7 Strategies to Help You Budget as a Single Parent

7 Strategies to Help You Budget as a Single Parent

Working as a single parent can be a trying experience, so you want to make sure that your finances are as streamlined as possible. When unexpected emergencies pop up, your schedule, finances, and life are thrown for a loop. Take a look at these tips to help you strategize your budget as a single parent.

 7 Strategies to Help You Budget as a Single Parent

how to budget as a single parent

 

Make a roadmap

Whether you’re co-parenting or raising your child alone, make sure you have a roadmap for your new life—both for your schedule and your budget. This will allow you to be conscious of the ins and outs of your finances and help you plan accordingly. Getting prepared and organized will also help you discover areas of opportunity where you could pay off debt faster.

Create an emergency fund

As a single parent, it’s absolutely imperative to have an emergency fund ready for when something unexpected happens. The rule of thumb is to have at least three months’ worth of expenses saved up, but the more you have in your fund, the better.

Find the balance between budgeting and having fun

Just because you’re living as a single parent on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to expel extra spending that you could use to have fun with your child. In fact, you should be analyzing your budget to add that into your spending. Work a set amount of money in your budget for fun and get creative. Plan around sales and large discounts and think of out-of-the-box ideas, such as enjoying a picnic in the park, having a pizza night at home, or exploring a free museum.

Study your financial documents

You’d be surprised at how much extra spending is wasted on things like utility bills, phone bills, cable, and internet. Take a look at your monthly utility bills, appliance plans, and other home-related costs and see where you could be saving money. This could be decreasing your data plan on your phone, getting rid of your cable and using television apps like Netflix and Hulu, or even decreasing your internet speed slightly. These tiny tweaks could save you hundreds every year.

Explore the tax breaks

As a single parent, you’re eligible for several tax breaks that you may be unaware of. If your income is less than $75,000 a year, you could earn up to $1,000 in tax credit for each child. If you have children in college, you may be eligible for higher education tax credits and tuition deductions.

Discover a new career

If you’re a newly single parent, there may be a learning curve in trying to take care of your family with one funnel of income. If you want to discover ways to make more money to provide for your family, consider if now is the time to explore new careers paths. Could you take advantage of an expedited technical college to find a new career? Consider speaking to a life coach or a career advisor about different avenues you could take.

Use your support system

Know that you’re not alone in taking care of your child. It’s OK to reach out for help when you need it. Independence is what we all strive for, but in order to take care of your child, you’ll want to use all avenues possible, and that includes your support system.

blonde girl in pink dress with flower in her hair

 

Kay Pascale is a writer from Durham, NC. When she isn’t writing, she loves to read, spend time with her family, and travel.

How Having a Pet Can Calm Your Nerves

How Having a Pet Can Calm Your Nerves

As parents, anxiety and stress often come with the package, especially before big and special events. It’s also relatively common for people when they are faced with new situations or something they may have a fear of. The good news is, one way to help you relax and soothe your nerves may already literally be laying at your feet!

That’s right, your pets and domestic animals can be great stress busters. Even better, sometimes you’re not even really consciously aware of how your pet’s presence may be helping you get through the tough times. In this article, we take a little look behind the scenes at some practical ways your pet may help your mental health.

How Having a Pet Can Calm Your Nerves

black and white english shepherd dog

Pets Help You Think About Something Else

If you’re feeling anxious and stressed, a common tactic recommended by health professionals is to find a distraction or diversion to focus on. Call it dog diversion, cat deflection if you will, but the presence of your pet can help you re-frame your thinking away from the thoughts or the situation that is bothering you.

This can be particularly helpful for people with fears and phobias. If you’re anxious about being alone in the house, the presence of a pet with their super-sensitive radar to anything out of the ordinary will soon alert you if there actually is something or someone nearby. In the same token, if you have a fear of getting out and about, having a dog walk alongside you can help overcome those anxieties.

Pets Make You Move Around

Exercise is good for both our minds and body. Most of us already know that. What we often don’t realize is that even the very basic act of taking care of feeding your pet forces you to move your body. Combine a few yoga stretches when you’re reaching into the cupboard, or placing your pet’s bowl on the floor and it’s a win-win mind-body situation for both of you.

