Regardless of whether you are single parent from divorce, by choice, or after being widowed, the financial aspects can seem bewildering. When it seems like most families need two incomes just to stay afloat, how is a single parent household supposed to make it? I have learned a few things over more than twelve years of raising my kids by myself, and many of them seem to involve ways to spend as little as possible while providing for your kids.
Always try to look for the best deal…unless it doesn’t make sense to look for the best deal
When does it not make sense to save money? Simply put, when it takes too much time away from other things you need to be doing that are more important, or when it costs you money to save money. Several years ago, there was a thrift store about half an hour from my house that was having a half off off everything sale…on a Monday night. I really wanted to go, this was my favorite thrift store and I tried to stop by once a month. But I worked late every Monday night and barely got to the daycare to pick up my kids as it was. There was simply no way that I could get my kids fed, with homework done, and ready for bed on time if we went. So, we probably missed out on some new clothes for the kids or new books for me at a great price.
If saving money means that you’re spending more money…you should probably reconsider the purchase. The most common ways for people to do this is with coupons and sales. If you weren’t planning to buy a winter coat in May, should it matter that it’s 75% off ? If you are planning on buying the less expensive brand of cereal, but the big brand is on sale, you’re probably not saving if the big brand is more expensive.
Buy Used, Quality Clothing In Good Condition…You’ll Never Know The Difference
When my first daughter was a baby, some of her clothing was new and some of it was used. One day, I was doing laundry and realized I couldn’t tell OR REMEMBER which was which. That was the day I began buying almost everything used. It makes a lot of sense, especially as your kids get older and they spend more time in the same clothes. Sure, for not much money you could buy inexpensive outfits from the nearest discount store. But those same pieces of clothing will often fall apart quickly, and then you’re in line paying for more. Although I could never afford to shop in the expensive department stores, I could ( and do!) buy their things used. And because they are of a higher quality, they last longer, which is even better if you’re saving clothes for hand-me-downs.
Assess Your Luxuries…. And See What You Can Do Without
It’s hard to think about, but there are often a lot of little things you spend money on and never even think about. Do you have a cell phone and a home phone? Of course, you can do what many people do now, and only use the cell phone, but you may want to have a phone at home for your kids. Or you could be like me, and get awful cell phone reception unless I’m standing outside, which is really not how I want to spend my time when it’s a hundred degrees outside.
Does your cell phone have unlimited airtime, with free long distance? Does your cell phone have both as well? You could probably downgrade either or both to save a few dollars. After all, you can only be one one phone at a time, and I’ve very rarely needed my child and myself to be making long distance calls at exactly the same time.
What about your cable, and internet speed? Do you watch the HBO channels, and other expensive channels often enough to make it worth paying for them? When in doubt, you could leave a notepad near the TV. When you, your children, or your guests watch one of these stations, write it down. If after a month there’s only been the rare viewing, you might do well to eliminate it. You might even find out that your cable could be eliminated entirely, especially if you have internet that is fast enough to support television viewing.
That being said, there are an enormous amount of television programs that can be watched for free online, through http://www.hulu.com and http://www.netflix.com. If you have internet at home, you may be able to forgo cable at all, which could save you a hundred dollars a month or more. Unless you are a very enthusiastic video game participant, you might not need the highest speed internet.
Bundle, Bundle, Bundle…No, I Don’t Mean On Laundry Day!
You’ve probably heard about this, but in many areas, you have the opportunity to bundle your cable, home phone, and internet together. If you don’t have cable or high speed internet, you might also be able to put your home phone, satellite television, or cell phone together. “Bundling” refers to putting two or more services together that are provided by the same company, and by doing so, the companies gives you a discount for giving them more of your business.
If You Don’t Ask For It…You Won’t Get It
How many times have you told your kids to say please? Or not let them have dessert because they didn’t ask before they grabbed a cookie? It’s much the same in finance sometimes.
I get a three dollar discount each month on my electric bill because I asked for it. And I get it because I enrolled in electronic billing, which is better for the environment anyway, and I like to think I would have done it regardless.
Now three dollars a month isn’t much, and in the grand scheme of things 36 dollars a year isn’t much either. But at the end of the day, that’s my money and I would rather have it than let someone else have it, thank you. I also take defensive driving every two years and get a discount on my insurance for that, too.
The moral of this story is that small discounts add up, and you won’t get them unless you ask. It’s pretty rare for a company to contact you and offer to bill you a lower amount. They’re in it to get as much of your money as they can and your goal should be to disappoint them.
The fact of the matter is that for many years, the average American family existed off of a single income. It’s only been in the last few decades that the dual income family has become the norm. Many of the ways that I save money are things that just make sense, and are probably things that your mother or grandmother did. If there are little things that you can do to save money, that don’t interfere with your life in any way…why don’t you try them? If you’re unhappy with the changes, you can always go back.