Although I've always heard single parenting was tough, I had no idea how tough it actually was (or is) until I became a single parent. It's a life altering thing to say the least and it certainly gives saving money a whole new meaning. To many single parents, saving money is no longer viewed as a hobby or something to do if you can, it becomes more of a way of life.
Fortunately, for me, I do have a knack for saving money but even I have learned a few new things along the way and I thought I would share some of these tips with you as well. Obviously, most of these would work for anyone but I'm writing this from my own perspective as a single parent and I pray it would bless those of you out there who are in the same situation.
10 Ways to Save Money as a Single Parent
1. Menu Plan: (You thought coupons be would #1, didn't you?) Menu planning is key to saving time and money. If you are a single parent, you are likely very short on time so this one is BIG. Sit down, once a week, once every two weeks or even once a month and plan your menu for every single day. Be sure to plan it around what items are on sale (check our Matchups), what items are in your stockpile and what coupons you have on hand. This way, you are planning around the lowest prices and not necessarily what your stomach is telling you.
Menu planning will also lessen multiple trips to the store, which will save you gas and time. For frugal recipes, check out my sister's website, MommyHatesCooking.com.
2. Make Your Own: Forget high price laundry detergents and cleaners, make them yourself at home for pennies! Not only will you save money but you'll also be using natural ingredients which are WAY better than chemicals.
Check out these frugal do-it-yourself recipes:
3. Think Outside the Box: The best savings tricks are the ones that are outside the norm. For example, I'm often asked how I purchase my paper products like paper towels & toilet paper which are very expensive. The answer? Wait for it...Staples. Yep, I buy them at Staples and guess what? I don't pay a dime. I ask my friends and family for their used ink cartridges. If you are a Staples Rewards member (it's free to join), you will earn $2 for every ink cartridge you recycle. I recycle 10 a month (which is the max) and I earn $20 a month in rewards. That's $20 in free money that I can turn and use to purchase paper products.
Yep, my friends, that's how it's done.
4. Start an Allowance: If you haven't already, start giving your kids an allowance while at the same time, educating them about working for money. This was a discussion that came way too soon for us. I was not prepared to explain to my kids why we could not do some of the things that we were used to doing. However, I LOVE this allowance chart which teaches your kids how to "work" for money.
This concept is very important to teach your kids anyway but it becomes even more important and relevant as a single parent. Keep in mind, I am not advocating that you tell your children how strapped you are financially, I am only saying it is important for our kids to know the value of a dollar and to realize in the words of my parents that "money does not grow on trees."
5. Make It & Freeze It: For me personally, my kids eat different meals than I do simply because of flat out picky-ness and food allergies. Therefore, when I cook, I am literally only cooking for myself. That leads me to the make it & freeze it philosophy. Cook enough for leftovers (as I'm sure you're already doing because it's nearly impossible to cook for one!) and then freeze the leftovers into individual portions for later. Visit OnceAMonthMom.com for amazing freezer recipes for every meal!
6. Bag Your Own Snacks: This is Money Saving 101 but still worth a mention, instead of purchasing individual snack bags for your kids lunches, use sales & coupons to get the box at the lowest price possible. Then, use snack size bags to make individual portions. Want to save time? Bag the entire box the day you bring it home from the store. Keep the snack bags in your pantry and when you're making lunches (or if your kids do) they can just grab a bag and throw it in.
7. Lower Your Bills by Sharing Your Story: Over the last few months, I have drastically lowered my monthly bills. Keep in mind, I already called negotiated and so on with these payments way before I became a single parent. I mean, after all, I am the Money Saving Queen so that's kinda my thing. However, when this new situation hit, I called back.
This time, I called and explained to everyone I could that I was now a single parent with only one income coming in which means, I either find a way to get the payment down lower or I cut the services all together. I kept it real. It is what it is. And, you know what? It paid off big time. I lowered my phone bill, cable bill and even my alarm payment! Even I was shocked and what was even better for my kiddos, I didn't have to cut anything.
8. Sell Your Clothing & Buy Consignment: While I can typically get some great deals on new clothing, I will say that shopping consignment is an easy and fast way to save money. Plus, I would strongly encourage you to keep your clothing in the best condition possible, then sell it yourself. This is a great way to earn money to buy your kids clothes or even something for yourself. Check out this recent post, 3 Ways to Make the Most Money with Consignment and The Differences Between Craigslist, Ebay, Garage Sales & Consignment.
9. Find New Activities: This is important for a couple of reasons, one is financially but the other is emotionally, it might help your children emotionally to develop some new fun time activities with just you. In all honesty, I found out that doing activities that we used to do as a family, actually brought tears to the eyes of my children because it's just not the same. Therefore, I had to come up with some new ideas.
We did gain some new friends and have more play dates, we also spend a lot of time with my immediate family and the cousins. That helps a ton! It's also important financially, to utilize free events happening in your city/town especially as we move towards Spring and Summer. There are tons of activities that could keep your family busy and many are cheap and free! Even though my financial situation has changed, that doesn't mean my kids have to stay home all day, there's plenty to do at no cost, it just takes a little creativity!
10. The 52 Week Money Challenge: Do it. Done. That's it. The bottom line is, you HAVE to get an emergency fund or savings fund of some sort. Why? Because things will break and there is no one else there to help you financially. It is not easy to have a savings account when every single penny has to go to pay bills. I get that. Check out the link to the 52 Week Money Challenge, one of our fans actually posted it on facebook. It is actually doable which is amazing and by the end of the year, you'll have over $1,000 in the bank!
Being a single parent is no easy task however, it can be done AND you can enjoy life at the same time. Please feel free to share with us some of your tips & tricks, I would love to post more on this topic so get ready, it's coming! :)