If you’ve got a dog, no matter what size, they’re going to need regular exercise. Likewise, a cat, even though we tend to think they look after this themselves, a piece of paper on the end of a string can help you both move and entertain yourself at the same time. Take their cue. Many pets instinctively know when it’s time to get moving (aka the cat crazies!). Take the time to get a little exercise at the same time your pet does, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Pets Help You Relax

Pets can help you relax in so many ways. There’s the physical act of stroking and patting an animal. This is a repetitive motion that both of you will are likely to find very, very soothing. There’s the humor in seeing your pet do something that is so outside of the behavior that we are conditioned into as humans that you can’t help but laugh. If you’ve ever clicked on any funny dog/cat/rabbit videos online, and who hasn’t, you’ll know what we mean.

Pets Can Help You Love

The love and companionship of a pet are unconditional. Their affection for you is based on knowing you treat them well and love them to bits. The look that a pet may give you, with soft knowing eyes full of love, believe it. It’s real. Studies have found that the same bonding process and endorphins that are firing between a parent and child happen between people and their pets. So yes, it is indeed mutual. Both you and your pet feel the love, and more relaxed and warm and fuzzy as a result!

How Having a Pet Can Calm Your Nerves

Pets Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

Studies have shown that people with pets tend to have lower blood pressure. That’s got to be good news for anyone whose blood pressure potentially rises with their anxiety and stress levels. Even better, just your pet’s presence helps with healthier blood pressure. Anytime you do pat, stroke, or get in some daily exercise with your pet is an added bonus for your BP.

Pets are Social and Emotional Support

As many pet people will attest, a pet often intuitively and instinctively seems to pick up on when you are out of sorts. They may seek to reassure you or keep their distance. Both of which can be a good indication that you need to address your anxiety levels.

People who love animals also usually consider pets as a part of their family. If you’re feeling a little disconnected with other people, it is entirely possible to have a close connection with your pet and know that you’re not alone. The friendship of a cat curled up on your lap, or a dog by your side can do wonders to help with any worries around loneliness or isolation.

Pets Are Good Listeners

Did you know that there are therapy animals that help kids and adults with reading difficulties? There are many schools and libraries that recognize that the quiet non-judgmental presence of reading to an animal can help people with learning difficulties gain confidence and new skills.

What’s more, if you talk to your own pet they will respond. Okay, maybe not a specific answer that you’re trying to work out, but many pets such as cats and dogs love communicating with the people in their life either vocally, or through an affectionate rub, full body lean, and even the gentle head butt of a cat.

People Can Help With Your Pets Too

If you do have a mental health condition such as anxiety, stress, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), domestic animals can be recognized as part of a treatment plan. Check out information on emotional support animals (ESA). Your ‘ordinary’ pet can be elevated to be an ESA for you if its presence alleviates and helps you manage symptoms that limit your quality of life. Aside from the benefit to your health, there is some legal protection from discrimination for having an emotional support animal in rental housing and during air travel.

Do you have a pet?

Tell us about your furry friend in the comments below!

 

Where to Find Cheap Maternity Clothes on a Budget

Where to Find Cheap Maternity Clothes on a Budget

Is it even possible to find cheap maternity clothes on a budget?

Absolutely, if you know where to look!

Pregnancy is such an exciting time, but it can also be an incredibly expensive time as you get everything you need for a new baby. If you live on a tight budget, it’s probably already stretched to the max without adding the cost of an entire new wardrobe.

Your body is quickly changing and it won’t be long before your pants start to feel a bit too snug. You want to be comfortable, but you may not want to spend a fortune on a temporary wardrobe. Don’t worry, you can still find cute, inexpensive maternity clothes to fit both your bump and your budget.

Here are some tips to find free and cheap maternity clothes:

Shop From Your Own Closet for Free Maternity Clothes

Even better than cheap maternity clothing is free maternity clothing. Using your non-maternity clothes is the easiest way to dress your bump without spending a cent.

You might be surprised to find items that you already own that you can continue to wear well into your pregnancy (or even the entire time). Making some minor modifications can also extend how long you can wear your pre-pregnancy clothes.

  • Look through your clothes for things that are stretchy, flowy, or loose. Leggings, tunics, and maxi dresses are some of your best bets.

 

  • Look for waist lines that can be worn above or below your bump.

 

  • For shirts – think long and stretchy to cover your belly. I found super long tank tops at H&M that were perfect for layering under other shirts. This extends the life of many other shirts by giving some extra tummy coverage. As just an added plus, I also still layer these tank tops all the time for nursing.

