Today I have a great guest post for you from my friend Cheri Read from Work at Home Inspiration. Enjoy!
Becoming a work-at-home mom has been my dream ever since – well – ever since I became a mom! But finding a way to work from home as a single mom is daunting, to say the least. I tried out a handful of ventures over the years, and brought home some decent cash from most. The problem was that none of them replaced the full-time income I earned at my day job. And not one of them earned me enough to replace my benefits.
Until I discovered freelance writing online!
A few months into this business venture and I was hooked! I could finally see myself earning enough money from home to make my dream a reality. The problem was that my spending habits had gotten way out of hand, and I knew something had to change in order for me to provide the security I wanted for my little family.
So I made a plan of action. Here’s how I became a work-at-home single mom in only 6 months by changing my budget and spending habits.
Taking Inventory of My Spending Habits
The first thing I did was to sit down and take a good, hard look at my spending habits. I made a list of everything I spent money on over the last six months that were not necessities. Here are the major problems I found:
- We were eating out at least four times a week.
- I was giving my son almost $200 a month to eat out with friends, attend games, etc.
- I was spending over $400 a month in groceries (how was that even possible when we were eating out four times a week?).
- I spent an average of $100 a month on clothes for my son.
- I spent an average of $200 a month on things that couldn’t be accounted for (mostly cash withdrawals).
Yikes! That’s over $1,000 a month in unnecessary spending! What was I thinking?
Making a Plan to Cut Spending
Because I was determined to make my dream of being a work-at-home single mom a reality, the decision to change my spending habits was an easy one. Actually making the changes, however, proved to be a little harder!
I gave myself a month to address each major issue I found in my spending. I had developed these habits over the course of a decade, so I figured breaking them might take a little time.
Here’s how I addressed each problem:
- Eating Out
Because there are only two of us at home, eating out is not a huge expense when done right. So instead of cutting it out completely, we now only eat out two days a week, with some adjustments. I chose to specify the days we would eat out so that I could easily keep track of it. I also plan where we will eat or order from based on the coupons or deals I can find online.
You’d be surprised at the great restaurant deals you can get if you take the time to look! For example, Groupon offers some fantastic savings, such as restaurant gift cards you can purchase for half the price. Also, certain restaurants offer free appetizers or coupons for registering on their sites.
Thankfully my son turned 16 this year and was able to get a part-time job. He now pays for his own activities with friends for the most part, and I have told him I will match whatever he has put into savings by the end of the summer. He’s also cut down on his spending as a result.
It’s hard for me to say no to my kids, but the lessons he is learning about money far outweigh my misplaced guilt!
I have to admit, this one’s still a little bit of a struggle for me. I would love to be organized enough to cut my grocery bill to the bare minimum with coupons, but I’m not there yet. I did, however, manage to make a few changes that cut my bill by almost half!
- I make a flexible meal plan.
I’ve started keeping index cards with meals on the front and ingredients needed on the back, so I pull out at least six of those cards with a variety of meats used to take on my grocery trip.
- I shop the meat section first.
Our local grocery stores almost always have some “buy one – get one” sales on certain meats. I stock up on those first and choose the meal cards that use those meats.
- I only shop twice a week.
Instead of running to the store if I forget something on my list, I now send my son. Sure, he hates it, but it saves me from grabbing “just a couple more things” while I’m there.
This is another thing my son now has to buy for himself if he chooses. I will buy his school clothes with the set budget I give him, but any extra will come out of his own wallet. You can bet he will be a lot more frugal this year!
- Frivolous Spending
I now do my best to stick to my lists as closely as possible and I don’t venture into the other sections of the store.
When things do come up that I want to spend money on, like birthday parties or movies, I will do my best to earn that extra money back either by picking up another writing assignment or flipping something on eBay.
The Moral of the Story
Through all of this, I’ve found that the key to planning your budget is finding what works for you. I’ve tried a lot of methods in the past that I couldn’t ever stick to. But when I finally got serious and took inventory of my biggest spending problems, I was able to make some adjustments that worked for my family.
If I hadn’t found a way to cut costs and get smarter about my finances, I would still be clocking in at a “real job”! Getting my finances under control changed my life, and I hope it inspires you to do the same!
What are your major struggles with budgeting?
Cheri Read is a West Texas girl, single mom and freelance writer who ditched her 9-5 to work from home. Find out how she did it over at www.workathomeinspiration.com. You can also follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.