Readers' Tips

House Sharing With Another Single Mother With Kids

I would start by asking your best girlfriends and your sisters. There are things you should think about before considering adding a person to your home. Sometimes they have a perspective that is hard for us to be aware of on our own. They know you best and would be able to point out things that will be important to you to discuss at your screening meetings. They also might know someone suitable who is looking for a similar situation.

Is this person going to be a tenant or a roommate? You need to decide this first before beginning your screening. If you will be acting as landlord, you can make a lot more rules/requirements on their behavior in your home, but if you are equal roommates, then you'll need to sit down and hash out a roommate agreement, subject to periodic review and potential changes as needs, perception, and familiarity grow.

Will this be a temporary or permanent lifestyle change? The timeline will also influence your selection. If you expect it to be long term, then another single mom might be appropriate, as she will want her kids to have some stability. If it's just short term, then you might consider an older woman who is transitioning to a new town or newly divorced or widowed, needing to be around a family atmosphere while she finds her feet.

Decide what the atmosphere should be like for you and your kids. In my home, when I was raising kids on my own, and having come from an abusive home growing up, my house motto was always, "This home will be a safe place." That meant no violent television, no disrespectful talk between my kids, no name-calling, no mean attitudes, etc. Any subject was open for discussion and everyone in the discussion took turns speaking and reflecting back their understanding of the other's point of view. Yes, it was time consuming, but it was vital to me that whatever happened "out there" would not poison the atmosphere in our home.

If you have a conviction like that, then you'll need to know what that looks like to you and how that will direct your search for a person who is a good fit for the environment you want in your home.

Do you want to specify ages or genders of children or their single parent? For a time, I had a male roommate who only had his kids on the weekend and that was a good fit for us. Do you want someone with a similar parenting style or are your kids okay with someone who indulges their kids more or less than what you do with yours?

Do you want to specify that the single parent must not have a "crazy ex" who is going to show up or call in the wee hours and make life uncomfortable? Do you want only someone who works full time or only someone who is retired so they're around a lot? How about someone who is willing to switch off babysitting, so you both are able to have a social life? Do you want someone who wants to share family meals and become a friend/one big family, or someone who is more reserved?

Whatever you decide, if you go for it, ensure you have a meeting set up before they sign any agreement to work out the basics and then set up regular check-in meetings to update your agreement if something isn't working for either of you or as your relationship changes. Keeping clear on things is the key to a smooth co-habitation situation.

editor's note: Visit here for more on house sharing.

Cheaper Gift Bags

I buy all my gift bags at the grocery store. I buy the reusable grocery bags. I find them for $1 each and choose ones with flowers or other pretty designs. Sometimes you can find holiday themed bags right after the holidays on clearance. Not only are they cheaper than the paper bags you'd buy, but also they're strong and can be used over and over!

Additional TDS Resource: Frugal kid's birthday gift ideas

DIY 'User Fees'

Do you hate paying so-called user fees? I do! I decided to turn it around. Each time I start my car, I put $1 in the armrest container. It doesn't seem like much, but it's been enough to pay for gas and a little more. I'm hoping to have enough saved up for my next oil change!

Additional TDS Resource: 8 reasons you don't have an emergency fund

Looking Good!

I enjoy business casual days, but I also like looking good when I'm in front of clients. Therefore, I often buy silk blouses and cashmere sweaters at consignment and thrift shops. Often they're reasonably priced since people don't like to deal with dry cleaning. I solved that problem with DIY dry cleaning kits. Usually I use the kit after every second wearing. I always wear a t-shirt to avoid perspiration stains, so blouses don't need a deep cleaning. I look great and don't have a huge dry cleaning bill!

Additional TDS Resource: More dry cleaning alternatives

Turn the Menu Around

We enjoy hosting small dinner parties. I used to choose a menu and then check the sales ads for the ingredients I needed. Then it dawned on me that I was doing it backwards. Now, I start with the ads and look for good sales. Then I search for recipes that use the sale items. I've saved money and also get to experiment with new recipes. They're not all great, but my guests enjoy the adventure of trying something new!

