Budgeting 101 for the Single Mother

I love to budget, but I find it hard. I have to re-do my budgets quite a few times a year, as that is how often my financial situation changes.

Being a single mother, I only have my own income to budget, as well as my daughter’s survivor benefits. She automatically pays so much of each bill, as that is what her case worker told me that I had to do.

Step #1: How much income do I have?

So, in order to make a budget, you first have to know what income you have. Our income looks something like this, in general. Actually, this budget is one of many. It changes a lot.

Monthly:

$694.00  Z’s survivor benefits (I do not get to spend all of this!!!)

$672.00 My income from Childcare

$ 30.00  Average from blogging

$129.00 Foodstamps

______

 1,525.00 (Keeping in mind that it is not all my income, and I cannot   spend it all.)

Step # 2: What are my fixed expenses?

We also have to know what we have to pay out each month.

$165.00 Lot rent

$168.00 Electricity

$  11.00 Phone

$  70.00 Water/Sewer

$  60.00 AOL/DVD Rentals for school/work and entertainment

$  90.00 Oil

$  30.00 Cat food and litter

$260.00 Food

$   10.00 Cleaning and Personal Hygiene needs

$      6.00 Co-pay for medications

$    20.00 Bus fare

$       6.00 Domain names and websites owned by me.

$      37.00 Homeowner’s Insurance

$      25.00 Property Taxes

$      25.00 Homeschool Materials

$      10.00 Gift giving money to put away

________

$983.00

$542.00 is left, which is Zowie’s money. Her part of the food and bills are already taken out of her money at this point, and anything else that she needs is also taken out of her money. This money does not go as far as it could, because she uses it for other important things that she does not necessarily need. For instance, she is going to her Key Clubs annual conference and needs money for that, she buys what she needs for her six weeks away at the Upward Bound program during the summer, as well as what she needs for related events throughout the year. These two programs will look great on her college application, and she needs something to do besides study all of the time.

Really, once this is done, I do not have much extra money myself. I must put away all of my change for yardsaling, as well as loose one’s. I need to purchase sneakers for myself three or four times a year, because I walk so much for health and other reasons. I need clothes. I haven’t had a haircut in more than two years. And man! Do I wish that I could have just one message in my life! Well, I don’t see a visit to the spa in my future.

All of these items are not fixed expenses. I may or may not get them. I tend to buy almost everything used or at deeply discounted prices.

As of February, we may not even have any channels. In all reality, no one can say 100% for certain what will happen when everything goes digital. I did get my two converter boxes, but they may not work. I keep hearing that we will likely need one of those big anteanna’s in order for our televisions to work, but I cannot afford that.

But I digress.

Once you have steps one and two done, you will know how much extra money you have left. For me that is next to nothing. You may have more.

Step #3: What’s left?

My example does not leave me with more than $20.00 extra a month, and that is really only some months.

So, if I say that I have $20.00 left over a month, what do I spend it on?

Well, I put money away for yardsaling, which is how I get most of what I need as well as gifts for people for the holidays. I do not buy much for birthday gifts for anyone but my daughters, so I do try to give Christmas gifts.

Once in a while, my daughter/friend/sister and I will choose to go out to eat or to a matinee, which is always fun.

I buy used books and DVD’s if they are something that I really want. I resell the books, and usually that money will go toward the new used books.

I buy a soda.

I scrapbook and do crafts.

My main goal right now is to stock a pantry with at least three months worth of food.

***

As you can see, there really isn’t much to creating a budget. But you may find that you really don’t have any money for extra’s. It happens to the best of us.

Please post your best budgeting tips below.

Shannon


New Year’s Day

I have a lot of responsibilities as a single mother. We all do. It would be nice to share those responsibilities with another mature adult, but I do not have that option. I go it alone.

So, I have a certain tradition that I follow for New Year’s Day. I have done this for the past few years, and though each year is different, I follow the same formula.

The key to a successful New Year’s Day is to have privacy. I started this when my daughters were old enough to leave me alone (mostly) and let me be with my thoughts. I take this day off from work every year. It is best when no one is here with me, but I can tolerate older children here who can take care of themselves.

What can I say…every single mother needs at least one day a year to herself. This is my day.

So, below I will give you my New Year’s Day formula for the single mother. I will also give you an idea of what my day may look like by telling you what I expect to be doing under each step.

********************

Step # 1: Morning Routine

This is very important. I refuse to set my alarm clock on New Year’s Day, though I do have to be up at 9:00 anyway because I have to take medication. The phone alarm will go off at that time. So, I cannot sleep past 9:00, but I would if I could. I have a hard time sleeping late anyway, and am usually up before 8:00 on my days off without benefit of an alarm clock.

