How to Spring Break on a Budget

Spring break doesn’t have to break your budget!
Photo by Artem Bali from Pexels

Spring Break, well any school break for that matter, can be a time for fun in many households.  Parents take time off, families go on vacation, spend quality time with each other, or do home improvement projects together. It’s a time to rejoice!

On the flip side, these breaks can wreak havoc on a single parent family. Questions about child care, how to keep the kids engaged, and how to avoid spending tons of cash can make school breaks miserable.

So, what is a parent to do? Even if your job offers vacation time, if it’s a popular time off, going on a trip can be more expensive since it’s tourist season. If kids are young but school-aged, parents often incur more costs by placing them in week-long camps. Older kids get to stay at home but that thought can be scary in itself. Yikes!

While the options may be limited and the situation unkind, there are ways for single parent families to Spring Break on a budget. See if any of these suggestions will work for you.

Ask for a temporary schedule change.

Asking for a flexible schedule may be an option.

Is your job flexible? Can you work from home or change your schedule temporarily? While it may sound farfetched, more and more jobs are moving towards flextime and may be more accommodating than you think.  The only way to know for sure is to ask. Explain the situation to your boss and see if they would be willing to give you some flexibility. This may allow you to spend a few more hours at home with the kids to avoid paying for extended care hours, if you put them in camp. Perhaps you can work four instead of five days and make an agreement with another single parent so that each of you can spend one full day with the kids. That gives the kids two days with an adult and three days at home, if camp is not an option. The point is don’t limit yourself by not asking. You may be surprised at what doors open up. This may also keep you from spending all of your vacation days at once.

If you choose to go away for vacation…

Pick an off-season trip. Everyone travels to the beaches during Spring Break. It’s the “spring” thing to do.  Instead of following the crowd, if you pick an off-season choice like going up North, you can save hundreds of dollars. Even still, if you’re a single parent, paying for air fare can be overwhelming. Try renting a car to save the wear and tear on your vehicle and use some car rental hacks to save even more. Websites like www.autoslash.com automatically alerts you when the price drops for a rental date and car you choose. Also, never pay for a car rental up front. Reservations are free and can be changed at any time. When it comes to hotels, try companies like www.priceline.com. You can bid on nice places to stay at minimum costs. More vacation hacks will be provided soon, but these are just two to get you started.

If you want a stay-cation…

Think of fun things to do at home.

The possibilities are endless too. Perhaps there are nice places to visit in your city. In fact, if you visit your area’s website and click on “places to visit,” you may be amazed at what your city has to offer – its what attracts others there. Perhaps there is a local park you haven’t explored and can go to have a picnic. Sometimes museums and attractions have discounts to get families in that you can take advantage of. When was the last time you visited the local library? Spend a few hours there and keep your kids engaged in knowledge-building over the break. There is so much to do in your home town that maybe you won’t want to leave for Spring Break. Best of all, this option can cost as much or as little as your decisions allow.

Start a do-it-yourself project.

If you do decide to take time off or are allowed to work from home, you can use the extra time to start a home improvement project. Perhaps plant a garden, paint a room, do some spring cleaning. You-Tube is a single-parent’s best friend and can offer many opportunities to do something productive with your kids. Check out this article for more tips.

Do a child-care share.

Similar to the first suggestion, get with family and friends to work out a schedule to watch each other’s children. All of you may have kids in school, so instead of one person using all of their vacation time, maybe one parent can use some of their time, do stay-cation activities, return to work, then let the other kid’s parents take over. This allows children to stay active, engaged, and supervised, all without blowing through each parent’s paid time off. It may seem farfetched, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Get your kids into a volunteer program.

Try to determine if there are volunteer opportunities for your kids to participate in while on break. Maybe a local museum, youth program, the YMCA, or a senior-citizen’s home. If they are old enough and able, having them volunteer a few hours each day will give them valuable experience, teach them gratitude, show them how to be compassionate, and start to accumulate volunteer hours for scholarship applications. This not only builds them now but sets them up for the future.

