So many times we have been asked why we do foster care and how much money we make. Those of you who do foster care know that this isn’t the way to get rich, at least not financially, right? Well, unless you are very well off financially, you shouldn’t be doing this work if it is losing you money every month either.
I’m sure every state and foster care agency is different in the amount of money and when you get paid each month, but you do get a stipend each month for the foster children you have in your care. In our program and state, we are required to use $60 each month directly on the youth, $40 of which should be going toward clothing items and $20 that can be used on other things like make-up, jewelry, hanging out with friends, etc. After that money gets taken out and set aside for those purchases, you have some money left over for helping out with other expenses.
So what are some of the things you should be budgeting for?
Extra kids in the house means extra food on the table, extra after school snacks, and maybe even treats for rewards. If you are brand new to budgeting you are going to have to make some educated guesses on how much money you have been spending and about how much more each child will add to that number. If you already budget, then just figuring out about how much more food your additional children will need. For us, even when we had 3 teenage foster sons, this didn’t mean we had to increase the amount of food we bought by a huge amount. You may have to just use trial and error and figure it out. Sometimes a budget takes a few months to really get settled.
Most children keep their parents very busy with all of the different activities that they can be involved in, but foster children usually add a whole new part that you may not be used to. Foster children usually have families that they are having visits with. Some may be once or twice a month, and others may be even less than that, but further away. Keep in mind the extra mileage you may be driving to help make these visits possible. 90% of the time, we get reimbursed for the mileage that we drive, but there are some cases, like when we work with the local Native American tribe, where we don’t get that reimbursement. Just figure out how much extra money this is going to cost to make happen and plan for it in your budget.
It is also a good idea to set aside a little each month for routine services, repairs, and even new tires. If you plan on this ahead of time and set some aside a little at a time, you won’t be hit with the big huge expenses in one lump sum.
This may or may not be any different than normal for you, but if you don’t use your phone very much at all or don’t own a cell phone, this may be something you need to add to your budget as well. Some foster children have weekly phone calls to parents, you may be talking a lot more on the phone with caseworkers, Guardian ad litems, teachers, and even the biological parents. If you already are paying for a cell phone bill, watch how the usage changes as you are dealing with more foster care issues and adjust your minutes, data and your budget accordingly.
These are just a few of the budgeting areas that we feel are really impacted when you are doing foster care. We want to give you a few of the resources that we use in helping us come out on top with our money each month so you can feel like you are helping the foster children and they are in turn helping you.
Resources We Use
Ben and I have taken this class and LOVED the information in it. It opened our eyes to a lot of things we hadn’t even been thinking about.
Every single month (okay, sometimes we slack off) we sit down and talk about what money we have coming in and where we want it to go that month, and also talk about how we did with following our budget from the last month. This is one of the best tools we have used for us.
Dave Ramsey’s Free Lite version – If you want to try a free version, which is not really anything like the paid for version, you could try this.
Mint.com – This is an awesome site that keeps all of your accounts in one place and will keep track of what categories you are spending your money in each month. It has lists and graphs and even alerts. We use this one all of the time in combination with our total money makeover budget.
What are some of the ways that you manage your money as a foster parent? Do you feel like you get the best bang for your buck with your stipend each month? Let us know what you think below in the comments, we love to hear what you think.