I see a million posts on Pinterest for how to live one income, small budget, etc. I am probably the first person to click on them every time, I am always looking for more ways to save money and stretch my budget! The problem is, almost every post I read is for two parent homes or two-income families. They all have good tips, however, they just don’t jive with my situation. You see, I am a single parent. I am the one who provides the one income, I just don’t have the luxury of relying on another person to help pay the bills (by the way, I think two parent homes are awesome! Absolutely, nothing against you all! 🙂 ) yes, I get to stay home more than other working parents, but I am not a stay-at-home mom. My budget is far from perfect, but it works! So, I hope to inspire others, whether you are a single parent or a two parent house, a multi-income or single income family.
I am still going thru a lot of trial and error about what works and what doesn’t. These are some of the best tips I have in my arsenal right now to make our small budget work. Let me know what your best tips are!
- Downsize your stuff! Less is so much more! My second biggest budget buster is home expenses. Ya feel me? I’m pretty lucky to live in a great area with relatively low home costs compared to the majority of the country, but my mortgage/home insurance/ and upkeep costs are still a big part of the budget. When I bought our first home(yay!) I actually had the choice between two equally great properties. One was larger(more expensive) and less than a block from my parents while the second was a little farther (less than a mile, but still) and smaller (code for cheaper!). Long story short, I chose the smaller house and even though my kids can’t just hop on a bike and ride to Grandma’s house, it really was the right choice financially. Even after completing a major remodeling project on the inside (let’s just say I switched the kitchen and a bedroom), the cost is still less than the other house. And that means money in our savings! The other great thing about choosing the smaller home is that it restricts how much stuff I can have. It is a heck of a lot easier to say no to that super awesome deal Amazon has on a kitchen gadget, when I know there just isn’t a good place to store it. Moving may not be the right move financially for you, but start going thru all your stuff room by room and figure out what do you really need versus what you think you should have. Take all the stuff that is not a necessity or doesn’t have some personal value to you and sell it. You can sock the cash away and feel lighter in the process. Win win!
- Food. Eating is expensive and for some strange reason, my kids want to eat at least three times a day. What’s up with that, right? I’m joking, obviously, but when you only have a small budget to purchase your groceries, you become acutely aware of every item that is eaten or, even worse, wasted. I give myself about $200 a month to purchase our groceries, but I really try to keep it under that for some buffer. A big way that this is achieved is by shopping at Aldi’s, really looking thru the weekly circulars, and trying only to eat what is in season. I meal plan very loosely, which I really need to get better about, but I have a very good idea of what will be made each week. An awesome way to save a little money and give yourself a break when it comes to one meal each week is to have a potluck! My family eats together a LOT! We meet at my parents’ home and enjoy a great meal together. It helps that Grandma and Grandpa have an awesome yard and driveway for the grandkids to play on so they can run off their boundless energy, but we are also helping each other out. It is a lot cheaper to make a large dish with cost-effective products, than it is to make a meal that only uses a portion of a item. If you don’t have family near you, start a weekly potluck with friends and switch the location each time!
- Childcare. The most expensive category in my budget is childcare. It kills me to have to budget a huge chunk of my paycheck for a babysitter, but it has to be there. Luckily, I have an amazing babysitter! I also rely on my parents and playdate swaps with friends to cover any other childcare I might need during the week.
- Stick to your list! I mean it, make a list and buy only those items on it. I hate, hate, HATE going into stores like Walmart and Target, for the simple fact that I will always think of at least 5 items that we “need” that are not on my list. I am slowly (so slowly!) trying to train myself to only purchase what it on my shopping list, because if it didn’t occur to me to write on the list at home, it must not be a “need”. My last shopping trip was a total fail because of this very fact. Mickey, Minnie, and I were at Walmart picking up 4 items, just 4 items. Well, needless to say, I made the mistake of parking on the wrong side of the store for what we needed. We had to walk past the lightbulb section and it popped into my head that I should get lightbulbs. Now, this actually is a valid point, we do need light bulbs. A lightbulb in my bedroom burnt out, but I have been just fine getting by with 3 lightbulbs instead of 4 in my bedroom. Well, I saw that the lightbulbs that I needed were on clearance and I just grabbed them. Luckily, this time it was something that will be useful in the future, so it was added to the stockpile downstairs, but it still irks me that I let myself slip. It’s hard and the stores do not make it any easier, but learn to tell yourself no!
- Go Halfsies. Yes, this does apply to eating out with friends, but I am actually talking about your everyday items at home. Paper towels? Tear the piece in half and use it up, you probably don’t need the full towel. Cotton balls/squares? Tear it in half. This can apply to pretty much anything if you put your mind to it.
- Clothes. Yet again, those gosh darned kids. Always growing! 🙂 It is so so easy to purchase all the adorable kids clothes out there (Kohls, serisouly, why is everything so cute??), but I just can’t justify the price tags on something they will wear for a year max. My go-to? Once Upon a Child. It is an hour trek for us to get to the nearest store, but I can find basically brand new Gymboree, Carters, Osh Kosh, and almost any other brand for at the most $4 a piece (most are less!). Which is crazy cheap! Yes, if you really watch the websites and sign up for all the emails and really coupon hunt, you can find comparable prices for brand new items, but I do not have that sort of time! Plus, by shopping second hand, I am avoiding any extra temptation from the adorable little clothes that are far above my budget.
My budget is in no way perfect, but I do consider it successful as long as I am able to add a little bit more cash into my savings account each month. 🙂
My goal for this year is to whittle down my budget enough that I am able to live on half of my income. That means I am really going to have to get creative on my housing and childcare categories, but I think it will be an amazing journey!