Money For Nothing

I occasionally get emails asking how I do it on my own, financially, as a single parent.  Honestly, that is one of the toughest parts of a job that’s not so easy in the first place.

I’m a dentist, so I’ll be fine in the long run.  Being a new dentist and a resident, however, is an entirely different story.  I’ve got mountains of student loan debt and an extremely low income.  With only one small paycheck and a child to care for (and daycare being as expensive as it is), it’s a real stretch.  I’m very lucky in that my parents will help me out in a pinch, but it does get old to be worrying constantly about finances.  I’m pretty much at the point where if my online banking website had a box you could check that said “stop sending me statements because I just don’t even want to know”, I would totes check that box yesterday.

While I was in school, I didn’t qualify for any kind of assistance because I wasn’t technically employed.  Now that I am employed, I make just barely enough to not qualify.  I kind of have a thing about not accepting help anyway, but it would be nice to have the option.  Unfortunately, I do not.

So how do I make it work, several of you have asked me?  Well, I do get child support from Tyler and he is pretty good about paying it on time.  I have a strict budget and use mint.com to manage my finances.  I get the vast majority of things I need for Caro at consignment stores.  I plan our meals for the week every weekend and shop only once, so that I cut down on unnecessary grocery store trips.  I buy meat in bulk and split it up into smaller portions in ziploc bags and freeze those.  I’m big into clipping coupons and shopping at this discount grocery store which is a little sketchy but I haven’t contracted food poisoning yet.  (Although once a lady in the checkout line saw me pull out my coupons and must have assumed I was using food stamps, because she rolled her eyes and sighed, “babies having babies they can’t afford”.  Yep.  That happened.)  And I never, ever buy anything that’s not on sale.

It is exhausting to worry about money all the time, but I am lucky that for me, it won’t be forever.  Someday soon I’ll have a real job, a good one.  Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to buy a little house or a condo for me and Caro… and things like a new car, and organic food, and shoes that don’t come from Payless.

But until then, I’ll just keep plugging along and being as careful with my money as possible.  Anyone care to share your money-saving tips for fellow parents (single or otherwise) in the comments?

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  1. by Jennifer

    On July 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Dude, Payless shoes are pricey, lol. I stick with $1 Old Navy flops.

  2. by Shelli

    On July 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    I am a single mom too. I have started couponing hardcore this month. I was insipred by some couponing blogs that have gotten popular because of the extreme coupon show.

    I buy all cleaning products, paper products, beauty & health products at a deep discount now (sometimes free!). It takes some time, but is well worth it.

    I only buy things that are on sale, when i have a coupon or i when it will earn me “bucks” for next time.

    Try it out :)

  3. by Erinn

    On July 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Budget budget budget. Take the time to do the math: If you can’t afford it now, DON’T put it on credit, because you won’t be able to afford it then, either – Plus interest!!

    Coupons are good, but only use them for stuff you use. If you use coupons and buy something ONLY because you had a coupon for it, and you wouldn’t have ordinarily bought it, did you REALLY save money in that scenario? Think about it.

    Take the time to spend the money on your investment type things…That is the things that will payoff for you in the long run. Grown up stuff like education and life insurance and 401K. Even if you have to eat a little more mac and cheese or ramen now, your sixty year old version of yourself will thank you for making you a millionaire someday….And your kids of course who stand to inherit all you worked your butt off for(…Hmm that hardly seems fair….)

    And sock a little away in a savings that you CAN’T TOUCH. I opened a second checking account that does not have checks OR a debit card/ATM card, but it IS however able to be accessed by my online banking in case there is an emergency. Even if you just put $20 in there…That’s $20 that WASN’T there before, and just like the magical grocery bill, the little stuff adds up quickly.

    And AHEM as a side note girlfriend, I happen to LOVE Payless, so don’t be hatin’ on the shoes. Where ELSE can you spend $100 and come out with five or six pairs of shoes? FIVE OR SIX PAIRS OF NEW SHOES!!!! :-D That makes me happier than a pig in a mudbath, is an excellent fix for my shoe habit, and doesn’t break the bank. And just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they’re not CUTE, and bonus – When your kid pukes on them or fills them up with mud or yogurt, you only feel bad about trashing them because they were cute, dammit!!…Not because they cost you a small fortune. So even when you’re a rich and famous dentist to the stars, keep shopping at Payless.

  4. by Kay

    On July 18, 2011 at 11:21 am

    At least you get child support. I’d love to know what your overall budget is because what some think is not much is more than most single moms. You sound proud as if you’d be too proud or too embarrassed to have to use food stamps. I neither get child support nor food stamps, but if I qualified for any help I’d take it. Since you don’t qualify you must have a higher salary than most. You’d made this choice knowing your family would help if needed and knowing you’d come out on top being a dentist. Boohoo for right now huh?

    And what background do you come from…your mom a lawyer, your dad a doctor? How about a ward clerk and dirt farmer?

    Nothing new and useful in this article.

  5. by Julia

    On July 18, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Hi Kay! My parents are teachers. The food stamp comment annoyed me simply due to the fact that she said “babies having babies they can’t afford” to my face, rather than because she thought my coupons were food stamps. I’m not opposed to myself or anyone else taking any assistance that’s available. In fact, I wish I qualified. I used to, but the state just changed their cutoffs last month, so unfortunately I do not.

    I’ve certainly worked my butt off to become a dentist as a single mother… it hasn’t been easy by any means. But, we each have our struggles to deal with, and nobody’s obstacles make anyone else’s less valid, right? Thanks for stopping by!