The point is that there are opportunities available to make Spring Break a productive time instead of one to dread. A little thinking outside of the box can go a long way. What are some of your hacks for school breaks? Share in the comments below. You may also want to join a community of single parent super savers like yourself in our Facebook group at SingleParent$aves.

Happy saving, live well!

Are You Ready for Retirement?

how much to save for retirement
how much to save for retirement

“How Much to Save for Retirement – Are You Ready?” – An infographic by Money Crashers Personal Finance

SingleParent$aves’s Guide to Creating a Budget

Budget. An estimate of income and expenditure for a set period of time. In simple terms, it’s a way to tell your money where to go so that you’ll know where it went.

Ever wonder where all the money went at the end of the month. If you’re like some, the question may rise the day after you receive a paycheck.  It’s just not a great way to live.

 So how do you take the boring out of budget? How do you create one you can live with? The answers to those questions are very simple yet by following the plan, the results will be tremendous.

First of all, let’s ditch the term budget. I like to call this my monthly financial master plan. Just like with other plans, it is subject to change. In fact there is a saying, “plans are made to be broken.” However, there is another phrase that I have heard throughout the years, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” With that in mind, if you want to win in your financial life, it is critical that you develop your monthly financial master plan, aka budget.

So how do you do that? What are the key steps?

There is no simpler way to answer that question except, in the words of a famous multi-national company, JUST DO IT!

Follow the tips below to get started on your Financial Master Plan (budget) today!

  1. Make a list of everything you need to pay each month – paying yourself first, mortgage/rent, insurance, day-care, gas, hair care, daycare expenses, cable, cell-phone, internet, everything!
  2. Once you have that down, average out the monthly cost for each item. You may wish to look at your banking  history for the past three months to find an average. 
  3. Next, determine how much steady income you receive each month. Unless absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t recommend adding child support to this number, especially if it’s inconsistent. The goal is to live off of what you make so if you do receive child support, its an added bonus that can go towards debt payoff then building an emergency fund. If you don’t, it won’t cripple your finances.
  4. If you get paid bi-weekly, decide how much you need to set aside from each check to cover the monthly cost. If you get paid once a month, you should be fine.
  5. I would highly recommend adding categories for sinking funds such as gifts, irregular expenses, car maintenance, etc. This will help you set aside cash so that when those bills arise, you have the cash to cover them.
  6. Next steps include actually making the budget. I like to use a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the numbers when I input formulas. Simply put, your income starts at the top, then each item you pay during the month gets subtracted from that number. It’s quite simple.
  7. If a spreadsheet is not your cup of tea, use a budget app to create one. There are tons of great ones out there and they can even link to your primary checking account.
  8. When doing your budget, try to tell every dollar where to go. Don’t leave anything to chance. Budget for everything so that nothing goes undocumented and no dollar is spent on a whim. In fact, create a line item for “fun” if you have any cash left after taking care of all of your savings and obligations. You earned it, so you should treat yourself to something each paycheck, even if it’s a small ice cream cone at the end of each month.

That’s it! Voila! This is a very simplified way to start your budget, but really, its all that is needed to get you started on the path to financial freedom. Don’t worry if you have to change some of your allocations or things don’t turn out as planned. In the words of Lau Tzu, “The journey of a million miles begins with one single step.” Get started on your budget today!

So what are some of your budgeting tips? Any successes? Failures? Join our Facebook group at SingleParent$aves to be connected to a community of super savers like yourself.

Happy saving, live well!

Must-Teach Money Lessons for Your Kids

Teaching kids about money is the best gift any parent can give. The sooner you start, the better their outcomes.

If parents are the first teachers of their children and we want to teach them how to be successful in life, then it is essential that along with ABC’s and 1-2-3s, parents teach their kids about money.

Most schools leave out curriculum that features personal finance or practical money skills. Math class tests basics such as multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction, but not with money management in mind. Learning about calculating numbers is totally different from understanding money and how to make it grow.

