Save (at least) $150 a month now.

by mssinglemama on November 20, 2008

I’ve been at this for a while now – this single mom thing – and the reason why I have some extra cash now for savings plans and all of that fun stuff is thanks to the thrifty measures I took during that first year just to survive.

Some of these call for new habits and slight changes in lifestyle and I’m sure many of you are doing everything on this list already, but just in case you aren’t, here are my best money saving tips:

1. Cancel your cable.

If you’re reading this, you probably have high-speed internet. I haven’t had a television in two years now so I’ve been forced to seek out all of my favorite TV shows online. At first the pickings were slim. But is adding TV shows to their roster faster than you can say Hulu. Find the Office, Heroes, Ghost Hunters, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report there and all of your other favorites are probably on the network’s website.

Worried about the kids and their nasty little TV habits?

Rent DVDs from the library or buy episodes on iTunes for $1.99 a piece. Better yet, find DVDs at garage sales and used children’s toy stores for less than $5.00 each. If you can’t live without it, renew your cable after you’ve cancelled and you’ll probably get a discounted sign up fee for the first three months. So what’s the harm in trying? Read more on why I think you should kill your TV here.

Savings = $60 – $100 (depending on your cable package)

2. Take your lunch to work.

Every day, no matter what. If you really need to convince yourself to do this, go through your checking account or debit card account and add up all of those little meals. You will be amazed at how the total. And besides, not eating out will cut the pounds too.

Savings = $70.00 – $200.00 a month (depending on how much you eat out).

3. Buy Target diapers and baby wipes.

They’re the best. Really. I prefer Target over all of the other diaper brands. And they’re 1/3 of the price.

Savings = $20.00 – $60.00 a month (depending on how many kids you have).

4. Buy energy efficient light bulbs.

They’re more expensive, but they really work. My electric bill went down by 40% last month because of my efficient bulbs and my compulsion to turn off the lights in every room. Candles are also nice. The power went out here for about one week after Ike hit. I realized how much energy I waste every day. Read more on how to cut your electric bill.

Savings = $10.00 – $30.00 a month (depending on the time of year).

5. Find another single mom, and share baby sitting.

Babysitting bills can add up. I’ve been trading with Mia consistently now at least every other weekend. We have a loose schedule and it saves a ton of money. If you don’t have another single mom friend yet look on or post an ad yourself. Just be careful, exchange e-mails first and then talk on the phone before meeting.

Savings = $60.00 – $120.00 a month (depending on how often you go out).

6. Share hi-speed internet.

Talk to your neighbors, someone near you probably has wireless internet. Work out a deal to split the bill.

Savings = $15.00 – $30.00 a month (depending on your internet rates).

7. Make your own bread.

Yeah right. Just put that in there to be funny. I couldn’t make bread if someone had a gun to my head. Tree Mama may know how though. She rocks by the way! LOVE her.

Savings = $10.00 a month

8. Take shorter showers.

Save water, save the environment and save some cash.

Savings = not sure, don’t have to pay a water bill because I rent! Woo Hoo.

9. Sell your old clothes.

Take them to a consignment shop or sell them on eBay. I also buy 90% of my clothes and Benjamin’s clothes at thrift and consignment shops.

Profits = $50.00 – ? (depending on how much you sell).

10. Cancel your magazine subscriptions.

Seriously. Read blogs instead, they’re way better.

Savings = $10.00 a month

11. Winterize your place.

Seal up those windows babes. Not sure how much you’ll save because I haven’t done it before, but Mr. Man is coming over tomorrow to winterize my place while I’m at work! Yes, some men are so very, very useful.

Do you have any money saving secrets to add? Please, please, I could always use more…

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

douglaspaul November 20, 2008 at 8:38 pm

I’m clearly not a single mom or even a single dad but this shows why a mother can be a CEO of a company. My mom was queen of these things. She’d buy clothes out of season or before the season to save on the price, make cooking a family event to save money and provide fun times and do some laundry by hand ( real old school there ) among other things.

Much respect mothers.


Savored Life November 20, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Ugh…TV! I haven’t had cable or satellite in 2.5 years either…and don’t miss it at all!


Laura November 21, 2008 at 6:27 am

I always check out the thrift stores and Goodwill (got a beautiful leather coat just two weeks ago for $15)…I also shop at the Everything is a dollar store…with the kids things get lost or broken so a dollar for a spatula that somehow ends up in the cat box is not such a big deal…you have some great ideas that I have not tried…really need to look into the no TV thing and see if S-man knows anything about winterizing the house. Great Blog!


Momma Mac November 21, 2008 at 7:39 am

I actually just started to make my own bread, in addition to being cheaper. It is so much yummier! And if you have a bread machine, super simple.

Other things I do, when gas was more expensive, I stopped driving, except for essential trips. Now, I’m just used to not driving or combing my car trips, I only fill up the car twice a month. I have cut my gas consumption in half!