 

  • For jeans – use the hair tie trick when they start to get too snug. Loop a hair tie over the button, through the buttonhole and back over the button. Confused by my description? You can see how ridiculously easy it is with this youtube video.

 

  • Use a Bella band. These stretchy bellybands will keep your pants in place after they can no longer be zipped and add a little extra bump coverage.

Some moms may find that they can get by with just their regular clothes and this can equal huge cost savings. Unfortunately, we all gain differently and if you’re like me, by the second trimester those non-maternity jeans stop mid-thigh and most pre-pregnancy clothes aren’t going to cut it.  

Borrow Maternity Clothes From Friends

Your friends and family can be another great source of free maternity clothes. If you happen to know anyone who has already had a baby, they may be willing to loan (or even give) you their used maternity clothes.

Unless they are currently wearing the clothing or plan to in the near future, many moms will gladly share those maternity items that are just taking up space in their closets.

A few awesome friends lent me tons of maternity clothing for my first pregnancy. It was so kind and saved me loads of money.

Also, maternity clothes tend to be very forgiving size wise, making it really easy to share clothes if you’re even remotely similar sizes.

If you’re lucky enough to borrow maternity clothes, treat them well and try to return them in the same condition you received them.

But maybe you are the first of your friends to have kids or your friends are also pregnant or for whatever reason borrowing may not work out. That’s ok, you can still get cheap maternity clothes on a budget.

Where to Find Cheap Maternity Clothes on a Budget

save money on maternity clothes

Buy Used Maternity Clothes

Since they are used for such a short time that you can often find barely worn, second hand maternity clothes. You may be surprised at the high quality, like-new clothes available at consignment and thrift stores at a fraction of their original price.

For instance, I have found several Motherhood Maternity shirts in excellent condition at Goodwill.

I also found some awesome deals on used maternity clothes at Swap.com, my favorite place to buy used online.

Facebook marketplace and Buy, Sell, Trade Groups are also great places to look for used maternity clothes at some of the lowest prices around. You also may want to re-sell your maternity clothes when you’re done with them the same way. In case you’re not sure how to get started, here is a complete guide to selling in Facebook groups.

Hit the Clearance Racks for Cheap Maternity Clothes

If you want to buy new clothes and not spend a ton, head straight to the clearance section and buy maternity clothes on sale.

Target, H&M, and Old Navy generally have a good selection of maternity clothing available online and it’s easy to browse the sales. I’ve also found great deals on the Motherhood Maternity clearance rack.

Also, some discount stores like Burlington and Ross sell maternity clothing. Not every location carries maternity so you may want to call and ask before making the trip, but you can find excellent deals especially on clearance items.

When shopping clearance consider buying seasonal items early. Generally I’d wait to buy something until I need it, but that can be difficult with clearance since usually the marked down items are from the last season.

For instance, if you find out you’re pregnant in the fall, you may be able to score a maternity bathing suit or shorts for a great deal. You probably won’t find them on clearance in the spring or summer when you need them.

Finally, keep in mind when shopping that clothing doesn’t necessarily have to be maternity to fit. Just like the clothes you already own, look for loose and stretchy non-maternity clothes and go up a size if needed. Choose items that you’ll be able to continue to wear after your pregnancy.

So now that you’ve found cheap maternity clothes on a budget, you can move on to tackling other pregnancy tasks!

There’s so much to do to get ready for your little one! For instance, have you picked a baby name yet? It can be difficult to find the perfect name. If you and your partner are struggling to agree here are some amazing tips to help you pick a name you’ll both love.

Do you have any suggestions on how to save when looking for maternity clothes?

Post your best tip in the comments below!

This post was written by Rachel, one half of the team behind The Moms at Odds. She is dedicated to their mission that there are multiple right ways to parent and those differences should be celebrated, not shamed. Rachel is a stay-at-home mom to two wild boys. In her limited spare time you’ll either find her blogging or folding laundry while binge watching Netflix.

The #1 Thing to Consider When Running Your Own Business

The #1 Thing to Consider When Running Your Own Business

As a blog mentor and digital marketing consultant, my business’s online presence means everything. So today I want to share some thoughts with those of you also running an online venture – whether it’s full-time, part-time, or you’re hoping to use it to eventually leave your current 9-5, evaluating your online reputation is an absolute must.

