Guest Contributor: Tosha Allen
I’m a single parent raising a 12-year-old daughter, Taylin, who is active in softball and concert band. When I decided to join “Operation Do Better,” I had to tailor my fast into more of a “spending diet” to accommodate Taylin’s needs. I first discussed this idea with her in early December over dinner (we love sushi). I informed her that if we were going to Disneyland in December 2013 for her 13th birthday, we needed to cut back and start saving A LOT! Taylin actually agreed, mainly because she really wants to go to Disneyland, and she’s really concerned about our finances.
I informed her that since I am the only working person in our household, we really needed to reign in our spending. Taylin understands that being a single parent is difficult. She was 10-years-old when her father and I divorced, so she has seen a big shift in our household. We went from having two incomes to only one. I want to show her that life sometimes deals you a bad hand, but you have to continue to smile and work hard.
As a single parent, I know there are some things I can’t cut out. For example, Taylin has to eat breakfast at school because of time constraints (school starts at 7:30 and her ride comes at 6:45), which costs $1 a day. She does take her lunch, so we don’t have that additional expense. We’re not cutting out sports or band (that includes her instrument). She’s played softball since she was 4 and loves it. Band is also an important part of her education as it helps her with following directions and concentration.
Despite the constraints, we cut our biggest splurges: eating out and shopping. Before Operation Do Better, we spent about $150 a month on eating out and shopping. Taylin knows this means no going out to eat at all for three months (unless it can’t be avoided when I have to go out of town for business). She was a bit concerned because we usually go out for Sunday breakfast, but I had a solution.
I recently started cooking more and decided we would still get our Sunday morning breakfast in…I would just cook it. Taylin was excited about this! She helps in the kitchen sometimes and especially loves pizza and fried chicken. As far as shopping, neither of us will be getting new clothes or shoes in the next three months (with exception of a new pair of softball cleats). After three months, I plan to evaluate our savings and then proceed from there. I hope this helps any single parents interested in going on a spending fast/diet.
All in all, I believe this spending diet is good for us both. It is teaching us that there are things that we just don’t NEED! I will also be able to see actual savings. Both my daughter and I are doing the 52 week savings plan and it is going very well. It started with just a dollar, and each week we add a dollar to the amount that goes into the savings. If (when) we stick to it, each of us will have saved $1378!
For any single parent interested in revamping your finances, my advice is try not to get caught up in giving your children EVERYTHING!!! My daughter is a typical preteen. She wants a lot of stuff, but she already has too much! To stay balanced, I focus more on her needs, and I try to give her some of her wants. Being a single parent and trying to save is hard, but it is not impossible.