A lot of people ask me this. Like, almost everyone. I’m a single mom. I work doing freelance whatever-I-can-get-my-hands-on. I don’t have a car, and I live in Ohio, where you are not going anywhere without a car unless you can walk because public transportation is awful. I get child support, but not much. Yet, we still manage to have fun. The bills (barely sometimes) manage to get paid, but we are rarely desperately in need of anything, and when it truly comes down to the wire, it always works out somehow.
I’m going to backtrack a moment for all of the new readers, because I am sure they are thinking just go get a real job. I would LOVE to. There are exactly 3 listings in the paper right now of places that I may be qualified to work. There are very very few jobs in this area AT ALL. They are a 20 minute car ride from my house, and with all the bus transfers it would be about 4 hours. Plus I’d have to leave extra early to drop Spencer off. That is the next hurdle. I have nobody to watch him. I can’t afford daycare, and while I qualify for the state to help pay for daycare, I have to have a job and a regular income first. The problem is, I have to have the daycare to go to work. It’s maddening.
So, the choice I am left with is babysit other people’s children (which I have tried, but got paid frequently in one gallon of milk for 8 hours of watching their screaming child-plus them being 2 hours late every other day picking them up) or do the freelance whatever. (Edit: there was a little girl who also had a single mom that I watched for a while, and they were WONDERFUL, but she moved in with her boyfriend and didn’t need me anymore!)
I would like to now clarify that I am by no means lazy. The past week when I have posted nothing? I have been working from about 7 am until 1 am. The only breaks I took were when my child was begging for food or attention. Occasionally to pee.
So, I would like to share how I do it, mainly because I am trying to figure it out myself. My rent is $500 a month. The water is usually around $20 a month. Electric is on a budget at $6o a month. Luckily I don’t have to pay for gas or trash, and I use my neighbor’s internet (they know, they gave me the password). We don’t have cable. I have no credit card bills. I obviously don’t have a car payment or insurance to worry about. So, the very few bills thing helps.
How do I manage the rest of the stuff? Very carefully. We do not go out to eat unless I have procured a gift card or have an extra few dollars and someone REALLY wants us to go. By a few dollars? I mean $5 or less. We usually just get drinks and maybe an appetizer to share and eat before we go. I have not purchased new clothes for myself since I was pregnant. He gets a lot of hand me downs, and luckily his birthday and mine are about 6 months away from Christmas, so if we need something, there’s usually birthday or Christmas money.
I survived last winter with a food budget of $34 a month. A month. With that being said, my mom did give us things to supplement occasionally, and his father helped us one month, which was incredibly nice. I clipped coupons, waited for sales, shopped the dented can racks, we ate bread that was practically see through, and I made a lot of things from scratch because it was cheaper than buying them.
Cleaning stuff I luckily had a bit of a stockpile of before I lost my job. All I’ve had to buy since then is bleach. It’s like a dollar.
Shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, and diapers, you ask? I use Suave Professionals. It’s like $3 for the huge bottle. I use very little at a time. My hair is actually healthier now. Everybody buys women body wash for Christmas…I have enough to last until at least this Christmas still from last year. I still have baby body wash from my baby shower! We have 2 more huge bottles of No More Tears shampoo.
Diapers or pull ups are still used at least over night for Spencer. The local grocery store, though, has a program where once you spend so much you can get a $10 gift card to use there. That’s mainly how I pull those off, and luckily he is hardly using them anymore.
So, I can pay for all that with my little bit of money that’s coming in. Barely. But how do we have fun? You know how you hear about paid internet surveys and think, “my God who has time for that?” *raises hand* While I’m tweeting with you guys or watching something static filled on the antenna (or Netflix if I didn’t have to put it on hold that month) I am usually doing those. You can be paid in gift cards, usually, so that’s where our extras come from! That’s how we can get out of the house and have fun when people ask us to do something.
So, yeah it’s stressful, and I wouldn’t ever CHOOSE to live this way in a thousand years, but we’re making it. We may need a tiny bit of help sometimes, but we’ve managed to make it for 13 months now. When he starts preschool? Then I can get back to work. Just a few more months.
…but at the same time, I’m glad he knows I am here for him. I’m glad he’s not completely spoiled and handed whatever he wants. I’m glad he understands if we are in the store and he wants something and I have to say, “I’m sorry sweetie, mommy can’t get that right now.” I’m glad he says, “ok mommy” instead of screaming. Honestly? I hope the things we have both learned from this experience NEVER leave us. When things get truly too hard to handle and I feel like I have reached a breaking point, I just remember that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger…and of course, this too shall pass.
Feel free to ask me how I am almost done shopping for Christmas for him and have spent $16 out of pocket…