I also bought a membership to our local zoo, it has paid for itself many times over. It’s fun and educational and animals never cease to entertain!


Katherine (SOLO dot MOM) November 21, 2008 at 7:54 am

I cut my children’s hair saving at least $30 every couple months or so. I have been cutting hair (for family) since I was 16 though. And I order water with my meal when the kids and I splurge to eat out, saving about $2.50 per meal. I also use a Brita pitcher to purify my own water at home, so I don’t buy bottled water (nor soft drinks for that matter) for the house… just a few of my money saving habits. Oh yeah and you can borrow dvd movies from your local library… they even usually carry recent ones!


Leah November 21, 2008 at 8:10 am

Awesome post, mama and love all the tips.

I also want to second the thrift store option for clothes as well as buying kids’ toys! I find the most amazing toys and gear at Value Village and my kid does not know the difference whatsoever.

I also have saved a lot of money through using public transportation and only fill up my tank 2x/month.

Another tip is to get the cheapest possible cell phone plan – you just have to be fastidious about watching your minutes. I try to use it after 9 pm and on weekends and text the rest of the time (I’m on a $5/mo text plan).


mssinglemama November 21, 2008 at 9:11 am

KitKat – I purify too… and Leah! That’s a great one – I pay the extra $5.00 a month to talk unlimited after 7:00pm, makes a HUGE difference. So I have low minutes but talk unlimited after 7:00.

Keep ’em coming everyone… hoping this post is filled with more tips than I could offer.

Momma Mac- you ROCK for making your own bread. Seriously, more power to you.

Douglas – XOXO. Thank you. All moms would be fantastic CEOs.

Laura – we should go shopping together!

Savoured & Sarah – glad I’m not the only one who sees the light about the TV thing.


Treemama November 21, 2008 at 9:42 am

Yes, I can bake bread, but do I, in rare moments. Let me tell you I try, but sometimes it’s pizza and hamburger helper in this natural household.

I have been debating for two months about the cable thing and think I’m going to do it.

I cut our trash service and take stuff directly to landfill myself. With compost and recycling there’s not much ewwwy stuff left.

Need to do the consignment shop/thrift shop thing though, seems I just don’t have the patience, so I just don’t buy new clothes, which I guess saves money too.

Great advice!


Beth November 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

omg all of this advice is awesome! more posts like this please!

i’ve been finding a lot of great toys for my son on craigslist. i bought a bunch of outdoor play stuff for him this summer so it didn’t really matter if it wasn’t in mint condition. also, i’ve actually asked friends and neighbors with older kids for hand-me-down clothes and toys. most people are more than happy to share!


Sheila November 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Save your aluminum/plastic cans and recycle them for cash – it adds up!!!!!


Rachel November 21, 2008 at 12:50 pm

It would break my heart to turn my cable off….(sigh)


Fraizerbaz November 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I like to borrow CD’s and DVD’s from the library, as well. They are totally free, unless of course I forget to take them back on time.

Also, I got rid of my cell phone with the expensive plan, and opted for a TracFone with pre-paid airtime and units. I don’t have to mess around with a monthly bill, and only use it for emergencies.


Fraizerbaz November 21, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Oh, and one more thing. I switched from using a bank to a credit union for my personal banking. The fees are much less; heaven forbid I should ever become overdrawn, I am saving a little $$$… it all adds up! According to this article, US consumers paid $38 billion in bank fees in 2007 alone.


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Angie November 21, 2008 at 3:25 pm

oooh, I love your tips!

I have to swap my lightbulbs into the energy in-efficient “bright white” to avoid seasonal depression in the late fall/winter. But….it’s only a few months!

Depending on your level of confidence putting your budget information online, is an AWESOME budgeting tool. It helps me find areas I’m spending more than I’d like.

I ditto mamma mac’s idea about a zoo membership, but I’ve expanded a little. Every year I do a membership to a museum or zoo (although by me its easier since a lot of the DC museums are free!!) We then go there a handful of times over the year and more than get our money’s worth. Then move onto another museum to become members to.

Big tip in that – if you travel to a state with a science museum or zoo, get a membership THERE – then ALL the science museums (or zoos) in your area accept your out-of-state membership. This is only helpful if you have a few in driving distance. An example of how this is useful to me….I have a membership to Chicago’s Science and Industry Museum – this equals free entrance to that museum AND Baltimore science museum, DC’s Koshland Science Center, Richmond children’s museum and science museum, and a lot of nature centers in the area.


CME November 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm

This is AWESOME! My company just closed their doors today, so I am going to be a jobless single mom. But I have hope, faith and lots of wonderful people in my life. Thanks for sharing!


