I read a lot of financial and money saving blogs, books, articles (and I do mean A LOT). I consume tips and tricks as if they’re water. I’m a single, working mom of three kids under six and I am the sole provider. That being said, a lot of financial tips are aimed at either the SAHM or two parent households. For those of you out there in my Other category trying to scrounge to provide the best for your kids, hope this helps.
1) Daycare. Ouch. It’s more than my house payment. All I can say is if you qualify for daycare assistance – get it! In my case, I am just over the threshold so I’m constantly looking for the next best thing. It so happens that my older children go to one place and my youngest goes to another. Yes, it’s inconvenient but it saves me $400/month. I had a friend whose mother is really ready for grandbabies, but her daughter is not. She agreed to watch my daughter for HALF of what the daycare would charge me so she could get her “baby fix” and she makes some fun money. Win-win number 1. This summer my older daughters will be going to a neighbors house instead of their regular daycare because I know a teacher that wants to make extra cash over the summer. Win-win number 2. This works for me because my regular daycare owner knows my situation so she doesn’t charge me cancellation/holding fees as she knows I’m just trying to survive the daycare years. A neighbor of mine even received a 40% reduction from her language learning daycare just by negotiating. If one place says no, go to the next place the next week and see what they are willing to do. People want your business.
2) Extreme Couponing? Let’s be honest, I don’t really have the time. I get up at 4am with the baby to have some one-on-one time and then we’re off and running and out of the house at 6:30am so I can get everyone where they need to be and me to work at 7:30am. HOWEVER, there are a couple of exceptions. Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart with the help of a few couponing websites like KrazyCouponLady.com and livingrichwithcoupons.com. I check them out before I do anything else in the morning and see if there is anything good for the day (i.e. free, practically free, moneymaker). If there is I grab what I need and hit the store on the way to work, or on my lunch break if we hit a snag in our morning roundup out the door. Let’s face it, they’re kids and our mornings don’t always go as planned–babies spit up, kids lose their shoes, keys get lost…you get the picture.
3) Credit Cards are only to be used for money back and to be paid off every month. I have a Sam’s Mastercard to get the 5% back on gas (and they almost always have the lowest price on gas in my area). I have a Chase card that gives me 1%-5% back on everything and they give you cash back, not options to buy giftcards etc. An Amazon Visa because I shop there for reimbursable work expenses and also regularly for diapers (love Amazon Mom and Amazon Family) so I get rewards points to use back at Amazon. Target card (they have debit and credit option) to get 5% back on all of their purchases. That’s it and I use them where I’d be using cash anyways (just getting rewarded for it). I write down the purchases in my check register each time so I know exactly how much to pay off when I get home. My bank offers free BillPay so I don’t wait for the purchase to hit my card before I send the payment off.
4) The coveted Side Hustle. Let’s face it, if you can’t save enough money you must make more money. I was looking for an inexpensive babysitter on Care.com that I never found, but I did find a Sunday gig. A church was hiring for an infant sitter so I let them know I was interested, but had my own children I’d have to bring. They were reluctant at first but wanted to meet everyone. My kids became fast friends with the regular kids, and a few months later they offered me the Wednesday evening sitter position as well. ALWAYS be on the lookout for a side job and don’t be afraid to ask if your kids can join, etc. Extra bonus: it’s a weekly built in play date for my kids.
Basically, there are always ways to save. Every time I think I’ve scrounged to the max I find something else I can do to cutback on costs or add to my budget. You cannot get complacent. My biggest advice is to stay calm and positive and realize “where there is a will there is a way”. Talk to people, network, know the prices, know what’s a deal. If you don’t ask you’ll never know so ALWAYS ASK and DON’T BE AFRAID TO NEGOTIATE. Five years ago I would have said there is no way I could survive alone. Now I’m not only surviving alone, I’m providing for three little people and we are all thriving. Life is good.