Before we get deep into this story, please think about the most money you've ever wasted at once. Do you recall a night of partying when you were younger? Was there an unwise financial investment in your past that you'd rather not talk about?
Perhaps your spouse sometimes kids you about the expensive piece of exercise equipment you bought, and that seems to have acquired a lot of dust in the corner of your house? (Asking for a friend on that one.)
The point is, many of us have had a windfall at least once, and blown it. So with that in mind, meet Christina Knaack, a single mother of a two in Gaffney, S.C.
The value of $5,600
Knaack doesn't make much money. Minimum wage, in fact. And so when she got her tax refund recently--$5,600--she did two things:
1. She prepaid her rent for the entire year, so she'd know she and her kids had a roof over their heads and wouldn't have to worry about it again until 2018.
2. She took a photo of the receipt and put it on Facebook,.
Her post read:
"Instead of buying my kids the latest Jordans or fancy electronics I paid my rent for the YEAR. I'm a single mom and I do it all buy myself on a minimum wage job. I [know] that a roof over my kids head is what's important. My kids don't want for anything because my priorities are straight. And this also means I will have that extra 450 a month to do things with my kids."
That was all it took. Within a day, her simple Facebook announcement had gone viral, with more than 125,000 shares on Facebook. Media entities started picking it up (including one of my colleagues at Scary Mommy.) And then the feedback started rolling in.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
You can say that perhaps Knaack was looking for attention, but she's certainly not alone in that.
She wanted to share the milestone and her good decision with friends, she said. And, she posted her news with "public" privacy settings, because she's a recovering addict (clean for three years), and she wanted to set a positive example for others in similar straits.
Regardless, the comments piled up. Some of them were hurtful or vile. No need to go into detail, but some "helpful" social media commentators wanted to know where her children's father was, or what kind of house she could possibly be renting for $450 per month.
But a lot of the feedback was positive--and gave an opportunity to a lot of other women raising kids on their own, and barely scraping by.
I know what its like to be a single mom i did it from 2009-2016 . i praise this woman for what she did !!! UR AWSOME !!!!
Good for you. I also was a single mom and I know how difficult to make that monthly rent. God bless.
I paid off my fridge and am getting a car we don't have one and walk everywhere I'm a single Mom of 4. Proud of you!
What to do with a windfall
Knaack's hometown of Greely, S.C. doesn't seem like a very high cost-of-living area. In fact, even just looking on a site like Apartments.com, you'll see a lot of houses and places to live for well under $1,000 a month.
By the way, if you're a fan of the Netflix show House of Cards, it's where the fictional protagonist, President Frank Underwood, is from--and it's supposed to establish that he grew up poor.
At the core, this real-life story is a simple one about about making do with not a lot, and making good choices.
The accountants among us might say she'd be better off holding on the money and paying the rent each month (so as to collect the interest), or that she might not want to have so much withheld in taxes from her paychecks each week to begin with.
But all of that amounts to details--and honestly, to a system of forced saving in America that can help a lot of people out. It's easy to get in financial trouble if you don't have much money to begin with, and you make a few bad decisions--or have some bad luck.
So hat's off to Knaack. If spending wisely, and putting a roof over her kids' head led to her 15 minutes of fame, then good for her.