Making a decision to purchase a product or invest in a service isn’t an easy one. If you own a business, it is important to not just attract good customers, but to retain them as well. There is more competition than ever, and customers expect to be delighted and thrilled at every turn. If your business falls short, they will visit your competitor– sorry, but that’s reality. More importantly, a customer will tell twice as many people about a bad experience as they will about a good one. As a business owner, it’s critical to encourage customers to leave reviews, and to respond to every single one.

For example, let’s say you’ve got someone looking at Charleston townhouses for sale, hoping to soon move there from across the country. Guess what? They’re also likely looking at other area businesses as well! You have to make sure you’re staying competitive by managing your reviews because you never know just who might be looking at you online, even if they’re not currently in your target area.

Managing Your Online Presence and reviews as a business owner

Getting Customers to Leave Reviews is Easy–Just Ask Them

Before you begin looking for reviews, take a look at your competitors. Read what their customers are saying, and most importantly, look at how they respond. Are they proactive in their responses?

When you’re ready to start culling reviews, start small. Getting too many reviews at once looks suspicious and can diminish trust of potential customers. Aim for 1-2 reviews per month, increasing from there. You can incentivize reviews, but it is very important not to pay for them or go a not-so-legit route. You want good reviews that accurately depict a customer’s experience.

So how can you actually encourage a customer to leave a review? It is as simple as asking.

If you have a customer who always praises your work, ask them if they would kindly leave you a review. After you ask them, send them a reminder to encourage them to do so. When you send that reminder, include a discount or coupon thanking them for leaving the review, and encourage them to spread the word. If you have employees, be sure to train them to ask customers for reviews–make this a regular part of everyday business.

Include calls to action on your social media channels that allow customers to leave a review right then and there and share the positive reviews you’ve already received. Thank every customer once they’ve reviewed your business.

Another effective method to encourage customers to leave reviews is the “tip” trick. This strategy works by having an employee tell the customer “If you had a good experience and include my first name in the review, the company will give me a $10 tip!” – this offers customers a little incentive to leave a review, especially when they’ve had good service.

Building Your Online Reputation

After you begin to amass reviews, take a few minutes to respond to each one, even if they are negative. Never ignore a bad review—that can backfire quick. It is important to respond quickly, usually within 24-48 hours. Always, ALWAYS be polite, no matter what the review says. Be authentic, staying away from using canned responses. Address the customer personally and offer to make it right. Give them the opportunity to visit your business again, and, with any luck, change their minds about their previous experience.

Always be sympathetic to your customers and respond offline wherever possible. Contact the customer after you’ve responded to their review and provide an opportunity to make things right for them.

By encouraging your customers to leave reviews, you’re making it a regular habit. Provide honest dialogue, even when the feedback is not what you’d hoped for. You’ll create raving fans of your business before you know it.

5 Very Simple Budget Cuts You Can Make Today

5 Very Simple Budget Cuts You Can Make Today

Saving money and cutting expenses are never the favorite dinner table topic, but they are vitally important for individuals and families to discuss. And while there are quite a few drastic ways to save money on your monthly bills, there are actually quite a few small but simple ways to save that you can start TODAY. These seemingly easy adjustments probably won’t have that big of an impact on your day-to-day, but could result in some substantial savings.

Here are five very simple budget cuts that you can make today:

Change Your Thermostat

Did you know that adjusting your thermostat by just one degree can result in up to 10% energy savings? Keeping our homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter is expensive, and takes a lot of energy. And, the amount of energy that you save by adjusting the temperature is substantial. Depending on where you live, the results could be even more staggering.

Part of the reason the energy savings are so high is because most electric companies charge in a tiered rating system, which means that higher users get charged substantially more. This is why even cutting back a little bit can have a dramatic effect, because it can move you out of a higher tier and into a lower one.

Start by seeing if you can handle a temperature of 68 degrees in the winter and 74 degrees in the summer. Throw on a sweater in the winter if it feels a little cool, and make use of a few box fans in the summer if it’s still a bit hot.

Continue pushing until you find a temperature that you are comfortable with, even if it isn’t perfect. If you want to take it a step further, try adding insulation to your attic, and making sure that all your doors and windows are sealed tight.

Make Coffee at Home

Grabbing coffee on the go is convenient, but it’s also extremely expensive. Cut this habit out and you’ll see immediate savings. And, it isn’t very hard to do.

