Spend or Skimp :: A Single Mom’s Guide To Budgeting

In 2013 I very quickly went from being a frivolous, free-spending, single, young adult to a single mom of a child with a disability. Needless to say, my entire reality changed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. And while every part of my life has been touched by my sweet boy’s hearing loss, one of the most noticeable was in my bank account. From deciding to relocate to Houston in order to be closer to his speech therapist and audiologist, to paying monthly tuition for him to attend a preschool that specializes in oral deaf education, every decision usually revolves around Malachi and his special needs. It didn’t take long to realize I needed to re-think my spending habits.

It is easy to get lost in the big picture of our life which is to make a home for ourselves in this new city, make sure Malachi has the language and speech skills he needs to integrate into a mainstream first grade class, and basically just maintain from month to month for the next few years.

But that doesn’t feel like living to me, and although I’ve made lots of sacrifices for my son, I’ve learned how to budget and make wise financial decisions so that we still have a little wiggle room at the end of the month for normal life. There are things that used to be really important that don’t make the cut anymore, and there are things I’d skimp on in the past that have become top priority. I’ve outlined a few things that find their way into all of our budgets along with my thoughts on whether to splurge or skimp in each area. 

CLOTHES {SKIMP}

I save tons of money by skimping on clothes. Whereas I used to be really into designers and name brands, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my son wants nothing more than a t-shirt with a huge, green dinosaur printed on the front. We also buy, sell, and trade new and gently used clothes at local re-sale shops which is so much fun. Also, outlet stores sell off-season designer clothes for a fraction of the original price.

EDUCATION {SPEND}

This one is a no-brainer for us because of Malachi’s special educational needs. BUT, even if he didn’t have hearing loss, I think I’d still splurge here. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a product and advocate for public school, but if there’s some private, magnet, or specialty school that is a better fit for your kiddo and you can squeeze it into the budget, I say go for it.  I’ve been paying tuition since my son was two, and it has made all the difference for him.

EXPERIENCES {SPEND}

Here’s where I probably go a little overboard. I wholeheartedly believe in giving kids experiences over material things. It could be as simple as a drive-in movie or as extravagant as a trip to Europe. These are the things kids remember. Exposure to different experiences also helps children be more social, have more confidence, and be better conversationalists. Travel, theater, cultural events, and festivals are all justifiable reasons to spend a little extra.

TOYS {SKIMP}

I almost never buy toys, and yet my entire house is overrun with them. Malachi acquires most of his toys each year for his birthday and at Christmas. I pick up one or two big items that he may fall in love with throughout the year, but for the most part, I don’t spend much on toys. Between grandparents and aunts and uncles, he’s not missing out at all. 

SAFETY {SPEND}

I spend more money for less square footage to lease a townhome with a garage and backyard and a place where my son can safely ride his bike. I could live closer to work or downtown, and if it were just me, I probably would. But the thought of something happening to my kid sends my anxiety through the roof. I try to take the same approach to safety when it comes to car seats, sports equipment, and deciding to valet park so we don’t have to walk to the car alone. The list could go on and on, but when it comes to added safety for a few extra dollars, I always spend.

Let us know which things are must haves for your family, and on the contrary, where you’re able to save too.

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