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Single Moms: Frugal Living Tips for Single Mothers
Being a single parent is hard. You have to take care of the kids, day in and day out, even when you are sick or tired. You have to steer the ship and make all the decisions and hope they are the right ones. You probably can't even afford a ship. You have to bring in the money so the children are fed and clothed. Your time and energy are devoted to the children, and money is always tight.
How can you survive with money management when you don't have the time or energy to do it?
I know that budgeting seems like a bad thing, and might think that you don't have the time to do it. However, it is a very important step, especially if you suddenly find yourself alone. It is important for you to evaluate your finances and make sure that you find a way to make ends meet. Your children need food, clothing, and shelter, and you need to make sure there is room in your budget for all of those. You might have to take some temporary drastic measures to make sure that your standard of living is in balance with your new financial situation.
You may feel like you need to provide the same standard of living to your child as other children who have two parents. This is not always possible, and if it is not possible in your case, do not fret. Being poor does have its advantages and your child will be stronger for having gone through it. In fact, even if you aren't poor, it is helpful not to overindulge your child.
Depending on your situation, this may mean moving in with your parents temporarily, getting a roommate, or selling your car and using public transportation. It may also mean finding ways to increase your revenue by getting child support or public assistance.
Once you have done the big things, there are plenty of ways you can keep reducing your expenses so that you can finally get ahead and be able to save some money as well. Here are some cost cutting measures you can use as a single parent.
Child care is one of the largest expenses of any parent. It is even harder for a single parent who does not have the help of her spouse to fill in when she is not available.
You have to work to make money and most employers will not allow you to bring your child into the workplace. There are several ways you can reduce your childcare expenses.
- When finding a daycare provider, be sure to check around for their rates. Prices vary tremendously from provider to provider, and are not necessarily linked to quality of care.
- Be sure to negotiate the price and ask for discounts or ways to reduce the cost. Some providers will reduce the price if you bring a box of cereal, for example, or if you spend some time working at the daycare center.
- Consider asking a retired family member to watch the child while you are working. You may even think about having them watch the child some days, and take the child to the daycare other times.
- There are government programs that will help with childcare expenses. Contact your local Health and Human Services office and find out if you are eligible.
- See if your employer offers any assistance with childcare. Some may help you with finding quality daycare, while others may have services available onsite.
- When you are not working, consider taking the children with you wherever you go or trade babysitting service with a trusted friend or neighbor.
- When your child is old enough, consider letting her stay at home alone after school. Be sure she can handle staying home alone, and check the local laws to make sure she is legally old enough to stay home. Be sure to discuss the ground rules with her, such as not answering the door, and have her call you as soon as she gets home to let you know she is there.
- Sometimes you need to take some time away from the kids. I liked to take a vacation day or half a day from work, and spend the day by myself while my daughter was still in daycare. This is valuable recharging time and you should not deprive yourself of that time.
Formula and Diapers
For a parent with a baby, the cost of formula and diapers will be a significant part of the budget. There are some ways to help reduce these costs.
- Nurse the baby for as long as possible. Not only will this save you a great deal of money, it is also healthier for the baby. You can use the breast pump at work during lunches or breaks, or you can choose to nurse the baby only when you are home.
- Be sure to compare prices for formula and diapers. Since you can go through these items pretty quickly, you may be able to buy them in bulk by yourself or share with a friend to save money.
- There is also a government program, WIC, which can help you with formula. Be sure to check with your Health and Human Services to see if you qualify.
- Consider using cloth diapers instead of disposable. This may seem like it takes a great deal of effort, but putting them in the wash every night really isn't as hard as you might think, especially if you have laundry facilities in your home.
Clothes, Toys and Supplies
You want your children to have the best of everything, but they do not have to have everything. Here are some ways to get quality toys and supplies without going broke.
- Limit the number of things you buy. Your child does not need every single Star Wars Lego set. One or two will be enough to keep them occupied. In fact, fewer toys will help inspire creativity, and it will be easier to keep the place clean.
- Spend time with the children. You can be their best plaything. There are many cheap and free things you can do with them, like go to the park, library, or museum, or have a picnic. Make a tent out of blankets and go camping indoors. Put water in balloons and play catch with them outdoors.
- Consider shopping in thrift stores, yard sales, and discount stores for toys. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly before using.
- Trade toys with friends if you want to give your children variety.
- I often gave my daughter's outgrown clothes to a friend, and received outgrown clothes from the same or other friends.
- Be sure to bargain shop for supplies and use coupons whenever you can.
Living Frugally as a Single Mother
Being a single parent is difficult, but you do not have to do it alone. Be sure to ask for and use the help of your friends and family members. You can steer the boat with a smile on your face, and let your child grow in a healthy and loving environment.
© 2012 Shasta Matova