Emily November 21, 2008 at 8:38 pm

I try to eliminate the things we use up and throw away. Instead of paper napkins, we have cloth. Instead of sandwich bags, we use plastic containers for lunch ingredients. Sponges and dishtowels replace paper towels for most messes, hankies instead of Kleenex. Although these things involve an initial investment (check Goodwill!) there is a huge savings every month when I don’t have to buy all those paper goods. One roll of Saran wrap has lasted me six months, because I just put things into reusable containters instead. I prefer the kind that can be used to carry lunch in, or microwaved to reheat. Also, I empty all the trash cans into the largest and resuse the small liners until they really need to be changed. I’ve cut my newspaper back to the Sunday edition only – they summarize the week and I get coupons, plus it is the only day I really have time to read it anyway.

I also look for discounts. In my area, most grocery stores offer a 5 cents per bag discount if you bring your own reusable ones. I always carry my student Id and ask about discounts. When we do eat out, I’ve discovered that many places don’t mind me ordering two meals off the child’s menu, or getting just one adult meal that son and I can share. Cuts calories and costs.

On the electric bill side, Wal-Mart carries a cool surge protector that shuts off power to your printer/speakers/other peripherals when the main computer is off. This saves on the “energy vampire” problem of electronics drawing energy even when turned off. I keep all small appliances unplugged when not in use for the same reason. Feel the power plug when the item is shut off – if it is hot, then the item is still drawing electricity. I see this as a safety hazard also. Try keeping the fridge and freezer mostly full, even if it is just with gallon jugs of water. Air is a very poor insulator, and so the fridge has to work harder to cool an empty space than a full one. But don’t cram it too full, and add room temp stuff slowly.


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motherflower November 22, 2008 at 12:29 am

Thank you for your kind comments. And BTW these are great tips! You rock!


badmuthablogger November 22, 2008 at 8:49 am

Great tips! I use craigslist to both buy and sell stuff. I also don’t drive anywhere unless I have to (I wait until I need to do several things all at once). I walk to downtown. My biggest expense (apart from my rent which is extortianate, but at least I share expenses by living with my sister) is FOOD. I try to go to the farmers market once a week at the end of the day, because they sell everything off for cheap. I always check the receipt at the grocery stores, and 9 times out of 10 they’ve made a mistake and owe me money. Also, I don’t buy books (as much) anymore but go to the library.


Bad Mummy November 23, 2008 at 6:16 pm

I adore my toaster oven! It doesn’t need pre-heating and since I’m cooking dinner for 2, it has all the space I need. Besides, some of the newer models can hold 8″ frozen pizzas! I don’t pay for hydro, but I’m sure I reduce my energy usage by about 40% by using the toaster oven instead of oven.

I also adore my slow cooker for cooking big batches of pasta sauce and soup, chili and stew. I divide these among mason jars and freeze them. Not only does this save money, but I know *exactly* what goes into my cooking. No glucose, corn syrup or food dyes!

Also, stop buying processed foods! You can make a chicken strip better – and cheaper – than anything you’ll ever find at the store. Try and find some other mums who are interested in making big batches of food and divvy the food up. You’ll make one meal, but end up with a taste of everything in your freezer.

I purchase my fresh fruit and vegetables thru a program called Good Food Box. Since they buy in bulk, the savings are passed onto members. I’m spending half as much on produce with this program and learning how to make use of veggies I don’t usually buy, like acorn squash.

Join your local Freecycle group! I can’t even count the number of items I’ve gotten from this movement, including a tricycle for The Mook. It’s also a great way to pass on clothes and toys that your own kidlet(s) have outgrown. What goes around, comes around!

See if you can get a CD of the photos taken with Santa this year. Rather than paying for a package of prints, you can get a CD and print whatever sizes work for you.


Erin November 24, 2008 at 1:36 pm

I am a young single mom…and I need to do better about bringing my lunch. I bet I spend $50 a week eating out. It’s bad for me…and I always feel guilty because I don’t have the money to be spending it that way.


Angie December 4, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Thanks for the tip about the Target diapers. I was shocked at how much cheaper they were and how well they actually worked. I tried Loves once when Little A was a baby and they were just falling apart so I was a little nervous about trying any other than Huggies.


babymamadrama March 24, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I hear you Erin. i used to have the same problem. i recently disciplined myself to start cooking and bringing lunch to work. i was a horrible cook until a few months ago, when i realized that cooking at home was not only cheaper but healthier for both baby and me. now i boil sweet potatoes and pumpkin, and puree them in the blender- way cheaper than baby food, plus no preservatives and reduces waste. whatever you don''t cook you can cut up into cubes and freeze for later use. when i started thinking about the ecological impact of eating out (all that packaging) and all the unwanted ingredients i was consuming, cooking became a much more desirable option. you can make dinner, and take leftovers to work the next day. (todays lunch was a homemade salad with last night's cut-up chicken breast). i usually sandwich it a few days a week, when i am feeling lazy.
oh and make soup! it goes a long way. good luck! kiss that guilty feeling goodbye, and say hello to a little extra cash in your pocket!


finding inner peace October 14, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Those are some great money saving tips. I have incorporated most of them already and I feel very frugal. The shorter showers thing…that’s still my weakness.