32 Ways Single Parents can Save Money

It’s not easy to manage money when you have kids and have only one source of income. Kids can throw in variable costs that you may not be able to afford. The more kids you have, the more variable expenses you can expect. You can have the best budget plan in place, but it’s inevitable that you will experience some unexpected expenses come up.

As a single parent, it is even more important to ensure that you are really tracking your finance and staying away from the vicious cycle of borrowing money through credit and living in your overdraft. Many families live paycheque to paycheque even families who are making six figure income. To increase your disposable income when your income is fixed, you can only manage your expenses. There are ways to stretch the dollar you earn by being smart about your spending habits on essential goods like food and grocery.

Here are 32 ways to save money on your essential items:

When shopping for groceries:

  1. Consider shopping at warehouse or discount stores. Examples include: No Frills, Buy- Low Foods, CostCo, Food Co-ops and even dollar stores
  2. Make a grocery list and stick to it and avoid wandering aimlessly through the aisles
  3. Buy bulk food if you can that way you are only buying what you will consume
  4. Look for coupons online from your favourite grocery store
  5. Join your grocery store’s rewards program so you can cash back or points you can redeem for future savings
  6. Eat before you shop so you are not grabbing food you are craving at the moment
  7. Try not to shop with your kids as they are more likely to throw products in your cart without consideration of costs
  8. Take note of sales and try to purchase in bulk if you have the space, the consumption needs and the price will help you stretch your dollar
  9. Shop at the same stores where prices are familiar to you so you can tell what a good deal looks like
  10. Read labels and use a calculator to compare prices on a per unit basis.
  11. Find substitutes or no name brand versions of the known brands
  12. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season so they are cheaper
  13. Buy products that may be soon to expire but you could eat same day as they are usually marked down significantly
  14. Go to dollar stores to buy your miscellaneous and generic items like cleaning supplies and canned food. This will save you money.

As a single parent, it is even more important to ensure that you are really tracking your finance and staying away from the vicious cycle of borrowing money through credit and living in your overdraft.

When cooking, here are ways you can save money:

  1. Plan your major meals so you can plan your grocery buying and buy in bulk
  2. Freeze your pre-planned meals. This will save you not only time but also money
  3. Use less meat and prepare casseroles as pastas are cheaper than meat. As long as you can handle the carbs from the pasta
  4. Buy less preprocessed food. They are not only unhealthy but also likely more expensive
  5. Use generic items in your recipe if there is no difference between the brand name ingredient. For example, baking soda, cornstarch, vinegar – these are standard ingredients.
  6. Prepare well-loved meals that can be eaten for lunch or dinner and swap out your various prepared meals.

When dining in is not in your plan, keep an eye out for ways to save when dining out:

  1. Use 2 for 1 coupons. Check out apps and online websites like Groupon and select those restaurants to get a deal
  2. Take advantage of buffets or special pricing events like happy hour, toonie Tuesdays etc.
  3. Eat out with a friend and share meals if you can.
  4. Scan the menu for the prices and calculate the cost including tip before you start to order
  5. Buy water instead of pop or any other beverage. Beverages have huge mark ups
  6. Eat your salad at home as these salads can be just as pricey as entrees and yet costs the restaurant less money to make
  7. Don’t buy appetizers and desserts. Two of these typically equal one big entrée meal
  8. If you are going to have a beverage at the restaurant and you’re not driving, pre-drink at home but don’t go to the restaurant drunk. The pre-drinking saves you money from having to buy several glasses of wine or cocktail. One glass of wine can cost just as much as a bottle in the liquor store
  9. If you do plan to socially drink with your friends, get a ½ liter of the same wine instead of 2 – 3 glasses and split the cost. It is typically cheaper
  10. Buy regular coffee instead of the fancy $5 coffee drinks
  11. Invite friends over for potluck instead of going out
  12. Find out if the restaurant offers complimentary appetizers like bread. If they do, keep this in mind as you order your meal. You might find that you will order a smaller meal because you’ll be so full from the complimentary bread or chips and salsa.

Some of these tips are easy to incorporate into your daily lives but some may require a bit more conscious effort to incorporate into your life. Perhaps you may not be able to get all of these tips implemented, but you can pick a few things that are easy to put into practice and start saving money.

Chanelle Dupre

Chanelle Dupre is a writer of parenting articles and was a single parent for 20 years to two sons now in their late 20's. She had a column in 3 newspapers and this blog is a curation of old and new stories around the challenges of single parenting and ideas on how to make life easier.