One of the most challenging obstacles a single mom has to overcome is learning how to stretch her money. For the first few years, child support was sporadic at best and completely non-existent by the time my daughter turned five. Many people told me to go to the Department of Revenue to have his wages garnished but I didn’t. I had this feeling that if I just let it slide, eventually it would work in my favor. It did, but that’s a whole different story. However, choosing to not involve the DoR meant no food stamps, no financial assistance with utilities, no subsidized medical care, nothing. That was a whole lot of weight to bear. Yet I learned to do things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Hopefully some of the lessons I learned will help you, too!
- Learn to shop for clothes at the end of the season. Have you ever noticed that clothing seasons change long before the season you are in is over? For instance, summer clothing starts going on clearance after the 4th of July, but if you live somewhere like I do (the Midwest) that is when the weather is finally warming up. Pick up a little for now, and a little for later. I know it can be hard to judge how much your child will grow in a year. Keep careful track and err on the slightly larger size, you are likely to come out a winner.
- Keep an eye open for when second-hand stores have 50% off days. Places like Goodwill or The Salvation Army will have sales like this from time to time. Go with an open mind. You may not always find things you love, but it is worth checking out.
- Scope out the yard sales. In my neck of the woods, the surrounding areas have town-wide yard sales. There are some really great deals to be had, especially if you find one where their kids are just a year or two older than your own. Keep an eye on Craigslist, the classified ads in your newspaper, or local Facebook groups to find out where the best ones are located.
- Hang your clothes to dry. Keeping that dryer off, especially in the summertime, is a big deal. If you are living in an apartment, you can buy a couple of clothes racks and they will pay for themselves in short order. I have this thing about towels being line-dried and rough as sand paper, so they go through the dryer regardless of season.
- Turn off the lights. Use as much natural light as you can. The kids don’t really need to have the TV, gaming system, stereo and all the lights in the living room on at the same time, do they? No. But you can take it a step further and unplug those devices that remain in standby mode. (If you can see light coming from it, it is using power.)
- Check with your local utilities to see if they have off-peak rates. I have never been so fortunate, but it didn’t mean I didn’t ask. If you do have this option available, take full advantage of the savings. I know, it’s exhausting to do laundry at 10pm, but it might be worth the money you save.
- Use your appliances to your advantage. I use the oven in the winter, which helps heat the house, and the stove top in the summer to keep it cooler. Plus, we all know that hand washing dishes is much cheaper than running a dishwasher, but if you just turn off the heat-dry mode, that might be enough savings to justify the splurge.
- Cook at home. Frozen dinners do not qualify as you are paying for convenience. There are tons of cost-saving meals all over Pinterest, so you are sure to find recipes that appeal to your family. Yes, this requires more effort, but I promise you, it is worth it, particularly if you can cook a meal in double batches and use leftovers for lunches.
- Grow a small garden. Many of your fruits and vegetables can be grown in pots, which means you can grow a little something even in an apartment. If you end up with a bigger harvest than you expected, you can also sell your produce to your neighbors or bless someone in need. Bonus: great way to teach your kids about the source their food.
- Try making your own soaps. I have found much success in making my own laundry detergent and fabric softener. In fact, I haven’t purchased fabric softener in years. (Want my recipe? 1 bottle of super cheap conditioner, 3 cups of white vinegar, and 6 cups of warm water. Mix and there you have it!) It takes time and effort, but the savings are amazing.
- Use coupons… wisely. Unless you want to become an extreme couponer, (and seriously, who has the time?) it is best to clip and save coupons on items you actually use. Many times the generic version will be cheaper than using the coupon, so shop smart.
- Take advantage of price-matching programs. It’s worth the time to go through the ads on Sunday. Major retailers have these programs in the hopes that you won’t put forth the effort to find the deals, but you can shrink your grocery bill significantly by spending a little time planning before your trip to the store.
This is just a quick list to get the wheels turning. There are great resources out there to help you learn more about stretching a buck. Check out Dave Ramsey , Money Saving Mom or the Monetary Resources page for more information.
I understand that single motherhood can be exhausting, but a little extra effort goes a long way. You can do this, Mama. “The wise woman builds her house,but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down” Proverbs 14:1. Pray for wisdom and act accordingly.
Have any tips or tricks you would like to share?
Abide in His Grace,