Additional TDS Resource: Parties without panic

Short Term Goals

Each month, I play a game with myself. I choose a goal for the month like bringing my lunch to work every day. Then I decide what an appropriate reward would be if I make my goal, such as $25 to spend on anything I want. Obviously, the reward needs to be less than the savings from the goal. I've found that with a reward and a short period of time, I can get myself to do things that I might otherwise fail at.

Moving Tip

If you are moving, don't take anything out of your drawers. Leave it all in. Take the drawer out and move it as is. Once you get to your new home, put it right in. If you are afraid of the things in the drawer slipping out or getting dirty, put a trash bag over the drawer.

Additional TDS Resource: How one woman moved from a 3 story home for $452

Cooking with a Solar Oven

In the summer, I don't want to heat up the house cooking, so I have an outdoor kitchen. I use a solar oven. I bought two of them on eBay at very good prices. After the purchase cost, the rest is free. A solar oven uses only the sun to cook. I have cooked so many things in mine. The food always comes out very good. If you can cast a shadow, you can use your solar oven. You can even cook in the cold. If you want to know more about solar ovens, go to YouTube to check them out. You can make one, but I chose to buy them. I wanted to make sure my food was properly cooked. A trip to the ER is not my idea of a fun time. Each has pros and cons, and you will have to learn how to cook in them as they cook like a slow cooker. Do your research. You may have to wait a while, but you will eventually find one in your price range. I believe you will find it worth the wait.

Additional TDS Resource: How to build and use solar ovens

Preparing for Retirement

A big part of preparing for retirement is knowing how finances will work. I don't want to assume that I'll have enough money for my lifestyle, so I'm creating a retirement budget and an income plan. For the budget, I'm estimating how my current expenses will change when I retire. Some things like clothes for work will go down. Others like travel will go up. I'm also looking at whether my Social Security and income from my 401k and IRA will be enough to cover the expected budget expenses. If I start now and see a problem, I still have a few years to fix it, but so far, it looks like I'll be fine.

Additional TDS Resource: You're 55 and didn't save enough for retirement. Now what?

Cheaper Kitty Litter

We ran out of kitty litter one holiday weekend. My husband went out to the garage and came back with a bag of oil absorbing pellets. He said he got them in the auto parts store to soak up any oil that spilled when he did oil changes. The pellets worked so well and cost less, so we've been using them ever since.

Additional TDS Resource: More alternatives to expensive scoopable litter

Fiscal Check-Up

Not only do we check our finances at the end of the year, but we also do a mid-year check-up. I take a look at our expenses and notice anything out of the ordinary that might need attention. Last year, I noticed that our water bill had been creeping up. It turned out that we had a leak we didn't know about. I hope I don't find anything like that this year, but you never know!

Additional TDS Resource: A painless financial check-up

Beautify Your Yard

If you are trying to save money but still want to have a nice looking yard, consider waiting until this time of the year to purchase your perennials. They are usually all on sale now for half off or more. You can have beautiful gardens with plants that you only have to pay for once. They will come up year after year for your pleasure. The trick is to make sure you give them attention and water.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on "Frugal Landscaping"

DIY A/C Maintenance

Besides cleaning your air filters, there are some other simple tasks that will keep your A/C unit running well and help avoid service calls. Make sure that the outside compressor isn't buried in plant growth. It needs circulating air to work properly. If possible, keep it in the shade. Finally, add a little bleach to the lines that carry condensation outdoors. You should find a place on the line near the air handler designed for this. These simple steps can reduce the cost of keeping your house cool this summer.

Granite Counter Cleanser

You can make your own granite counter cleanser. Just mix rubbing alcohol and water in equal parts. Add one ounce of dishwashing liquid to a 10- or 12-ounce bottle of the mixture. There you have it for only pennies!

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on "Cleaning Kitchens"

Credit Safety First

The first thing I do when I receive a new credit card is to make a copy of the front and back. That way, if it's ever lost or stolen, I know who to call and have all the needed information. I have a special hiding place where I keep the copies. If I ever need them, I won't be wasting valuable time searching for card numbers.

Additional TDS Resource: How to find the best credit card

Quick Burgers

When I am cooking with hamburger meat, I always make sure that I save enough out to make one hamburger patty that I can freeze for later. In no time, I have several frozen for a quick and easy meal.

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