10 ways single parents can cut back monthly spending costs. Living on one income, without child support, is the reality for so many single parents but you may still have opportunities to cut living expenses and pay off debt or save money.
I question I receive a lot is, “I’m a single mom and I’m struggling to have enough money. How do I cut back on my spending? Is it possible to have money left over at the end of the month? I don’t receive any child support.”
Only 44% of single parents receive the full amount of child support due. Over half of all single parents are surviving on one income to provide for their children.
This means we often need to learn how to cut back on spending to save enough to pay our expenses or save for the extras in life: car expenses, doctor visits, and other unexpected financial expenses.
How Single Parents Can Cut Back Monthly Spending
coupons – still effective
When I first realized I’d need to cut back on my spending, I figured I’d do without using coupons. Coupons were a thing of the early 2000s, right? I don’t need 20 boxes of cereal just because I can get it for a quarter.
But the more I read about cutting back my spending, the more I realized I was throwing money away by not using coupons.
Today it’s super easy to cut digital coupons from my phone using the app for which I plan on shopping anyway. I don’t need to buy any Sunday papers and get an accordion-style folder and carry it with me to the store. If I want to have paper coupons, I can occasionally print them out on coupons.com for stealer deals; otherwise, I use the coupons on my app.
For example, when I go to Walgreens, there are coupons on the app that I already need to “clip.” When I use my loyalty card, which I do already, I get the extra savings. The easiest way to keep up to date on all the coupons and deals happening at your favorite store is to follow Krazy Coupon Lady.
I used to shop at Aldis all the time. Then I got lazy and started shopping at the store down the street.
By lazy I mean, Aldi’s doesn’t always have all the groceries I need, so that means I’ll have to stop at the local store after Aldis. So eventually, I just kept going to the more expensive grocery store. But once I noticed the continual hit on my money, I went back to Aldis, and I can’t believe I ever quit.
Aldis a smaller store, they’re super fast, and you just can’t beat the prices. I easily keep my bill around $40 for a week’s worth of groceries for my family of three.
A couple of tips when shopping at Aldis:
- always have a quarter with you so you can get a shopping cart
- bring your own bags, but if you forget, just look for an empty box on the shelves while you’re shopping and pick it up
- be ready while you’re in line, it moves fast, be prepared to sack your own groceries
- the promo aisle isn’t your friend, those aren’t usually marked down prices
- you can save even more by signing up for their weekly emails and shopping what’s in the weekly ad
- don’t be shy about trying out Aldi’s brands, many of their items are just as good if not better than the name brand items.
I quit eating out entirely for one month to see if the kids and I could do this.
And I mean no quick stops by McDs for a super-fast dinner before practice and no cheating when I didn’t have the kids with me.
At first, we were fine. We had meals planned out and didn’t miss it. But then, we settled into everyday life, and I quit meal planning, and we ran out of food. Okay, not really, but it seemed so much easier to run somewhere and pick up dinner than to put something together, especially for someone who hates to cook and for super picky eaters.
But we stuck with it, and after a month, my kids have begun to understand that eating out, even fast food, is a treat now. If eating out is a habit for your family, see if you try this for a month as a challenge.
Full confession, I used to grab a coffee out about three times a week.
When I first did the math on this, I was embarrassed and determined to be a better steward of where my money was going.
Once my money was no longer going to Starbucks, I got creative at home.
I purchased a frother for less than one fancy drink and found a jackpot of mocha drinks on clearance after the holidays. I bought the clearance out, and instead of using a full chocolate packet for each drink, I only use half, so I get two coffees out of each one.
Now, I don’t miss my fancy drinks. Not too long ago, someone bought me a drink at the coffee shop, and I was disappointed. I didn’t even finish the drink. I prefer my homemade coffee now.
On line Spending freeze
I realized my online spending was the main culprit for my overspending. If saw something I liked or what I thought was a “deal” just because it was on sale and I would buy it.
I was very good at convincing myself I needed it, I would use it, what a good deal I was getting, or whatever I needed to hear at that moment so I could buy it.
When I checked out my amazon totals and other online spending, I knew this was the most significant area I could improve on.
I put myself on an online spending freeze for 40 days. I couldn’t buy anything online for 40 days. If I wanted something, I’d write it down and wait until the 40 days were up, or I’d find some other way to borrow it.
In the end, I found my biggest temptations were books. Why was I buying so many books when I could get them at the library?
Another thing I reviewed during this time was the items I’d bought in the last year online. What was I doing with them now? Was I using them? Was I enjoying them?
For some of the items, I couldn’t even remember buying them or what they were. Some were collecting dust on a shelf, but I remember so clearly “needing” that item.
These reflections helped me resolve to stay on my 40-day online shopping fast whenever I wanted to break it.
Like the online shopping fast, try waiting 24 hours, 48 hours, or one week before you make a purchase.
So often, we buy things for emotional reasons. If we take the emotion out of it by waiting a day or week, we find we’re in a different mood and don’t want the item that much.
Make it more challenging to spend money
There’s a lot of ways you can do this. If your weakness is online spending, you can make it more difficult by not allowing your web browser to memorize or autofill your credit card.
For in-person shopping, don’t carry credit cards with you. Only carry cash.
I never memorize my debit card PIN, so if I need to withdraw money from the ATM, I can’t. I have to wait for the bank to open.
These tricks of delayed satisfaction work because advertisers work on your emotions.
Just like I did during my online spending freeze, take a monthly review of your expenses. Each month, review what you’re spending your money on.
If you’re budgeting your money each month (and hopefully you are!), then you will naturally be doing this each month anyway. What can you cut out? Do you have any reoccurring subscriptions that you can eliminate? What category are you overspending on?
Are you taking advantage of local assistance in your area?
Find out about food drives are within your community or local churches, apply for free school lunches, and some churches offer oil changes for single moms.
Most of these opportunities are advertised through Facebook on local businesses. Like different organizations, or find your local town’s community page and get involved so you can hear updates.
Exchange or Thrift stores
Sell and buy clothes at an exchange store. Kid’s clothes are expensive, and often by the time they’ve gone through them, you can’t sell them.
But adult clothes are different. You will most likely have clothes in your closet you can sell either online or at a local thrift or exchange store. Choose to receive credit in return and buy your kid’s clothes in return.
Advantage of being a single parent with your finances
On the one hand, you have the advantage of being a single parent when it comes to your finances because you are 100% in charge of it. Don’t look at it as a curse but a blessing. Nothing will come or go from your budget without you knowing or without your okay.
Take full advantage of your spending and saving today and find ways to cut back on your spending and find the spare change.
Sometimes it is just change in the beginning. Save that change. Put the change towards a goal and begin paying off your debt.