My plan is to get up and eat breakfast while watching a movie of my choosing. I will likely talk to my mother for a few minutes, and I always make my bed.

I may go for a walk, if it is not too cold out, as I truly enjoy this activity.

I will then brush my teeth, take a long hot bath, lotion up and put my hair into a pony tail. I will lounge around in jammies all day. I will pluck my eyebrows, and trim my finger and toe nails.

*NOTE: I will do all housework the day before, making sure that the dishwasher is empty so that I do not have to put clean dishes away before putting dirty ones in the machine. I will then not have to worry about dirty dishes in the sink all day.

Step #2: Reflection

Once I am properly pampered, I will sit down with a notebook and and pen and begin by reflecting upon the previous year:

  • What went right?

  • What went wrong?

  • What will I leave the same?

  • What will I change?

  • What did I not get to? And, should I work on that this year?

I will make note of everything in my notebook.

I spend quite a bit of time on this, really thinking through the questions and considering my answers carefully.

Step #3: Resolutions

Again, I will record things into my notebook.

As I get myself a snack or lunch, depending upon the time, I will think about what my resolutions for the coming year will be. I will take into consideration what I have already written in my notebook, and also think about my goals for the coming years.

After eating, I will again sit down with my notebooks and pen:

  • Do I need to carry over any resolutions from last year? Things that I am still working on? Things that I did not get to?

  • What are my new goals for the new year? What do I need to add to my new list? What do I want to work on? What do I want to accomplish? For myself? For my children? For my home? What about my friends and other family members? Career? Financial?

  • What goals do I have that I want to accomplish within three years? Five? Ten? What are my goals for retirement?

  • How can I obtain all of my goals? What steps will need to be taken to acquire what I want and to accomplish what I need to do?

  • What things about my life and my household do I want to change? Financially? Environmentally? Educationally? Career-wise?

It takes a long time, usually at least a couple of hours for me to do this step. It takes a lot of contemplation. A lot of concentration.

Step #4: Plans for this Year

Okay, now I work on what needs to be planned for the coming year:

  • Recording birthdays, anniversaries, approximate graduation and wedding dates as well as approximate due dates for those who are expecting.

  • Putting reminders on each calendar month about what needs to be done when, and what needs to be paid when. This makes it easier for me to schedule early reminders.

  • Making up new chore charts, and scheduling seasonal chores.

  • Making sure that I know what seeds and other gardening stuff that I will need to order or pick up, and when to do this.

  • Creating a daily/weekly/monthly schedule for myself.

  • Being sure that Zowie is up to date on all of her homeschool projects, and making a list of what she may need to finish things.

  • Writing on the calendar all expected dates that Zowie will be away for school and Upward Bound functions, to visit friends, and to have friends visit.

  • Writing on the calendar any big plans that I have for the year, like going to Salem, Massachusetts with friends next summer.

  • Writing up my wants and needs lists. I have separate pages in my notebook for me, Zowie (she writes her own lists), school, each room, outside/shed, books, etc. Whatever we think is important. This is a very important step to my yearly planning, as it helps me to create my yard and clearance sale shopping lists.

  • Making a master to-do list, and then smaller daily and weekly lists.

  • Creating a budget.

  • Etc., etc.

Once this is all done, I will eat dinner and then go to bed to read – if there is time before I have to go to sleep.

That is what my day looks like. Each of you will likely have your own ideas for what you could be doing on your day off. Please share your New Year’s goals in the comments below.

Happy New Year!

Shannon

P.S. How do you spend your New Year’s Day? Let us know in the comments section. Thank you.

Other Articles of Interest:

Goals for the New Year

Mental and Emotional Health: Goal Number One

Weight Loss and Nutrition: Goal Number Two

Writing (or any number of other activities that could lead to possible income): Goal Number Three

Simplify and Declutter: Goal Number Four

Greening: Goal Number Five

Gardening: Goal Number Six

Spiritual: Goal Number Seven

Rethinking the Holidays: Goal Number Eight

Helping Others: Goal Number Nine

 

 

 

 


The Single Mother and New Year’s Eve

I may have gone out twice as a single mother on New Year’s Eve, and the last time did not end so well. I rather prefer to stay in with my family, though this year I will actually be alone. I am looking forward to some time to myself.

When my girls were younger, we would do different things to bring in the New Year. I like to make things a family event. After all, my family is who I will be spending the year with.