What’s the use in getting a good education to start a great career if all you’re going to do is waste your money?

Pointless right? The key to a successful future is not only earning money but knowing how to manage it. In order to get kids ready for that fact of life, parents must lay the foundation of financial literacy by teaching the following money lessons. Don’t leave it to the schools, do it right by doing it yourself.

Wait, what? Did you say you don’t know enough about money to teach them? Baloney! You’ve come this far, so at the very least, you know something. Even if its what not to do with money, you, their parent, has the power to educate then inculcate solid money skills into your kids. Even if you must read financial books or watch YouTube videos together, there are no excuses. Just get it done!

Money Lesson 1: Income vs. Expenses

Kids need to know that income is used to pay expenses. They should learn about earned income, or money your work for, and passive income, or money that works for you. They need to understand that expenses should not be higher than income, if you want to be financially secure. Pay them for chores and grades so they learn how to earn income. This is the easiest way to teach money lesson one.

Money Lesson 2: Needs vs. Wants

Everyone has needs that don’t always match what we want. Kids must understand the difference between the two and how to prioritize needs over wants. They should learn how to pay for all of their necessities before they pay for the latest video game, or fake cash on Minecraft. If they don’t have enough income to pay for their needs, then they must earn more to afford what they want. Teach your kids that it is not always wise to pay for all of their wants, or they’ll constantly be unhappy, always wanting more. This is a great time to teach kids about gratitude too, but that’s another lesson.

Money Lesson 3: Share, Spend, Save

Once kids learn how to earn income, they need to learn what to do with it. Three ways to divide money is to dedicate a percentage of their income to sharing (or giving to charity), spending (on needs and wants), and saving (for their future or bigger purchases). There are many ways to teach these principles, but the simplest is to give them a piggy bank with the three categories, or open a bank account for each fund.  By separating cash for different uses, it teaches them to use money wisely to accomplish their goals. As your kids get older, its necessary to start teaching them about investing and earning interest. They’ll thank you later.

While it may sound complicated, these three money lessons can begin as soon as your child is ready.  I started mine early and they have grasped the principles well.  Not only will teaching money lessons help get your child ready for life, they will also get an early jump on skills needed for school. These money lessons will also help reinforce proven money habits in you as you work to explain them to your kids.

*For more great articles on kids and money, check out the article “Pay Your Kids for Chores and Grades.”

What money lessons do you plan to teach your kids? What lessons do you wish you had learned sooner? Please share in the comments below. Also, join our community of super saving single parents on Facebook by clicking here (SingleParent$aves).

Happy saving, live well!

Why YouTube Is a Single Parent’s Best Friend

Social media often gets a bad rap, but it is a hot commodity in single parent homes.

The path to financial freedom is simple – cut costs, eliminate debt, and increase your income. While the concepts are easy in theory, failure to apply them is what keeps people living paycheck to paycheck.

As single parents, we often feel there is nothing left in the budget to cut. If you get to this point, its time to earn more income. Even still, one of the easiest ways to maximize value while minimizing costs is our good friend YouTube.  

Many people think of YouTube as a cesspool of raunchy videos, silly pranks, and useless fodder that robs kids of their childhood. While I am not a huge fan of social media, the benefits of it on single parent households, and families in general, is phenomenal. I have come to appreciate the wealth of knowledge available on different YouTube channels and encourage everyone to explore them for their own benefit. In my opinion, the platform should be a staple in a frugal home. Read on to find out why.

1.You can learn how to fix things on your own.

If you want information, Google it. If you want to learn how to fix things, YouTube it. There are a plethora of videos available that can educate even the most timid of learners. This is why it is so beneficial for single parent families. Why? Simply put, instead of paying for every little repair, YouTube makes it easy to turn it into a do-it-yourself project, which can save hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, in the long run. Even if you choose to let someone else complete the task, having the knowledge allows you to make sure its done right. For these reasons, YouTube is a great alternative to a paid handyman in the single parent home.

