Top 25 Cost Savers for Single Moms

By Allison O'Connor

mom and daughter saving money with piggy bankIf you’re a single mom, no doubt you’re feeling this economic crunch, even more so than your married gal pals. But there are some simple things you can do to help keep more of your paycheck in your wallet. It may take some discipline, but you just might find some of these helpful tips are easy to incorporate and even fun for the whole family.
1. Form a carpool for after school activities.
Not only will you save on gas, but you just might end up with a few extra minutes for yourself.

2. Combine errands.
Nothing empties your gas tank faster than pulling out of your driveway multiple times during the day. If possible, combine several days worth of errands into one.

3. Form a parents network.
You and all of those in your kid clique will save money on gas, not to mention saving valuable time, if you share babysitting duties and grocery shopping.

4. Trade your children’s outgrown clothes, toys, and books.
Get your friends and neighbors together for children’s clothes, book & toy swaps. Most children out grow their clothes before they can wear them out. You’d be surprised at some of the great almost-new clothes I’ve gotten from friends and family. And, if your kids are like mine, they loose interest in their toys almost instantly after they unwrap them. Toy and book swaps are a wonderful way to save on expensive toys. Don’t know anyone else you can pass a used toy or book to? Consider donating to the Salvation Army or local children’s charity.

5. Buy books at your local library’s book sale.
These  books are generally in great condition, if not new. Many library patrons drop books they’ve finished, at their favorite branch and sell for a fraction of their original price. Why not bring some of your gently used books in too.

6. Simplify your child’s birthday party.
Have an old fashioned birthday party at home rather than spending money on a party hosted at a restaurant or fun center. Forget the expensive clown, or blow-up castle. Go for a “treasure hunt” or or art activity instead. Elementary school kids are easy to please; cake, friends and a few games and you have a party!

7. Skip the movie out, and rent a DVD instead.
Movies don’t stay in the theatres very long before making their way to the video store. You can save a bundle by renting the latest DVD and making popcorn at home.

8. Take a staycation in your home town.
Want to plan an inexpensive family outing? Most communities offer free or reduced admission days once or more a month to museums and other special venues, so check your newspaper or online event listings.

9. Eat out less…that includes fast food restaurants!
It may take some planning on your part, but eating in will save you money and calories in the long run.

10. Before heading for the grocery store, make a list. And go without your kids.
Wait until they’re in school, or at a playdate. Then, with list in hand, by nutritious necessities, in bulk, if possible. This way you will avoid those impulse buys and the extra goodies your kids throw in the cart.

11. Cook casseroles and freeze leftovers for another meal.
Make more, cut into meal-size portions, then freeze or refrigerate. This way, there is always something in the fridge, and you won’t be tempted to go out and eat.

12. And bring out your old crock pot—and use it!
I’m a big fan of easy one-dish cooking. Throw in leftovers for a slow-cooked stew or, put in a bag of peas, for a soup. The crock pot takes the hassle out of making dinner when you get home from work, giving you more time to spend with your family.

13. Clip coupons if you’re not already.
There are websites that have online coupons for grocery items, toiletries, children’s clothes and more. One site we like is for great deals on grocery items.

14. Save on fresh produce by buying frozen veggies and berries.
They cost less, last longer and have the same nutritional value as fresh.

15. Skip the mocha latte at your favorite coffee spot and brew your own at home.
On the average a regular “tall” coffee costs $2.75. Multiply that by 5-7 days a weeks, and you’ve saved a bundle by the end of the year.

16. Consider making your gifts, cards and ornaments for the holidays.
Homemade cards, cookies, candies and ornaments are a nice alternative to a store bought gift. And, it’s a wonderful way to get your children involved in the holiday preparations. You can find lots of great ideas for homemade gifts online or in your favorite craft store.

17. Rather than buying expensive gifts for relatives, put a photo of you and your children in a pretty frame.
It will last long after the holidays are over and it’s the perfect gift for the person who has everything.

18. Check out the dollar bin at your favorite discount retail outlet for stocking stuffers and toiletry items.
The dollar bins have great, inexpensive kids items that you can use for birthday give-aways and stocking stuffers rather than the traditional bag of candy. And, the toiletry items are the perfect size for your carry-on bag.

19. Buy old fashioned board games, and a deck of cards.
There are a lot less expensive than computer games and electronic toys. Set up a regular game night for the family. Turn off the TV and computer and just enjoy being together.

20. Start your holiday shopping NOW.
Most retailers are having great sales, so take advantage of the bad economy and shop early. Shopping online will also save time and money. Many sites are now offering free shipping as an incentive. But shop around. I found an item that was $10 cheaper on than another major retailer. Plus I got free shipping, too.

21. Bundle your phone and cable services. SMW contributor Jessica Pegis wrote a terrific article on how combining these services saved her fortune.

22. Watch your thermostat this winter. Keeping your home at the recommended temperature will keep your electric and gas bill from getting out of hand. Same for your air conditioning during the summer months.

23.   Go green. Convert to energy saving light bulbs to cut down on the amount of electricity you use. Put a water filter on your tap. You’ll save a fortune by not having to buy bottled water. And, think of all the plastic you’ll be saving.

24. Read you favorite newspaper online. A subscription to your local newspaper could be as much as $40 a month. Reading it online will save you nearly $500 over the course of the year, not to mention the number of trees you will be saving.

25. Use cash whenever possible. Interest rates are still high on most store and bank credit cards. Using  cash will help you stay within your means and you won’t be paying interest fees on your purchases.

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