Many of my single mom friends and I live on one income. While this can be ultra-frustrating and stressful at times, it is not impossible to make ends meet, especially for those willing to be a little inventive and rise up to the challenge. In fact, I believe intentionally managing money builds character and creativity in moms because they tend to think more about using what they already have rather than falling into the trap of unnecessary consumerism. Being thrifty also teaches their kids to value money and manage it wisely, too.
Next to Christmas, summer is typically the toughest time of year in terms of sticking to a budget, especially for teachers or others who only get paid tens months out of the year. Even for those who do get paid every month, with added costs of vacation, daycare, and back-to-school supplies, most of us are almost broke come August. The question is, how do you live on a single mom budget this summer without giving up the good times? Try the following realistic, yet effective tips for stretching your money all the way to the end of August and still have a phenomenal summer.
1) Your first priority is to know where your money is going. First, do your homework by tracking your spending for one month so you can identify where you are wasting money. Upload an online budget sheet or use a free website like mint.com to track your spending habits.
2) Next, write out three financial goals for the rest of summer or the rest of the year to keep you focused (i.e. paying off a credit card debt, cutting your food costs in half, or saving a specific amount of money for Christmas). Place these goals in a spot you can view on a daily basis to serve as a constant reminder. Then tell a friend so she can hold you accountable.
3) Decide what you can live without. For example, cancel your cable service and subscribe to Netflix instead, make a commitment not to buy new clothing or accessories for the rest of summer, or stop buying new books, magazines, and movies and swap with friends instead.
4) Make a list of tasks you can do yourself such as manicures, pedicures, cleaning, yardwork, washing cars, dry cleaning, alterations, painting, and baking. While you are at it, add to the list making your own pot of coffee (how hard is that?) and you can save a whopping $50-$100 a month if you are a daily Starbucks fanatic.
5) Get organized about meals and save a bundle. Cook “convertible” meals that you can turn into lunch the next day, use coupons when going to restaurants or buying fast food, eat at warehouse stores where you can buy a hot dog and drink for $1.50, pack picnic lunches in a cooler when running errands, and freeze leftovers for go-to meals later.
6) Replace the shopper’s high with a habit that is more meaningful—and cheaper! Do something you’ve been eager to do but keep putting off like engaging in a hobby you love, meeting a friend for coffee, or volunteering for a cause you are passionate about.
7) Plan ahead and buy discount tickets for entertainment. Warehouse stores carry an abundance of discounted vouchers from restaurants to movies and theme parks. If you are an Automobile Club member, take advantage of a variety of discounts from hotels to dining. Lastly, check online ahead of time for coupons or other price cuts on summer activities.
8) Rethink summer fun by living simply and taking advantage of FREE events in your area. Be creative and make your own budget bucket list this summer, such as exploring outdoor farmer’s or flea markets, blowing bubbles in the park, making s’mores over the fire pit, camping in the backyard, going to outdoor movies, enjoying summer concerts in the park, amusing the kids with craft activities at the library, Barnes N Nobles, or Home Depot, and taking free online craft or sewing classes.
Although it can be challenging, if you think of summer budgeting as a game, you can WIN without sacrificing the pleasures and fun of the summer season!
Read more of Nicole Blean’s tips and articles at http://180degrees4singlemoms.blogspot.com/