Here are some ideas for your family:

  • A family movie marathon. Pop some popcorn and grab some sodas, and settle in to watch your families favorite movies. You can always switch to watching the ball drop later on.
  • A family game night. You could also invite friends and have a sit-down dinner or a buffet. This is a lot of fun.
  • When my girls were younger, we always had their cousins spend the night with us. We would watch movies and the next day I would tell them who fell asleep when.
  • As my daughters grew older (they are 16 and 19 now), they chose to have friends spend the night to bring in the New Year with them.
  • One year we made resolutions together. We each took a piece of stationary, wrote our resolutions on our own pieces, and rolled them up into a scroll, tying them with ribbon. We put them all into a jar and opened them the next New Year’s Eve.

What do you and your family do on New Year’s Eve?

Shannon


A Perfect Holiday Meal

I love cooking for the holidays. My daughters help me out with some of it, but I do a lot of it alone. Skye will not be here on Christmas, but her sister and I will still entertain, my brother, as well as my sister and her sons.

We actually already had one of our holiday feasts yesterday at a friends. The menu was quite extensive, but very homey:

Appetizers:

  • stuffed celery
  • pecan tarts
  • three different types of pickles
  • crackers, cheese and pepperoni
  • pepperoni sandwiches
  • chips and dip
  • peanut butter balls
  • olives

The meal was also great:

  • turkey with roasted onions
  • ham with pineapples and cherries
  • gravy
  • carrots
  • rolls
  • candied yams
  • mashed potatoes
  • cranberry sauce

I am not yet 100% sure what I will be cooking on Christmas day, though it will involve turkey. The menu may be much the same as the Thanksgiving meal, but it will be well worth it.

And this time, the leftovers will be here. I always send leftovers home with my brother, who is a bachelor. This is how I ensure that he eats healthy for a day or two after Christmas. The rest of the leftovers stay here. I freeze a lot of the turkey, leaving out enough to be eaten with the rest of the leftovers the next day.

Shannon


Family Holiday Traditions

What are your favorite holiday traditions? I am not referring to all of those party and family get-togethers. I am referring to the things that you and your children do as a family.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Making homemade gifts.
  • Filling out holiday cards together.
  • Walking or driving to see the holiday decorations that people have out in the evening.
  • Opening our few gifts together.
  • Watching holiday shows.
  • Listening to holiday music.

I hope that you all have a great holiday season. Keep the important traditions going, get rid of the rest, and create your own.

Shannon


How and Why a Single Mother should take Advantage of After Christmas Sales

I don’t know about in your family, but in mine funds are very limited. I have to make sure that the bills are paid, and that we are fed, clothed and warm. That does not leave much money for other things. Namely, holiday gift giving and decorating. Though I generally like to pick up as many items as I can at yard sales, I cannot be guaranteed that I will be able to find what I want or need, so I do try to take advantage of after Christmas sales whenever I can.

You can easily throw together gift bags filled with holiday items or toys for your gift recipients at drastically reduced prices after the holidays are over, simply by shopping the after Christmas sales.

My first priority, before even leaving my home, is to give myself a budget. I have such and such an amount to spend, period.

I then make a list of anything we need for our decorating, and add to it anything that we need for gift giving the next year. Here is a list of what usually comes in handy for me at the holidays:

  • Gift bags, tags, boxes and tissue paper. Sometimes gift wrap, but I don’t use it often.
  • Holiday food containers and/or baskets. I bake for friends and family at the holidays, and they enjoy the gifts.
  • Tape.
  • Batteries.
  • Holiday CD’s or DVD’s for my house.
  • Holiday coloring books, reading books, activity books, etc.
  • Holiday pet items.

Now, I can usually put together a gift for a family for $1.00 – $5.00, including the cost of the bag/box and tag. Here are some combinations that work nicely when giving baked goods:

  • Holiday pot holder, oven mitt, and dish towel.
  • Holiday place mats.
  • Holiday napkins and rings.
  • A DVD or a CD.
  • Holiday gift wrapping needs.
  • An assortment of holidays candies. These get frozen until the next year.
  • An assortment of ornaments for someone who will be moving into their first home.

There are other things to take into consideration at this time as well, which may be paid for by other budgets. For instance, if you need snacks then the money would come out of the food budget. You may find holiday pretzels and other snacks at great prices during these sales. You may also find that fruit and nut baskets are drastically reduced in price.

Your clothing budget may also be tapped into, if you are pretty confident that you can guess your children’s sizes and yours for the next winter. You may find great prices on holiday dresses and boys outfits. You will also find things that you can use this year, as well as stock up on for the next winter season: Hats, mittens, scarves, gloves, sweaters, sweatshirts, hoodies, tee shirts, socks and pajamas. You can save a significant amount of money by waiting until after Christmas to purchase these items.

I hope that these ideas give you a good basis for your after holiday shopping needs.

Shannon


When Disaster Strikes Your Family

It is hard when something incomprehensible happens to your child, whether they are young, or they are an adult. Something horrible can happen to them at any time. How will you deal with a situation when it arises?

