I'm on vacation this week. That's right, this Single Momma is spending some quality time with her son in good ol' Disney World. Best place on Earth, baby. But I couldn't just leave ya'll hanging. So here's a guest post from Suzanne Cramer, a single Mom and certified credit counselor who's teaching all of us a thing or two about saving money. Enjoy!
Being a single mom is tough. I speak from experience; my son’s father and I divorced when he was two years old, I remarried when he was six and I am currently going through my second divorce a year later. So I have been a single mom for the majority of his life. No one can express how extremely difficult it is to raise a child on your own, let alone manage your finances, or heaven forbid save money for your future.
Let’s look at the reality of it all:
· The days are long
· There are never enough hours in them
· You sometimes have to play the role of mom and dad
· You struggle to pay all the bills
· The extra cash to “spoil” yourself never seems to be there
· Kids are expensive
· Saving money seems impossible!
As I face the realities of being a single mom one thought is always in the back of my mind, “I want the best for my son, and part of that is saving for his future.” Saving money for anything is extremely difficult for a variety of reasons.
· I don’t have a lot of money left over after paying all my bills.
· I want to remain debt free (with the exception of my mortgage and car loan)
· I want to give him the childhood I had; the ability to participate in extra-curricular activities, experiences like amusement parks, vacations, and magical Christmas mornings.
Along the way I have learned some tricks of the trade to save money on a daily basis, leaving a few extra dollars to sock away at the end of the month. Take a look and see if they will work for you, and give them a try they just might work for you too!
Saving money you never knew you had1. Take a hard look at where your money goes (Budget)
2. Find clever ways to live on less
Number one is easy; take the time to develop a realistic budget. Knowing what you have coming in and what is going out each month will give you the information you need to make some changes.
To help you get started try the budget worksheet below:
Number two requires a little bit more thought, but you would be surprised just how much you can save by making a few small changes. Here are a few ways I have found to make budget cuts and save those “extra” dollars without sacrificing too much.
· Buy used…new is overrated. My son grows out of clothes and gets bored with toys more quickly than I can bat an eyelash. To keep up I accept ALL hand-me-downs even if it is not something I would typically buy. I shop for clothes and shoes a season or two ahead when everything is on major clearance. Consignment shops are great; you can “sell” gently worn items to them for cash or credit in the store, giving you the ability to “shop” for clothes you pick.
· Become a frugalista. Use coupons at the grocery store, shop with a list, and visit coupon sites like Retail-me-Not for non-food purchases you must make.
· Cut out the non-essentials. Latté’s, manicures, and weekly trips to the movie theater are surefire budget busters. Instead paint your own nails (or have a friend do it for you), brew your own great coffee, and have movie night at home with Redbox, microwave popcorn, and homemade snacks.
· Don’t pay unnecessary fees. constantly overdrawing your checking account or missing credit card payments lead to fees; this is like tossing money right out the window. Keep a careful eye on your account balance and utilize payment reminders so you never pay late fees.
Saving the “extra” dollars
· Save it before you miss it. Make saving “automatic“. The less effort you have to put forward or remember the easier it will be to save. Instead of consciously deciding to save money each month, set up automatic deposits into your savings account. Ask your bank to establish an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account. Or sign up for an online savings account like ING or Smartypig.
· Contribute to your company’s 401K. Most companies offer a match-“free” money. You can’t afford not to contribute even if it’s just a small percentage. Retirement may seem far off now but not being prepared will make your golden years extremely difficult.
· Get a piggybank. These are not just for kids! Save your spare change or dollar bills; then once a month deposit the “extra” cash in your savings account.
· Save your windfalls. Single moms often receive a ton of tax breaks and as a result receive sizeable tax refunds. Unless you have an emergency or a ton of credit card debt to pay off--save it! Money gifts or overpayment checks are unexpected surprises use them to pad your savings.
· Give your savings a “raise“. If you are up for a raise consider giving the boost to your savings. Have that amount direct deposited to your savings; you won’t miss it and you can live on your previous salary.
No one said single parenting was going to be easy and saving money for you and your children’s future will definitely be challenging, but you can do this, I promise!
What are your saving “tricks”?
Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne writes for Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. Follow Suzanne on Twitter where she shares the latest debt industry news and tips to keep your finances in check with her @ADivorcedMom and @AskCareOne accounts.