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A Single Mother Struggling to Budget Weighs the Balance Between Just Surviving and Really Living

. We had been responsible with money, but I still wasn’t fiscally prepared for this loss. I wanted to ensure that my kids and I could stay in the neighborhood and home where we’d always lived—something that was hard enough when my husband and I were both working.

It was almost impossible on my own. So, I had to learn to , which wasn’t easy, especially for someone who’d had to repeat a year of high school math.I spent my first year of widowhood keeping obsessive watch over all our spending in what—in retrospect—was a futile attempt to control a life that felt uncontrollable. While my kids slept, I’d agonize over how much extra we could spend and still make all our bills.

I quickly learned that with small children, every moment you are away from them costs money. If I wanted them picked up from school, or to go for a quick after-work run, I had to pay a sitter. For years, my life felt like an endless stream of paying teens in my building for a few minutes of alone time.

It added up. But if I didn’t shell out the cash, I felt trapped. I quickly realized that paying for a few extra hours each week to exercise or go grocery shopping alone was worth the sanity it gave me.

This was the start of my small splurges.How did I rationalize spending money that put me slightly over budget? Somewhat strangely, I recalled a brief period in my teens when I joined Weight Watchers. I was 15 years old, and my body had changed and could no longer partake in my previously indulgent little kid diet, so I decided to take control of my eating habits. There, I’d heard about a woman who wouldn’t eat a slice of her anniversary cake because she was on a diet, but later, went into her kitchen and finished what was left of the entire cake, which was

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