It is hard to know how you will react if your child tells you that he has been beat up and mugged, or that she has been raped. Or that any of a number of other horrible thing has happened to them.

My daughter recently had something happen to her that is very hard for her to deal with. She is having a hard time coping, because she has to deal with the consequences of another persons actions.

My daughter does not live near me, and I cannot go to her. I have been talking to her often, offering up words of wisdom, and generally just trying to help her to cope.

It bothers me that she is so far away, but I know that I could not have prevented what has happened to her. She has her fiance there with her, but I still feel as though it is my place to be there. I am not feeling guilty, mind you. She chose to move so far away, and enjoys her life there.

I am trying to keep my wits about me, not getting overly upset while I am talking to her. I read and do any number of other things to keep my mind from dwelling on the issue so much that I cry even when I am not speaking with her. It is hard, but necessary.

We, as parents, have to realize and accept that we are not always going to be able to be right with our children when disaster strikes. We also are not always going to be able to prevent bad things from happening to them. We cannot blame ourselves for not being there.

Bad things happen, and it is our responsibility to figure out how to deal with those things in a positive way.

Shannon


What a Single Mother Enjoys

I fully believe that every single mother out there should be doing something that she enjoys at least once a week, if not more often. These things do not have to be anything big. They can be small things that really make you feel good. For instance:

  • A walk by yourself during the early morning hours or in the evening.

  • Reading a chapter in the new best seller.

  • A long, hot bath, followed by a good lotioning up.

  • A cup of tea while watching a favorite movie.

  • Sitting outside and talking to neighbors.

  • Writing in a journal once a day.

  • Getting together with your best friend at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee and a long chat.

  • Hanging out with your sisters, working on a quilt.

  • Scrapbooking, or working on another craft.

So, come on ladies. Let’s start treating ourselves better by doing things for ourselves. Feel free to post your ideas below in the comments section.

Shannon


Single Mothers Homeschooling Part 9: Great Family Times for the Homeschool Family

In my opinion, family is the best part of homeschooling. I love being their, spending time with and teaching my children. I love being with them. They are great. Not everyone can say that about their children, and I do believe that, if you cannot get along with your child, homeschooling may not be the best choice. For those families, charter or private schools may be an option.

However, for those of us who truly do not mind spending many hours a day with our children, homeschooling is a wonderful option. And it is an option that helps our family to grow closer every day.

I love doing things with my children as a family, and we have had many good experiences this way. I have taught them to bargain shop and yard-sale. They have learned how to take care of their future homes. We have had many baking and cooking days together. And we have spent countless hours reading to each other.

We have also spent numerous hours creating things like family newsletters, holiday gifts and forms of entertainment for our family and friends.

In wrapping up this series of articles, I would like to say that the time that you spend with your children, your family time, is the best motivation for what a homeschooling family can accomplish.

Shannon

P.S. If you have any questions, comments or ideas, please post them in the comments section below.


Single Mothers Homeschooling Part 8: Homeschooling in the Community

Many people believe that homeschooled children are always sitting at home while they are studying, but I can tell you from experience that this is not necessarily the case. I always loved taking my daughters and nephew out into the community to learn.

  • I will never forget the day that, while on our way home from a walk, the trash man spoke to my nephew and I. Our little conversation led to the trash guy showing my young nephew how to work all of the controls on the truck. He had a lot of fun.
  • Then there was the day when we all sat outside and watched them move our neighbors trailer into the empty lot next to us.
  • Our favorite thing to do was to take a picnic lunch to the playground and have school at the picnic table. We could also observe nature at the playground in all of its beauty, watching the clouds, feeding the birds, looking at plant life and observing the river and the dam.
  • The girls learned a lot about nature for science class, simply by being outside when observing everything.
  • Walks, bike rides, sledding, ice skating, swimming and many other activities are great ways to get physical education into your day.
  • Field trips are great. Try some of these:
    • A nature walk in the woods to record findings in a nature journal and/or to collect samples to look at under a microscope.

    A trip to a family members house to walk through a field and witness the Milky Way.

    A trip to the oceanarium.

    Visit a historical settlement.

    Native American museums are great.

    The library is a very useful homeschool tool.

    There are many historical states in every state to visit.

    4-H for homeschoolers is great.

As you can see, there is a lot of learning to be had out in the community. Why not enjoy the experiences as a family. You can visit zoo’s, a planetarium, museums and much more.

Your children can also write reports or create projects about their experiences. Even before leaving for a field trip, they may want to research where they are going and come up with questions to ask.

Shannon

P.S. If you have any questions or tips, please feel free to post them in the comments section below.


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