Monday, August 10, 2009

Making Ends Meet- Living on a Budget

Living on one income is sometimes difficult when you are a single mom. I wish I could have a nice cushion for emergencies but the truth is money is tight! After the separation I found myself with one income, numerous debts and two little mouths to feed. Here are seven steps that I'm using to make it work financially.

  1. Make a monthly bills spreadsheet. All of my regular bills like rent, electricity, phone, credit cards are all organized on a spread sheet. It really helps me to visually see all of my bills all on one page. It also makes it easy to see when bills are due and if they have been paid. I also added an interest column so I could see the amount of interest I was paying each month. This is a great way to keep myself accountible and to see how much money is being wasted each month on interest.
  2. Stop adding debt! The first thing I did was cut up my credit cards and decided to live on cash. Trust me, this was very scary! I couldn't make an emergency pit stop at the grocery store anymore, I couldn't buy the cute jeans for the boys on a whim anymore and I couldn't just pick up the boys to go to the zoo. Everything had to be calculated and allotted in the budget.
  3. If you do have debt, make yourself a get out of debt plan. My next step is to get rid of the debt that I already had. I made a list of all of my credit cards and put them in order of interest rate. The one with the highest interest rate was my first mission. Pay that one off first. Of course I still make the minimum payments on the other cards but whenever I have a little extra cash I make sure to pay off that one. It also helped that the balance of that first card was also low so that I was able to pay it off rather quickly. Knowing that one card is gone is such a wonderful feeling and really motivating. My other balances are a bit higher so I know that it will take me some time to pay them off but as long as I stick to the plan and don't add debt I am sure that I will be able to do it.
  4. Make a meal plan according to what's on sale. A really important part of living on a budget is looking through the grocery store flyers and making a meal plan for the week according to the specials. It's unbelievable how much you can save by only eating the meat that's on sale that week. Meat goes on sale in rotation so you can be sure that every few weeks the type of meat you want to eat will be on sale. Make the meatloaf when the groundbeef is on sale, make the roast chicken when the chicken is on sale, etc. I also like to make extra so that I can freeze it to have it available when I want later. I always have a container of meat sauce or chili in the freezer ready to go.
  5. Buy the essentials when they go on sale. Things like detergent or toilet paper goes on sale all of the time. You should never buy these items at full price if you can help it. Same goes for shampoo, soap, diapers, etc. I am also always on the lookout when non-perishable food items are on sale so that I can stock up. Pasta, canned beans, canned soups, rice ... all of these things go on sale quite often.
  6. Don't eat meat every night. One of the reasons my grocery bills were always so high was that I was making meat at every dinnertime meal. This can be pricey! Taking a couple of nights to have vegetarian meals can be healthy, budget friendly and is even good for the environment.
  7. Find all of the free activities happening in your neighborhood. Entertaining children can be expensive but it doesn't have to be. When I started having to greatly reduce my monthly entertainment budget I was surprised how many free or cheap events there were for the family around the city. It just takes a little searching. There are things like Shakespeare in the park, movies in the park, family days around town, cultural festivals... a lot of things are free you just have to look for them. I also found that sometimes we could go to the local park and have a picnic and it was just as fun a day as it would have been spending it at the zoo which could cost more than $20.00 a person!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Kids Clothes

Kids grow so fast I feel like I'm always buying them new clothes. It can get really expensive! I'm lucky that I have two boys close in age so I can use hand-me-downs for my youngest son but I'm still always looking for good sales. I came across I really great Canadian store for kids clothes: Please Mum. I live in Quebec, so unfortunately there are no actual Please Mum boutiques around here but I have ordered from their website quite a few times. They have really nice, good quality clothes at reasonable prices. I often shop in the clearance section and I am amazed at some of the deals I can get. There is even free shipping when you spend over $100. On top of the clearance prices there are often also specials that happen periodically. I was really impressed with the quality especially for the price that I paid. Check it out!!


Every Other Weekend

Sometimes co-parenting has it's perks. It's nice to have a fixed time where the kids are with their father and I can just relax. It's sometimes difficult - the first time was really hard to see them sleep away from home, but, when I see that they really enjoy spending time with their father, I take advantage of that time. I often take it to reconnect with my friends. Since my oldest son was born, time with my friends (who don't have kids) diminished quite a bit. Now that I am seperated, I, strangely enough, have more time to see my friends. It is also without the guilt of leaving my kids. It took me a long time to get to this place in my mind and sometimes I hate having to negotiate everything with their father but I must admit I do like having a bit more me time. It's also a time when I can do that deep cleaning that sometimes seems impossible with two toddlers running around.

Nap Time

I just got them both down for their nap! It's not always easy to do especially since they share a room and sometimes encourage each other to stay up. It's a lot easier though since I try to keep their routine the same everyday. Even at daycare they take their naps or eat their snacks at around the same time each day. Routine has definitely kept me sane over these past couple of years. I think that's one really important tip with young children: have a consistent routine. It cuts out a lot of arguing because the kids know that it's not negotiable. It's also not perfect- there are nights when one or both of them refuses to go to bed but for the most part they do.
Another thing that has kept me sane is that during their nap time it is Mommy time! I try not to do too much housework during that time because I use it to relax. I often would catch up on the episodes of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy that I slept through during the week or catch up on some reading. It really helps me re-energize to be able to be a better mom when I have those couple of hours on the weekend for myself.

Friday, August 7, 2009

SOS Cuisine

Here's a website that really helps me stay organized! It's a Canadian website that actually emails you a weekly meal plan according to the specials found in your local grocery stores. The website also lists the local specials in a nicely organized table- it even highlights the best deal. The website also has a huge collection of recipes that outline the nutritional value and cost per serving. It's a fantastic find.



I'm a new single mom of two little boys (11 months apart). My oldest is almost 2 1/2 and my youngest is 18 months. My life is certainly not boring! On top of that I am also a working mom. I am constantly running around after my two little boys and they keep me so busy I actually weigh 30 lbs less now than I did before I had children. On my journey as a single working mom I come across many different resources which help me and I created this blog to help other moms too. Although it's coming from my perspective, I'm hoping it will be completely relevent to most moms.