Saving money as a single parent
Single Parent Finances
by Teresa Randall
Money Saving for the Single, Working Mom
My Story: 14 Ways We Save Money
Let Your Kids Teach You to Save Money
Saving money out of necessity is no different than saving money for a vacation, newer car, or home. You must simply spend less than you bring in each month. As a former single mom for more than six years, I have much experience with saving money out of necessity.
First, list all your monthly income from all sources. Next, list your monthly outgo or expenses. For many people, this will demonstrate just how much money is being wasted each month, usually adding to credit card debt.
Circle your three largest expenses. For most of us, they are housing (rent or mortgage), food, and auto expenses. As a single mom, I had to cut back to the barest necessities in order to support my children alone, which meant moving across country to a cheaper area, near grandparents for moral support. I moved into an older, but well-kept apartment, and refused to buy a car. I would have had to go into more debt to finance one, and my main goal at that point was to survive and pay down my credit card debt.
Moving to a cheaper geographical area, moving to an older apartment (without a heated pool or tennis courts), and walking rather than driving immediately freed up hundreds of dollars per month, money that I wouldn't have to earn by working two jobs. I was able to support my kids and myself by working 50 hours per week at home, and pay over $200 per month in credit card debt (from former day care bills, medical bills, and car repairs). I opened an in-home day care, a move that allowed me to be home with my kids until they entered school, which was a block away! By staying home with my kids, I eliminated $600 per month in childcare expenses that I had been paying out.
I saved hundreds of dollars by learning to cook. Skip fast food; if you can read, you can learn to cook. Borrow cookbooks from the library. Make four to six meatless meals each week for dinner, but make sure you have enough protein. Scrambled eggs, peanut butter on crackers or toast, cheese and fruit, yogurt, lentil chili, and bean quesadillas (canned beans and cheese between two flour tortillas, melted) are all good sources of protein. Do not skimp on your health! I made nutritious whole-grain cookies, muffins, soups, and tuna sandwiches. Tuna is cheap and great tasting. An 89-cent can and six slices of bread are a quick main course lunch menu. Add vegetable sticks and juice and your lunch is nutritionally complete.
Also, in order to save money on food, it is vital that you decide for yourself what you will and won't do. For example, my father and mother eat nutritious and great-tasting food, but they rarely buy generics. My father keeps a price sheet of everything they repeatedly buy, and updates it when the grocery store ads come out. He buys the best food at the cheapest prices at the cheapest source each week. That is key! He does buy generic paper goods, but not soap or laundry detergent.
I, however, buy more generic foods than my father does. I am brand loyal for only a few items, when the taste and quality matter, such as chocolate protein mix, organic eggs, and cheese. Either way, both my parents and I save money. You decide what really matters to you and if you're willing to pay extra for it.
I rarely used coupons, unless they were for an item I would pay full price for anyway. In the towns where I have lived, not one store doubled or tripled coupons. As a single working mother, my time was more valuable than a 25 cent off coupon.
I bought most of my clothes and the kids' clothes at two local thrift stores. I also bought furniture and household tools there. Paint and elbow grease are cheap and can transform many pieces into useful, attractive furnishings. I didn't skimp on shoes, however. I would buy used shoes if they looked brand new. Otherwise, I bought them new for under $20 per pair.
Online Consignment Store for Baby & Kids Items and Women's Apparel
My entire budget for supporting my two (at the time) kids and myself was just over $1000 per month. That included a major medical Blue Cross insurance policy and debt repayment. I didn't live in subsidized housing, and I received no child support.
You can save money for your goals, whatever they be, if you're willing to trade that expensive car for a pair of walking shoes or a bus pass, if you're willing to forgo the five-bedroom house for a more modest three-bedroom older home or apartment, and if you cut your food bill by cooking at home, buying generic brands, and skipping the steak. If a single mom can do this, you can too.
Child-Care Subsidy Hotline: (800) 424-2246
There is help for high daycare costs! The National Association of Child Care Resources is a federally-funded agency that will provide helpful information about assistance in your area. They will help you find all the options for child care payment assistance programs.
Take the Next Step
- It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.
- You're not alone. Join other Single Mom Savers on our Pinterest board.
To see how others have responded to this article.
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor
More Tips & Tools to Help You
Live Better...For Less
- Is your family normal? See how other households spend their money
- 5 big bills you can cut fast
- 5 frugal ways to expand your living space
- Where to find the best deals in February
- 4 steps to a simpler (and more frugal) life
- When your teen is ready for their first car
- Save over $2000 in baby's first year
- Get rid of lice for good!
- Ways to avoid the high cost of a divorce
- What is the cost of raising a child?
- Spouse income calculator
- Should my spouse work, too?
- College savings calculator
- Home budget calculator