Whether you’re a single parent, have chosen to have just one parent work outside the home, are saving over the long term or are facing the challenge of raising your family on a small budget for some other reason, living frugally does not have to mean deprivation. Raising a family on a small budget can be tough but is not impossible. Furthermore, the planning and diligence it requires are good values to teach your children to carry into adulthood.
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Build Uncertainty into Your Budget
The most careful efforts to follow a budget can be wiped out quickly by two common errors. One is failing to create an emergency fund. Try to put away even a small percentage of your paycheck until you have enough to cover three to six months of expenses. This means that if you have a sudden home or car repair, you will be able to absorb it. The other common error in budgeting is not accounting for one-time or occasional costs such as gifts for holidays and birthdays. You can average this cost over a year and include it as a monthly item.
Look for Ways to Reduce Spending
From choosing the store brand version of groceries, which is often equally as good, to shopping around for the best prices on various services, you might be surprised at how much you can save with a little research. Don’t assume that what was the best buy a year ago either still is. For example, you can efficiently compare home insurance online quotes to make sure you still have the most economical policy that still fits your needs. Yard and estate sales, thrift stores and many online sites can be great places to pick up nearly new items for very little money.
Make it a Family Project
It might be hard for children to understand why they are not necessarily getting the latest toy or other item that some of their classmates are. While there is no need to involve children in financial stresses, letting them get involved in budgeting can help teach them about financial responsibility and feel a part of the planning instead of having it imposed on them.
Cut Gas and Utility Bills
If you live somewhere that allows you to walk instead of driving places, do so. You’ll save on gas and get healthier. Put on a sweater or a pair of shorts instead of turning on the heat or the air conditioner. Sometimes the older ways of doing things are best; think about line-drying your clothes instead of using a dryer.
It can be easy to lose control of your grocery spending if you aren’t careful. However, making things from scratch and planning meals weekly can save you a lot of money. For example, if you roast a chicken one night, you can use leftovers for the next couple of nights in other meals such as tacos, chicken soup or chicken salad. Like an overly strict diet, a budget that allows no room for fun can backfire. Remember that fun can be as frugal as an ice cream cone in the park or a family takeout pizza and movie night at home.