Have a plan (and then follow it) at the grocery store. It’s ob-vious to have a list. In fact, I’m great at list-making. On my last dash to the store, my list contained the following items: Wheat Chex, toothpaste, gallon of milk, cheddar cheese, pretzels and Gatorade. The bill should have easily totaled less than $25.00. By the time I neared the check-out, my bill totaled close to $50.00. It seems a few extra items had crept into my cart. Make sure you have a plan and then follow it when you do your shopping. If you con-tinually overspend (like I have the tendency to do) leave the house with what you plan to spend plus a $5.00 lee-way.
Put kids to work clipping coupons. Single parents rarely have the time to clip coupons for savings. Give your children a list of products that you use regularly. Sit them down each Sunday with the paper and let them partake in a coupon hunt. For each coupon they find (and you use), they get to keep half of the coupon’s value. For example: if they find a $1.00 off coupon on Cheerios, they receive 50 cents when you use it and your grocery bill bottom line receives the other 50 cents.
Watch where you walk. Less expensive items are typically placed around the outside of the market, it’s those mid-dle aisles that hold the items that quickly add to your bill. When you do need to dash down one of those aisles, remember to look high and look low. Less expensive items are usually placed near the top or bottom of the shelves. The shelves that are eye-level are reserved for the more expensive items.
Buy in bulk when you can. Buying items, that don’t spoil, in bulk can save money and save trips to the store. For sta-ples and nonperishable goods, stock up at good sale prices or join a warehouse club. If warehouse quantities are too much for your own family, combine your list with a few other single parents and then split the food to maximize your savings.
Let children design greeting cards and wrapping paper using items found around the house. This makes a great rainy day project while providing savings for the family.
Shop year round. Instead of waiting for Christmas woes and stressing at a time that should be joyous for families, learn to shop and take advantage of sales year around. Have a small amount taken from each paycheck and put into a Christmas fund. Carry a Christmas list in your daily planner.
If you haven’t tried a thrift shop, now is the time. While the idea of thrift and resale shops once brought to mind pic-tures of dingy rooms with stained clothes – not so any-more! Thrift shop business is booming. If you haven’t tried a second-hand store, take a peek you could be pleasantly surprised!
Keep a spending diary. If you find that you are still scrimp-ing day-to-day, keep a detailed spending journal. It is of-ten amazing how little purchases add up to big expenses! Seeing expenses in black and white can be eye opening. Buying a quick cup of coffee at a drive-through each morning can easily cost you $20-$30 a month. Most peo-ple spend at least $5.00 each weekday on food related items at work. (Lunch, pop, coffee, snacks, etc.) Bringing lunches, treats and drinks from home could save your family $100 per month – or $1200 per year! Little ex-penses add up quickly.
When you find the areas in your life where the money is draining out, plug up the holes! Now that you are better equipped to handle your current finances, let’s take a look ahead to finances of the future.