In our instantaneous need-it-now society, most people practically throw their money away here and there in a whirlwind of busyness and then end up with a mega credit card bill at the end of the month. Single parents, let’s find out how you are doing with your on-the-go spending habits. Is it tough to stretch out your paycheck to month’s end? Do you find yourself relying on your credit card too much to make ends meet? Are you aware of the areas where you waste money on purchases that could be eliminated? For instance, stopping off at Starbucks in the morning, going out for lunch with your co-workers, and getting your car washed on the way home can cost an average person fifty bucks or more. By making smarter choices and planning ahead, even busy single parents can start saving hundreds of dollars each month.
- Get off the couch and wash your own car. Savings? $10-$15 per car wash. If you live in an apartment or do not have access to hose hook-up, find a dollar car wash near your neighborhood where you can insert quarters for a car wash that will cost you about $2.
- Paint your own toes and nails. A decent bottle of nail polish costs $3-$7. Savings? $20-$30 per manicure or pedicure. An added benefit is that mothers and daughters can carve out some at home "spa time" and establish a bonding ritual a few times a month by doing at home manicures and pedicures.
- Stop spending over $100 per month at the coffeehouse. Instead, buy a pound of coffee the next time you go grocery shopping for $5 to $6 and brew it yourself each morning. An entire pound of store bought coffee can cost as much as a fancy drink or two at Starbucks. In addition to all the money you’ll save in a mere week, you will also be able to sleep in the extra 15 minutes it would take you to wait in line at Starbucks in the morning. Savings? $100 per month and some sanity to spare.
- Say yes to brown bagging your lunch. Pack leftovers from dinner for your lunch the next day rather than throwing out the food or letting it go to waste. Savings? $25+ per week if you typically go out for lunch. The added bonus is you’ll make healthier meal choices since home cooked meals are usually lower in fat and extra calories.
- Check out books and audio CDs from the library or borrow them from friends. Set up a book exchange with friends, family, and neighbors. If you simply must purchase your own books, shop at thrift stores, library bookstores, discount bookstores in malls, warehouse stores, or http://www.half.ebay.com/, a website that offers low prices on used books. Savings? $5-$15 per book.
- Skip the movies, rent a DVD, and make fresh popcorn at home rather than throw your money away at the movies. While enjoying a movie in the privacy of your home, you can still have your candy and eat it, too. Just stop by the dollar store on the way home for movie-style boxes of Good and Plenty, Rasinites, and Milk Duds. Savings? $25-$30.
- Be unique and shop at thrift and vintage stores. Who wants to wear the same dress as your co-worker, anyway? Take an inventory of your closet to see what items need to be thrown out due to overuse and what items you need to replace for work or play. Give yourself extra time when shopping at thrift stores since you will have to hunt for one-of-a-kind treasures. Savings? $5-$100.
- Save your plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Recycle your saved plastic bottles and aluminum cans at freestanding recycling operations for a voucher to redeem credit or cash at the nearby grocery store. Savings per month? $5-$20.
With a little creativity, organization, and common sense, single parents can incorporate daily money-saving strategies in their routines that will add up to hundreds of dollars saved over the next few months. Enjoy the feelings of financial confidence that come with knowing you are no longer wasting money on expensive lattes, clothing, or manicures, no longer throwing out food or plastic bottles, and no longer having to worry about stretching your paycheck to month’s end. The added bonus is that your children will learn to appreciate the value of a dollar and make frugal choices for themselves if they see you model it first.