  6. by MommaAllie

    On July 18, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I’m sorry but was that somehow meant to be encouraging? Why don’t you forget you have a great education and hope for the future and then tell me how you feel. We live on one (very small) income and I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t eat so my son could have clothing. Sometimes he didn’t have shoes. When people would ask I would just tell him he won’t wear them. It was partially true since they didn’t fit anymore. I would have loved to been able to complain about payless shoes. Hopefully in our not-to-distant future we can afford a car that starts every time, or clothes without holes, maybe heat in the winter. Oh those silly luxuries! Until then I guess we will just keep ‘plugging’ along.

  7. by Amanda

    On July 18, 2011 at 4:30 pm

    I am a single, educated mom of a beautiful 3 year old little girl. I too struggle with finances….it’s hard not to when the ex only has to pay $150 a month or 14% of his income and since he had chosen pizza delivery as his profession I get $150 a month. I can tell you this I will do whatever to provide for my daughter including doing without internet access so she can have shoes……
    @Julia thanks for sharing your tips!!

  8. by Julia

    On July 18, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    MommaAllie. Kay. ::sighs:: I have no idea why I’m continually surprised at the level of nastiness people can muster when they are anonymous on the internet.

    a) These aren’t articles. They’re blog posts about my life. I can only write what I know. That’s the point of a blog. This isn’t CNN.
    b) It wasn’t at all my intention to insist that I’m the least fortunate person in the world. In fact I stated several times (and I state often throughout my blog) how lucky I am, in so many ways, and how grateful I am for that. I’m not looking for pity– my purpose here was to start a discussion about money-saving tips for parents. In order to do that, I shared my story, as I usually do on this site. We all struggle, to different extents. It’s not a contest.
    c) I won’t feel badly about my education or my career. I’ve worked hard and paid for my schooling myself. Nothing has been handed to me in that respect.

    Thanks to everyone who understood the intent behind my post and shared their tips!

  9. by Sara

    On July 18, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Oh my goodness!!! Okay people everyone has to deal with different things. I am a “handed” single parent. The state told me to take my sisters THREE kids or they would become Wards of the State. I work my backside off to make sure that they have food, clothing, & a good schooling. I very lucky to have amazing friends that help me with child care while I am working one of my two jobs or going to school. I cant tell you the number of times I have made my kids dinner and just watched them eat knowing that I didnt have enough for all of us.
    Julia is dealing with what she was dealt. Do the same or shut up!
    I am done with hearing everyones pity-party!!! Be a grown up. Life isnt always easy no matter what is on your plate but as an adult you do what you must.

  10. by Alison

    On July 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I applaud Julia for being open and sharing her stories and advice with other parents. Why judge someone who is being proactive and making the best of their situation. Everyone has hardships and it isn’t productive to knock someone else down in order to make yourself feel better.

  11. by Julia

    On July 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    AMEN! Thanks, ladies!

  12. by Kat

    On July 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you Julia, for sharing! Don’t let those other comments get to you. You have worked your butt off for what you have and there are always going to be nasty people who want to blame others for their situation. Back to your original post, though, thanks for mentioning mint.com. I registered and LOVE it. Exactly what I need!

  13. by Erin

    On July 21, 2011 at 10:21 am

    As someone who has followed Julia’s story from the beginning, I applaud her honesty and openness as well! She is doing the best she can to make a better life for her and Caroline.

    MommaAllie, my question for you is how are you in the Internet if you don’t even know if you can afford heat for the winter? I really hope it’s at a public library or something.

    And to answer your question, Julia, I save money by couponing, going to garage sales, and I refuse to buy something that I can make myself for cheaper.

  14. by Heather

    On July 25, 2011 at 9:49 am

    Hi Julia. I, too, am a dentist and a mom. I’m a stay-at-home for now, and am on a careful budget. I have to say (for those who think we are swimming in money) that the path to becoming a dentist is like 8+ years of 1. not getting paid a penny, 2. PAYING to work, and 3. working WAY more hours than the typical 8-5 job. Loans catch up with you, as do all the things you are forced to put off. It is not easy.
    Because moms don’t ever hear it enough…good work providing for and taking care of the little one!
    As for budgeting: we use coupons, sales, yard sales, and consignment stores. Our son has what he needs and it doesn’t have to be brand new.
    Take care!

  15. by Stephanie

    On July 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Julia – Thanks for sharing your tips. I just found your site today and am excited to read more! I am also a single mom – and got pregnant unexpectedly in Grad school. I was pregnant for my 2nd (and final) year and gave birth with 6 weeks until Graduation. I decided to stick it out and made it through with a newborn! Now i’m in the nasty stage of searching for a job – and since i have no income, and very little child support from my son’s father (although
    we’re on good terms and he’s trying) I try to be as money consious as i can.
    One thing I’ve found that saves me a lot of money is Cloth Diapering – you save about $2K over the diapering life of your child – and its environmentally friendly! (My masters in in Environmental Education)
    Thanks for sharing and starting the conversation – and just ignore those mom’s who seem to want us to pity them because everyone’s situation and life are different. I was appaled to read their comments and see them try to tear you down for doing the best you can with what you’ve been given/what you’ve earned.

  16. by Julia

    On July 28, 2011 at 8:04 am

    Congrats Stephanie! That is awesome! Thanks for sharing about cloth diapering… I actually have been cloth diapering Caroline since she was a couple months old and I love it. It’s definitely a great way to save money (and the environment)!