My Story: Single Parenting

contributed by Mindy

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I have been a single parent for 13 years and have raised two children. One is now 24 and will finish college with her Masters degree in business next December. We have managed to get her through college and now in her Masters program without going into debt. We owe nothing for her education.

My son is 13 years old and will be a freshman in high school this coming fall. I have him in a private school. He wears the same name brand clothes as his wealthier peers.

I have managed to pay off my credit cards and have bought a fridge, washer and dryer in the last six months and paid for them in cash. And you ask, "How did you do that?"

First and foremost, you have to learn to take care of yourself. If you allow yourself to become too stressed or run down, then you will be more likely to just give up. Eat right and exercise, even if it just means walking around the block. Walking will help keep depression away. Plus, that is a good habit for your children to learn. Learn to rely on other people in your life. Find a good church to fit into. That gives you some adult time and widens your circle of people who care about you. When you need help, ask for it. You would be surprised how many people would jump up to help me when I asked for help. They did not see me struggling so they did not know that I needed anything. People love to be needed so let down your pride and ask.

Shop garage sales, thrift stores and eBay. Network with people who have children a bit older than yours. Do not be afraid to accept hand-me-downs. And, when your children outgrow things, hand those down to someone else too. My son wears Gap, Nike, Abercrombie and all the name brands, and rarely do I pay more than $2 a piece for them. A good friend of mine always used to tell me, "There is no prestige in overpaying."

Enter contests. I know that this one seems silly and yet it has been one of the fun and profitable things that my children and I have done. I especially love radio contests. I have won countless meals at really fancy places that we would have never gotten to go to otherwise. I also won cash, CDs, DVDs, movie tickets, free items, a weekend vacation and even a mountain bike! You cannot win if you do not play.

Use coupons and avoid pre-packaged foods. Cook for your children and teach them how to cook. This is a fun thing and will help you to bond even closer as a family. My son can even make full meals now. My children now have a skill that will really help them in life and we have fun doing it. Cooking from scratch is so much cheaper than pre-packaged foods and is so much better for you. We do a lot of our cooking and our prep work on the weekends so that it is easier for us during the week. Use your coupons and let other people know that you are using coupons so that they will save them for you. There are also coupon clubs that you can get in on through Yahoo groups.

Sit at the dinner table and eat as a family! Plan your meals for the week on the weekends. I have a big calendar on the fridge. We plan out what we will eat during the week and also keep up with our activities on the calendar. I spend less money at the grocery store because I know exactly what it is that I need to buy. I also like to buy groceries early on Saturday mornings because our meat market has marked their meat down then and I can get some really good prices.

Sell things on eBay. I have made a lot of our mad money this way. You would be surprised how many things that I have bought for $1 at a garage sale and turned around and sold on eBay for $10. For example, I bought one of those cute Serta stuffed sheep at a thrift store for 99 cents. I put it on eBay, and it sold for $12. The money I make on eBay will be coupled with the spare change that we all save in the penny jar and we will take a trip to the local water park before the summer is over.

Take advantage of parks and museums that have little or no entrance fee. Pack a picnic lunch, sit on the grounds of the museum and make an outing of it.

Most of all, do not have a poor me attitude. Life is what you make it. Is it hard? Yes, sometimes it's very hard. Have there been times I wanted to give up? Oh yes, there have been those times too. Would I trade this life in? Not on your life. I have healthy, well-adjusted children who have excellent life skills. I taught them that we are a family and we depend on one another.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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