2. It gives you ideas on activities to do with your kids.

We all know children’s favorite phrase. I was guilty of driving my parents crazy with it when I was younger. The age old decree, “I’m bored!” Well, with YouTube, kids and parents can kiss boredom goodbye, along with overpriced trips to theme parks. From videos on do- it- yourself projects to things to explore, deciding on the next family adventure becomes easy when you start perusing all the channels dedicated to kids and parents. From nature hikes to science exploration, there is never a dull moment with YouTube at your fingertips and you can do everything while staying on budget.

3. You can learn how to build things on your own.

My kids wanted a tire swing. Instead of hiring someone, we binged on tire swing videos, figured out essential materials, learned the types of swings we could build, then set a build date to construct one of our own. It has since provided hours of fun for all the kids in the neighborhood, all while saving me tons of money.

Think of something that would be a fun family project then do your research on YouTube. Watch several videos to get different perspectives, then pick the process that is best for you. Our next project is a fire pit. We’ve already done the research. We’re just picking the best weekend to get the project started. Whatever you choose, make sure it will provide a relief for your family without busting your budget. Save money by learning to build things on your own.

4. It’s a low-cost way to get healthy.

From cooking channels to workout videos, YouTube can provide endless hours of ways to eat healthy, activities to do, and videos you can get fit with. Since attending a yoga studio can get pricey very quickly, finding a great yoga instructor is made easy on the platform. Once you’ve chosen a favorite activity or cooking show, subscribe to the channel, then stay current on the latest trends all while saving money on food and fitness. You may even get your kids involved by exercising with them and cooking along with your favorite chef, all in the comfort of your home.

5. The right videos can provide quality entertainment for your kids.

Finally, while there is much to be avoided on YouTube, there are equal amounts of high quality learning shows and entertainment for your kids. Just be mindful of what they are watching and you can find great joy in allowing them to explore their interest such as airplanes, science, investigations, or simply put, anything! The best part about this is that you can fulfill their thirst for knowledge without spending a penny!

In short, social media has gotten a bad wrap due to some people that use it for vile purposes. However, as a general tool, it is a must have and must needed resource for single parents looking to save money. From providing entertainment to being of practical use, YouTube has become a staple in my home for the reasons stated above and many more.

So how do you use YouTube? What are your favorite channels? Please let us know what great content you have stumbled upon so that we can check it out and benefit as well. Additionally, join our Facebook group, SingleParent$aves, to be connected with super savers like yourself.

For more resources on saving money while being a single parent, check out more articles here.

Happy saving, live well!

You Don’t Have to Be Smart to Be Rich

Building wealth and saving money is more about behavior than book smarts. Financial freedom can be achieved by everyone.

People often equate wealth to intelligence. While it seems that the correlation may be high, that just isn’t so.  Earning wealth and gaining financial freedom is as simple as making a sandwich. If you follow these four steps, you will be well on your way to being a single parent that is financially stable and living a debt free life.

Step 1 – Be focused.

In order to gain financial freedom, you must be focused. In order to be focused, you must have goals. Once you have goals, you need a plan to achieve them. By having a goal and a plan to achieve it, you are setting yourself up for success since you will be focused on reaching that goal. Its like a trip. If you get in a car in search of your dream vacation, you’ll fail. How will you know if you’re headed in the right direction, or if you’ll even reach that destination if you haven’t detailed what it is you’re trying to do? Have a goal, make a plan, stay focused. Its that simple when building wealth and eliminating debt.

Step 2 – Be Determined.

Determination is the quality single parents need if they want to overcome many obstacles, including financial ones. Challenges will come, that’s guaranteed. But in order to take control of their finances, single parents must be determined not to let unexpected expenses, debt, stress, and a helpless attitude lead them down the road to debt, or keep them there. Being determined helps with focus and both of these qualities have more to do with behavior than intelligence.

Step 3 – Be intentional.

