know it. Develop a habit of thinking positive thoughts, which means always looking for ways to turn things around, cut your losses, make do with what you have, be grateful for what you have, play the hand you're dealt, and find happiness within.

"Where attention goes, energy flows".

Every night before you go to sleep, think of every blessing you already have, and every reason you have to be happy: your girlfriend, your sons, your job, your life, your skills, whatever good habits you have, your mother-in-law's help, and express gratitude for them. As your mind opens up to blessings in your life, it will improve its ability to notice ways of putting them to good use that are already there, you're just not noticing them yet. You'll start discovering resourcefulness and resilience in yourself that was always there but underutilized.

Great success and prosperity to you.

I agree with JB.

Anyone getting a refund should up their with holdings, IMO. Especially people who feel they are or actually are cash-poor. Worst that can happen is you owe money in April 2014, and there's really very little the IRS can do about that. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip.

At under $20K/year ($10x38x52), you're below the federal poverty line for a family your size. That means you qualify for assistance with food, housing, childcare, and health insurance. You might qualify even after your girlfriend starts working. You need to go after all the resources available for your family. It's what you and I pay taxes for.

P.S. To back up our claims that your problem is income, and not money management (and that your income problems are a symptom of bigger problems beyond your control), I recommend the new book "Pound Foolish" about how the personal finance press and gurus has churned out wrong and conflicting advice that most Americans can't actually follow. Get it from the library.

I had a dream (I know it's been said before).  In this dream I was managing a shoe department (which is NOT what I'm doing currently) for a large, expensive department store.  A group of corporate types came into the store one day and in that group I saw myself, in an Armani suit.  I was able to talk to myself and I asked me how it came that I was corporate.  It turned out that one day while he (my other self that is) was working in the shoe department there was a big photo shoot with one of the big name models occurring in a nearby field.  Knowing that it had been raining recently and that the field was still muddy he took some shoes off the shelf and carried them over to where the shoot was taking place.  He gave them to the model and told her to wear them out to where she was to be staged and then changed them back to the "Jimmy Chu's" she was to wear for the shoot.  He did this because he knew that walking out to the stage spot in the $4000 Chu's would ruin them and the shoot.  That was his big break.  Because he saw the bigger picture and had an impact on the outcome of an expensive shoot he was promoted to corporate.


I actually had this dream about four nights ago.  I woke up just after the dream and I thought about what it meant.  This is what I came up with:

In our lives there are inflection points.  What this means is circumstances arise in which a small action on our part has a HUGE impact on what would follow.  By acting in a certain manner or doing certain actions we could greatly improve our position, in our career, our love lives, our finances.  The problem is, what are these inflection points, how do we know when they are occurring.  Well, the short answer is, you don't, not for certain anyway. The only way we can maximize our possibilities is to take each decision, each choice and consider the whole picture, the bigger picture, what the impact of our actions could potentially have on everything around us.


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