Figure out how to make the equivalent of what you buy at home. If you drink regular drip coffee, this should be pretty simple. Get a cheap coffeemaker, and make sure it has a timer. Set it up the night before, so that your coffee is ready when you get up to leave. One of the biggest reasons people pick up coffee on the go is because they ran out of time to make it in the morning.

If you tend to prefer a fancier drink, like a latte, look into purchasing a used espresso machine. This will add time to your daily routine, as making a latte can take 5 minutes. But, you’ll save yourself quite a bit of money. You can also try purchasing a machine that makes the drink for you, like a Nespresso.

If possible, try cutting back on the expensive coffee drinks. Perhaps only grab one on a special occasion, or once a week.

Turn your Hot Water Heater Down

Similar to point #1, keeping your hot water heater warm takes a lot of energy. Your hot water heater has to keep an entire drum of water hot all the time, so that you have hot water when you want it. Depending on what temperature you have it set to, this ongoing process can take a lot of energy.

You would be surprised how hot you actually need the temperature set to. You might have the temperature set much higher than needed. Test different temperature settings to see how low you can go.

Cut Out On Subscription

Chances are, you have at least one monthly subscription you don’t utilize to the fullest of it’s extent. Perhaps this is a daily newspaper delivery, or the more obvious one: your cable TV subscription. Either way, try finding one subscription that you aren’t making use of, and get rid of it.

If you have an expensive gym membership, perhaps try making a portable home made gym out of a spare bedroom and picking up a few used dumbbells and kettlebells. Or make exercising a family event and workout with your kids!

Of course, you can also try cutting your cable bill, and instead go with Hulu, Netflix, or Sling Box.

The list goes on, but for most families, you’ll be able to find at least one subscription to cut out.

Stop Drying with the Dishwasher

Another easy one to put into place right now, stop using the dry setting on your dishwasher. While dishwashers have become a lot more efficient in their water usage, their energy usage for drying has not gotten a lot better. Dishwashers use a tremendous amount of energy when drying dishes, and you don’t really need to use them for this task.

Just wash, and then open the dishwasher up and let the dishes air dry. It doesn’t take any extra work out of you, except to just wait a few hours for the dishes to try.

Saving money is not necessarily a fun topic, but there are simple things you can do right away to start saving. Once you see how easy it can be to save money, you’ll have the motivation to tackle the bigger and more challenging money saving tactics.

Allen Michael Brown hair male smiling

 

 

Allen Michael is the founder and editor of The Stick Vacuums (https://thestickvacuums.com/), a website focused on helping others keep a clean home as efficiently as possible. Allen stumbled onto stick vacuums while trying to help his family keep their home clean with less work, and has since become an expert on saving money and time in your home.

10 Tips for Romance All Year Long

10 Tips for Romance All Year Long

As a parent, romance as a priority usually falls under the “meh” category – as in “If the kids are taken care of, I’ve had enough sleep, I’m not sick with yet another round of Pre-K germs, then ‘meh’ sure, romance me…”

That said, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and it’s a great time to talk about how to maintain those lovey-dovey smoochin’ feelings all year round. Today’s post is sponsored by Argentum Entertainment as they share with us how to romance each other all year round with a little help from their latest movie – New Life.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! And while we so enjoy a whole day dedicated to celebrating love, we also know that relationships take work all year around! The film New Life is a great reminder of how important it is to show love to your partner each day.

We’ve put together 10 tips from New Life that will help keep the romance going all year long!

10 Tips for Romance All Year Long

Reminisce About When You First Fell In Love

Continue to Surprise Each Other

Apologies Are Important

Keep Things Interesting!

Make Time for Each Other

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Tell Your Partner Why You Appreciate Them

Be Considerate of One Another

Deal With Things As a Team

Keep Saying “I Love You”

Sharing the tissue box with hits such as The Notebook and The Fault in Our Stars, New Life is a love story that makes all ​of life beautiful.

New Life tells the story of Benjamin Morton (Jonathan Patrick Moore) and Ava (Erin Bethea), who meet as children. What began as a childhood friendship grows into a meaningful relationship as the two plan out their lives together. When life takes a turn neither of them expected, their entire future is called into question, and they must decide what it really means to make the most of life.

Take a look at the trailer below:

 

 

Interested in picking up a copy of New Life? You can pick up your copy here!

 

About Argentum Entertainment
Founded by Drew Waters and Erin Bethea, Argentum Entertainment creates quality projects for mass audiences by appealing to the highest demand in entertainment for just good movies. ArgentumEntertainment.com