Intent is having a purpose for doing something. It covers being resolved, committed, and “set on” whatever it is you want to do. Being intentional requires putting the focus of a plan, the determination of a marathon runner, and the purpose of a dedicated individual together in order to power your way to success. Having intent means that you will think before making that impulse buy and leave it in the store, instead of indulging. Being intentional means being deliberate, planned, and making decisions based on the sole purpose of achieving your goal. Again, none of this requires an Einstein intellect, rather, the patience of Ghandi.

Step 4 – Be Ambitious.

Ambition is the trait of being determined, motivated, striving, and a “go getter.” Sometimes the word gets a bad rap, especially when associated with people being ruthless, but being ambitious when it comes to getting one’s financial house in order is necessary in order to break the chains of debt. Ambitious people dream big and let nothing get in the way of their goals.  There is a healthy balance in being ambitious that is necessary in order to obtain financial freedom. Its in all of us and can be cultivated by following the first three suggestions.

Focused.Determined.Intentional.Ambitious. Those are the qualities that it takes to be successful and get rich. Single parents are in the best position to take control of their finances since they are the only one in the driver’s seat. While having a second income may have its perks, following the four steps above will get anyone in the right position to take control of their money and financial destiny. So what are you waiting for? Get started now!

What qualities do you think are necessary to be rich? Please share in the comments below and join our Facebook group, SingleParent$aves, to be part of a community of savers like yourself.

Happy saving, live well!  

Ten Tips to Stay Focused on Your Financial Goals

Staying focused on financial goals can be a constant struggle. Use these tips to stay headed in the right direction.

As the year rolls on, many people have lost their excitement in achieving their financial goals. Everything from a broken appliance, car repair, or an unexpected expense can dampen the spirit of even the most dedicated people. 

But why should “unexpected events” like that slow you down?  Guess what, they can’t if you are prepared and have a plan.

But how is it possible to plan for expenses like those? Easy, have a sinking fund.

Car expenses are inevitable, hence they really aren’t “unexpected.” If you own a home, something will always go awry, so those tabs aren’t unexpected expenses either.  The point is, there really is no excuse to be unprepared in the event of an “emergency.” Follow these ten tips to stay focused on your financial goals and to be prepared for the “unexpected.” Just click on each hyperlink to be sent to an article to help get you started (or keep you rolling) in the right direction.

  1. Have a plan, set SMART financial goals. The saying goes, “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.” Don’t start out on the wrong foot, set smart savings goals if you want to achieve them.
  2. Start saving today.  In order to get the full benefits of compound interest, the sooner you start, the more you’ll save.
  3. Find ways to cut costs. As single parents, choosing the right daycare, cutting your cable bill, and saving on groceries can be like getting a second job! This is one of the easiest ways to keep money in your pocket. What cost can you slash?
  4. Decide to be debt free. Rid yourself of the burden of credit card debt and find a plan to help chart the course. Click here for one that worked for me.
  5. Use sinking funds to be ready for those “unexpected expenses.” This article talks about vacations and car insurance, but you can create accounts for anything you need to save up for.
  6. Be nice to yourself and allocate money for self-care.  While it is important to save with intensity, you must enjoy life now. That’s why its important to maintain the right balance with your money.
  7. Stay encouraged by reading about personal finance and saving. These 5 books will change your life.
  8. Have a plan for the unthinkable. Two emergency funds may be best if you want the security of a six month emergency fund for job loss, plus money set aside for those pesky “unexpected emergencies.” I feel better with two in place, although one is a start.
  9. Avoid making money mistakes. Choose a home you can afford and consider purchasing a mature home. Also, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Stay focused on your money goals. Avoid these other traps.
  10. Just have fun. We only have one chance to live life. Try not to stress over things and enjoy the life you’ve been given.  Hindsight is 20/20. Instead of dwelling on what you didn’t do or what has happened in the past, get excited about the wonderful opportunities that are sure to come – especially when you’re financially free and building wealth.

What tips will you try first? Pick two or three then share in the comments. Also, join our Facebook group to be linked to a community of single parent savers like yourself.

Happy saving, live well!