Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Newly Single Mom's Financial Shock

Finances are precious, precious things for the single mom.  Whether you are or aren't receiving child support, you will find yourself accounting for every penny you have.  I’ve got two young kids who are both in daycare and one just started potty training.  I’m looking at $800+ a month in daycare costs.  Then there’s diapers, formula, baby wipes, pull ups, and the regular groceries on top of that.  Living off of one paycheck and no child support left me waiting impatiently for the next payday.  

I had to learn to adjust my lifestyle according to what I had in my wallet.

My wallet.  :-/
When you’re a new single mom, you realize that you’ve taken that second paycheck for granted.  When you did your grocery shopping, you pulled things off the shelf after deciding it was better than the item next to it.  You got the best type of baby formula.  You threw in an extra 3-pack of baby bottles.  And who the heck doesn’t believe that Huggies is way better than Pampers?  Oh and btw, those cool strawberry puffballs in the can made just for your infant?  Loved those.  You didn’t realize how much more you were spending and how much more you could’ve been saving! 

Your household income is now half of what it used to be and since your paycheck is the only source of income, you’re going to have to do more with less.  My $800 in daycare costs was fine with two paychecks but now I have to carry that alone AND buy the groceries, and pay the bills, and I need an oil change for my car!  Oh and plus, I’ve got two dogs so we’re looking at dog food AND possible vet bills.  

What’s a girl to do? 

First things first.  Write a list of all your expenses.  All of it.  Be honest with yourself.  Everyone has a habit they’ve got to admit to.  If it makes you feel better, I’ll admit mine—I eat out too damned much. 

Strip it down to the bare necessities.  Let’s say: Groceries, Rent, Utilities, Auto, Debt Payments, Clothing.  Now take a look at the bare necessities.  How can you minimize spending in each of these categories?   

Look at your utilities—do you really need cable?  If you can’t or don’t want to get rid of it, at least take it down to the basic channels.  I use Netflix- $15 a month is wayyy better than a cable bill.  Do you have a cell phone?  If so, why do you also have a house phone?  Save money on electricity and water by shutting off lights when you’re not using them and stop leaving the water running when you’re brushing your teeth. 

Save money on fuel by keeping your speed at a consistent pace (set your car on cruise control).  You waste fuel every time you pound that gas pedal.  Get your oil changed and tires rotated regularly.  This helps maintain good gas mileage.  Also, shop around and look for a bank that offers a lower interest rate on auto loans—then refinance!

Now look at your debt payments (loans and credit card bills).  You can find tons of websites that talk about how to pay these debts off faster.  Pay more than the minimum. 

You can’t do much about rent other than… find another place to live.  If your rent is decent and the location is safe, I’d stay where I was.  But if you could use a change of scenery and found a cheaper (and still safer) place to stay, why not?

Clothing—shop at the cheaper outlets!  I love those shops that have cheap clothing.  I absolutely cannot stand spending $40 on a pair of jeans.  So I keep my jeans forever and ever until the hole in my knee turns into a big huge rip.  LOL Anyway, the point is – screw brand names!  Unless you can find them really really cheap, of course.  J

Groceries—my favorite nightmare.  I have only two tips.  Bring a calculator and look for store brand items.  Punch in the cost of each item as you put them in your cart.  It’s amazing how much you can save when you’re more conscious of how much you’re spending.  I don’t buy name brand diapers anymore.  I buy the cheapest brand available.  Luckily, my youngest son Sean doesn’t have any tummy sensitivities to formula.  He makes grocery shopping easy!

Another thing about groceries that I just remembered—look for places that offer cheaper foods or help for families in need.  Angel Food Ministries is an excellent way to save money.  I’ve basically cut my grocery bill in half by buying through them.  Churches are a blessing when it comes to support. 

When it comes to single momming, you cannot be proud.  I mean, of course be proud of who you are and all that.  But do not be too proud to ask for help.  Don’t ever feel that you should not apply for foodstamps, WIC, or any other means of help.  If you don’t qualify, fine.  But don’t not  apply.  There are so many resources out there that are available and meant for us!  Be sure to stick to a good, healthy budget too.

Finally, you want to make sure you have some money for emergencies and… treats.  Yes, I said it.  Treats.  Everyone needs treats, especially us.  Moms in general.  Or hell.  Women in general!  LOL As long as you limit your treat spending to “treats” and stay away from incorporating them into a normal way of life, be happy to reward yourself for being a great and powerful woman!


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