Sunday, January 6, 2013

A new financial year

With this new year I have opened a new checking account. This account will be where I deposit Primo's checks from our agency. The debit card from this account will only be used to purchase goods and services for Primo.

I know I'm probably a little obsessed with the whole money thing, I have written about it a few times in the past.

The thing is, I have heard from quite a few foster parents that the checks they receive for the care of their foster child/ren are more than enough to care for them month in and month out. I have heard from others that the checks are never really enough to cover all their expenses. Therefore I have always been interested in tracking whether I'm spending ALL the money on Primo, or not.

I know that during the first months of a new placement I will almost always spend more than is coming in. This was true for Primo, I didn't keep meticulous records, but it was easy enough to see that it took at least half a year to break even. After this I kind of stopped keeping any track of what I was spending for Primo's care.

Lately I've been feeling that perhaps I'm not spending all that much on Primo's care. All the big baby equipment purchases are in the past, no more formula, less diapers and his growth is slowing down, so he doesn't out grow his clothes as fast as he used to.

I wanted to hold myself more accountable for where Primo's money was going, thus the new checking account experiment.

I know there are many expenses that are almost impossible to track, for example: housing, utilities, extra groceries, more take out meals on days when foster children are sick or foster parents are overwhelmed, all the driving done for foster care appointments and visits (as I type this list I'm feeling that this whole, keeping track of money thing, may be impossible).

For me, I will probably not take in to account the housing, utilities or extra groceries for the following reasons:

1. Primo now eats all table food and I rarely buy specific food just for him, and he doesn't eat enough yet to noticeably add to my grocery bill.

2. There is no real way for me to track increased water and electric usage, my bills have not noticeably increased.

3. Housing is a strange one to me, it is not as if I would have a paying renter in Primo's room if he wasn't using it. I know that providing housing is a cost that the agency may figure into the checks they send for Primo, but I'm not interested in quantifying that cost as it doesn't change at all due to his presence here.

So, I've possibly just laid out all the flaws in my calculations, but that is how it's going to be for me, for now. I guess I could just take a percentage of what I think the 3 costs listed above may be and take that into consideration, but math never was my strong suite, and neither is spelling.

As for driving to appointments and visits, I do get reimbursed for those at a rate of 45 cents a mile, so I will take the transportation portion of my check and put it towards gas for my cars.

I know that my new system will be a bit of an inconvenience, no more texting Mike to pick up large boxes of diapers and wipes on his way home from work. I will have to purchase it all myself with my handy dandy debit card from my new checking account.

I'm actually pretty excited about seeing the results of my new experiment. I have already made a few purchases with then new debit card and I find myself way more conscious of what I'm spending. I'm pretty sure I will find that I buy way more stuff for Primo than I thought I did.

I will update on my money experiment occasionally, for those of you who are interested, I know I am!

I would also love to hear how other foster parents deal with money and expenses and how or if you break them down in your household budget?


  1. I'll be honest - I don't separate the per diem checks from our general fund at all! We only get reimbursed for clothing when they are placed with us and it's only $100. We don't get reimbursed for mileage or anything else. All we get is the monthly per diem check.
    That said, I make sure my foster kids have EVERYTHING they need and tons of things they want. We are supposed to spend roughly $45 a month on clothing out of our per diem per child. I don't keep track of what I spend per se but I do buy something for one of them almost every time I'm at WalMart/Target/etc. I have also purchased lots of age appropriate high quality toys.
    Otherwise, I figure anything that is left over covers those extra take out meals, the household expenses that are bigger, and all those sorts of things. I also know that we've been able to give our cherubs more experiences than we would typically have been able to afford. We've gone to the zoo, the beach, the aquarium, SeaWorld, and more.
    I find it interesting to see how others handle the money side of things!

  2. i will be interested to see what you find out. i used to seperate it out. now that we are adopting i dont. i found that i did not spend all the money BUT i didn't factor in gas or anything like that. just clothing, allowance and personal needs was what i kept track of

  3. I'll be interested to see what you learn.

    We don't separate the per diem amount from our regular monthly budget, but we don't get reimbursed for travel expenses ... or for preschool since I'm a SAHM mom. Preschool is about half the monthly per diem, so I'm pretty certain we're spending more on her than the per diem.

    We have seen a difference in those hard-to-track expenses--our water and grocery bills, especially, always go up when we have a placement, although the difference with just S has been less dramatic than when we had multiple kids placed together.

    The only thing we track separately is reimbursements for clothing and that's because we have to send of a receipt for the specific expense to get reimbursed (up to an annual limit), so we track the expense separately, then off-set it with the reimbursement so that it shows as a wash in our budget. We don't get reimbursed for anything else.