My first single-mom-homeowner rude awakening came in the mail the other week. Not one, but two property tax bills due in 30 days.
Here’s a peak at the conversation I had with the county tax assessor: “There must be some mistake. Which bill did you want me to pay? . . . Oh, the bills are for separate pay periods from last year? Let me understand. I need to pay both by the end of next month?”
Still paying off the central air (which equates to a car payment, just so you know), I worry about how to stretch my income to cover these expenses. I know. I know. Everyone is in the same boat, so to speak, so my struggles are not unique by any means.
What is perhaps distinctive about my upbringing is that I was raised by Depression-era grandparents who taught me many frugal tactics—and they are coming in handy now. Let me give you an idea, just to confirm what some of you might be already thinking. Yes, we turned all the lights off in the house except for one side lamp in the room we occupied. Yes, we stored the Christmas cookies in tins under the beds in the back bedrooms and shut off the heater in those rooms. Yes, we reused tin foil, canned apricots and plums from the fruit trees in the backyard, soldered broken jewelry, paved our own driveway, and hauled soda cans to the recycling centers for cash before it became popular.
And now, I am saving the most fun part for last. Let’s not forget Mom’s contribution. Well, you could call her the thrift store queen. I learned from her, which is why bargains tend to call out my name.
How will I apply these spendthrift tactics to my struggling single mom homeowner situation now, you ask? Even more importantly, what can YOU do to stretch your own paychecks?
- Drive less and run errands along the path instead of making separate trips.
- DIY whatever you can from mowing, edging, car washing, manicuring, and pedicuring to sewing.
- Reuse whenever and whatever possible such as dying faded pants and jeans, repainting furniture, crafting with scraps instead of buying new supplies, and borrowing books or magazines instead of buying them.
- Cook most meals at home. Admittedly, this takes planning of meals, scouring of grocery store ads, and clipping of coupons, but I spend no more than $60 per week feeding myself and my daughter. You can save a bundle, too, if you commit to getting organized.
- Make your own coffee, for Pete’s sake! Why spend $2 - $5 per day on coffee when you can make a cup at home for a dime? This equates to roughly $90 per month of hard-earned money handed over to Starbucks. Crazy! Invest in a $10 - $15 coffee pot and a $5 bag of coffee and save yourself literally hundreds a year.
I've shared with you my penny-pinching strategies that work! Now that the shock of home-ownership has hit me, 2013 is going to be a tight year, but I am up for the challenge. How about you? Tell me what you are going to do to tighten your budget belt and thrive as a smart single parent in today’s tough economy.