21 Frugal Living Tips for Single Moms and Dads
Frugal Living for Single Parents
My mom was single for part of the time I was growing up. Even when she was married, she was frugal. With four kids, our family couldn’t be extravagant. Sure, we grew up relatively poor, but we had a lot of fun and were happy and healthy kids. My mom was—and still is—very frugal, and I’m proud to have learned those skills and values from her. Here are 21 thrifty things I saw my mother do, many of which I practice myself. These frugal living tips aren't just for single moms--or single dads--but they work for everybody!
Tips for Living Frugally
1. Enlist help from your kids, if they’re old enough. I remember mowing, cleaning house, helping in the garden, and doing my own laundry. And when we got old enough, we all got part-time jobs to help with our miscellaneous expenses. I was even able to save some money for college!
2. Make cheap meals. To this day, I still love pinto beans and cornbread. Mom would fry potatoes or okra, or serve some other vegetable from the garden. While we didn't eat expensive foods, we always had wholesome and tasty meals.
3. Cook simple meals with the children. Do it together, make it fun, and, chances are, they’ll carry on this tradition into their adult lives. Collect simple recipes from other moms, family, and friends. Or google some!
4. Grow your own vegetables. If you have little time, consider growing a few of your favorites. My mom was a superwoman who kept up a pretty big garden, which saved us a ton of money. She canned or froze whatever we couldn't eat fresh. As for me, while I don't go all out like my mother did, I do try to keep up with a raised vegetable bed.
Save those leftovers!
- What Foods Freeze Well? - Ways to Stretch Your Food Budget
There are many foods that freeze well that cooks don’t have to throw out but can use later. While not all foods hold up well in the freezer, there are a number that do, from meats to vegetables to sauces, to cooked foods, and more. What freezes well?
More tips on saving money on food . . . .
5. Rarely eat out. I didn’t have much fast food as a kid. Occasionally, Mom would treat us to a pizza. These days, however, you can find some really good frozen or deli pizzas that cost much less and are often just as good. Kids who have regular homemade meals are healthier and grow up appreciating "real" food.
6. Don’t throw out leftovers. Get creative with them. Freeze bits of veggies together to make stew later. Many foods freeze well. One of my favorite leftover meals were the “tater cakes” that my mom made from leftover mashed potatoes. Yummy!
7. Teach kids to eat the proper amount of food. Don’t let them get more food on their plates than they can eat. And don’t let them gorge. Besides costing more in groceries, letting kids eat more than they need can lead to weight issues.
8. Get creative with snacks. Kids don’t need sugary, salty, or fatty snacks in excess. Besides being unhealthy, they’re expensive. Give them peanut butter on crackers or bread with a touch of honey. Apple slices with peanut butter are good. Give them a piece of dark chocolate between two graham crackers (melted in the microwave) for a snack much healthier and cheaper than cookies.
More Thrifty Living Tips
9. Stock up on sale items. It wasn’t unusual for Mom to have several bottles of ketchup in the pantry if she caught it on sale. Or extra meat in the deep freeze. I still do the same thing. It can save a lot of money on items that you use regularly.
10. Consider going to the dentist only once a year. Get your kids on a regular schedule of tooth-brushing and flossing in order to be able to stretch out dental check-ups. We used to have a chart where we would check off when we brushed our teeth, and it was fun!
11. Teach kids to conserve. Show them how little shampoo or toothpaste they actually need. Try this with various items. Kids usually pull out way too much toilet paper, for instance. Try reducing or eliminating paper towel usage altogether by using cloth. Most families go through common household items too fast; many of these items can be replaced or done away with completely. See how you can get your kids to cut back. It all adds up!
12. Don’t go to the movie theater. If you do, let it be for a special occasion. We didn’t even rent movies but found what we could on our three—yes, three—television stations that we got. Sure, the world is different today, but there’s still nothing more fun than sitting on the couch with three brothers, eating popcorn, and watching a scary movie together. Lots of squeals, laughter…and now, memories!
More Great Ideas!
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13. Cut your kids' hair yourself. It’s easy enough to trim off some dead ends here and there. I even experimented on my brother’s hair in college, and it turned out fine. Just cut where it’s been cut before; if you mess up, it will grow back. Watch one of the tutorials I've included if you need to. I didn’t have a professional haircut until I was out on my own. My mom even cut and dyed her own hair.
14. Buy clothing from thrift stores. While my mom sewed a lot of our clothing, that craft actually became more expensive over time than buying clothing on sale or in thrift stores. With more thrift stores around, buying even name-brand clothing there is a growing trend, even with those picky teenagers! If you have more than one child, there are always hand-me-downs, too. Even as the only girl in the family, I still wore them whenever possible.
15. Don’t wash clothing every time you wear it. If it’s not dirty or stinky, hang the item back up. No need to wash kids’ pajamas every day, either.
16. Take showers at night instead of in the morning. Getting clean before you go to bed will help your sheets to stay cleaner longer.
17. Turn off the water in the shower while shaving. Reduce electric and water usage by turning off the water when you shave your legs. Limit shower time, as well. Set a timer for the kids if you have to.
18. Re-use your bath towel. There's no need to wash a bath towel after every shower just because it's wet. Wash everyone’s towels once a week. You can even air them out in the sun between washings to kill any potential bacteria and keep them smelling fresh.
19. Turn lights out in rooms that you’re not using. Teach your kids to do the same. This practice quickly becomes habit.
20. Don't buy so many toys and gadgets. Kids don’t need every high-tech creation that comes out. Get your kids to play outside! And what’s wrong with board games or puzzles...or books? Saturdays are great for trips to the library to pick up free books to read for the next two weeks. When kids really insist on having an expensive item, teach them to be responsible with money by saving up allowances or birthday money to purchase the item.
21. Don’t be extravagant on holidays. Be creative. Consider homemade gifts. Make your own birthday cakes to save. Kids that are old enough to bake enjoy helping with this. Limit gifts to one or two. The most memorable Christmas I’ve ever had—and my little brothers would agree—was the year that my mom made us a homemade Christmas. She decorated jars to make piggy banks and jewelry boxes. She sewed up several things, including a five-foot long snake from scrap materials that she had. Thirty years later, that ratty snake is still a prized possession of my youngest brother.
Be creative in finding ways to save. I find it a challenge to continually find new ways. If you have additional ideas, please feel free to share them in the comment section below.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Victoria Lynn