Thrifty Living

Updated on December 19, 2014
T.R. asks from Miami, FL
15 answers

I am a single parent, and living on a single income. I am looking for thrifty ideas to save and not over endulge. Do you have any suggestions that may help me especially through this holiday season?

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So What Happened?

You all have shared some great ideas. Wow. It's amazing that I am not solo in this. Thanks for sharing.

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answers from Chicago on

I buy everything on sale and/or clearance. I always stock up when I find a great deal on something I know I'm going to use, like bar soap. One of my favorite web sites is She has lots of great ideas to make cleaning products at a fraction of the cost of store bought, plus most everything is chemical free and better for you.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from New York on

They say the best way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket. Instead of looking for ways to spend less, challenge yourself not to spend.

1. Institute a leftover night (where you eat nothing but leftovers).
2. Institute a cook from your pantry week, where you don't spend any money on food or groceries, but just use up what you have on hand.
3. Ask your co-workers/ place of worship, community center- if they have kids for their hand me down clothes, books & toys.
4. find free entertainment- talks and shows at the library, fireworks at the park, walks down the beach all can be had for free/ cheap.
5. see if your employer has programs which might help (mine has something called the health action plan which offers all sorts of resources including health and welness coaching, debt management coaching, retirement planning, emergency child care, child care references).

as for other resources - suze orman has a great book (young broke and fabulous) and there are many who are fans of Dave Ramsey.

F. B.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Find fun free local holiday stuff to do.
Drive and look at lights, check your parks & rev department.
We always unwrapped & set out Santa toys, so check thrift & resale shops for cool stuff cheap!

Make a large ham or turkey so you can stretch nearly a week of meals from that O. dinner.

Drop any unnecessary monthly charges.
Reevaluate your cable/phone/internet contracts.
Quote out your insurances.

Focus on the people in your life--not the "stuff"!

Happy Holidays!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Join freecycle. Free cycle is broken down by counties from each state. One year I got this amazing remote robot for my son. I got a fisher price doll house with all the furniture and dolls.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

If you don't have a budget in writing plan one. Know where your money goes. Look up budget on the Internet for help. My financial planner suggested labeling envelopes of categories and putting money in each one based on your budget. Once money is gone in a category I couldn't spend any more.

My cousin carried a card in her wallet on which she wrote down every expenditure so that she could see where she was spending money and make a budget.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We cut our cable bill WAY down, getting rid of a lot of premium channels. We watch a ton of stuff for free using "On Demand" and have discovered so many free movies as well as TV series we never watched the first time around. We've found many well-written shows and are now fans.

We borrow great DVDs from the public library - there's a 1 week borrowing period so it's even better than renting a movie via cable that's only good for 24 hours. Our library also has a magazine exchange (drop one off, take another one home) and many book sales.

We recycle for free at the town dump, and cut out our trash pick up service (which we have to pay extra for). Makes us feel good to see how much we can recycle and help the environment.

Thrift and resale shops are incredible bargains for shopping - a lot of stuff is new (with tags) and a lot more is gently used. Look honestly at stuff you have in your closets and china cabinet and jewelry box, and ask yourself if these are important to you really, or if they are "just things" that can be sold and make someone else happy. If the house were on fire and you wouldn't go back to save these things, get rid of them.

Use your computer and phone more - a lot of people don't buy calendars & planners any more. They're very expensive at this time of year.

Reuse things - scrap paper is drawing paper for children, packing material can become what you use to mail things out, gift bags can be used again. Kitchen food waste (vegetable trimmings, egg shells, coffee grounds) can be composted into garden soil for plants outdoors. Grow seeds for herbs you use in cooking - parsley, thyme, basil, etc. Seeds are cheap and can be shared with a friend or two, and a sunny window can become your fresh herb garden (which is cheery as well as practical). Get your neighbors to save up their comics from the Sunday paper, and reuse that as wrapping paper for children's gifts.

Look at the close-out racks in stores and the overstock sales. It's unbelievable what they mark down that might make a cute little gift for someone (teacher, hairdresser, neighbor). Have a cookie swap with neighbors as a cheap entertainment event - everyone makes a certain amount (e.g. 4 dozen) of one cookie recipe, then everyone gets together and puts together fun assortments to give as gifts. Dollar stores have cheap containers, but you can also repurpose coffee cans and other containers, which you can decorate. Take-out and "leftover" containers can be jazzed up too.

Don't let food go to waste. Use leftovers creatively. There are some meals that just don't need precise amounts of this or that, like stews, soups and enchiladas. There are websites that let you enter in the food you have and then give you a recipe to use them up. Americans throw incredible amounts of food away because it went bad waiting for someone to use it up.

Use less over-packaged food. Don't buy the 100 calorie snack packs - they are incredibly expensive. Just create your own with reusable containers or even very cheap plastic bags for kids' lunches, but don't let them raid those for in-house snacks.

If you tend to freeze things like bagels and loaves of bread, why not buy the "day old" products at the market for half price since they are going right into the freezer anyway? Be careful with coupons - often the brand name product is more expensive than the generic, even with coupon doubling. Take advantage of coupons combined with sales, and note those stores that accept competitors' coupons.

Scale back expectations. A night at home with a borrowed DVD and popcorn you made yourself is much more fun than a $60 trip to the movies at prime prices with purchased snacks. But if you do go to the movies, use discount tickets from AAA or other group you may already belong to. And $11 movie for $5 is a much better deal, especially when you have a family.

Good luck finding what works for you!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I agree to find cheap holiday events, like a free or low cost community event, Santa at the firehouse, etc. If you regularly visit a mall santa, see if his company has coupons online for photos and put all the kids in one photograph. Go looking for people's house lights instead of going to a light show. See a play or chorus concert at a high school instead of going to a movie or a professional show.

As far as cable, etc. many friends have gone to streaming (there are many devices, but most of my friends use Roku or a game console or a wifi enabled blueray player) so you only pay for internet and Netflix (for example). You might also see if there's a current deal that will help you save money from your phone company or ISP.

I try to check price per quantity, buy used when new is not necessary (and I go to the thrift store or consignment sales on half off days to save even more). Know when thrift is more inexpensive or when that really good deal at Children's Place is better ($2.99 shirts).

When things like pasta or other staples come up on sale, I try to buy one or two more, figuring I save that much down the road when I use them. I buy bulk and split it up.

For many holidays and gifting occasions, I watch sales (some "egads, it's nearly Christmas!" sales are better than Black Friday) and buy way ahead. I've had my niece and nephew's main toys since January, for 60 or 70% off original price.

And remember - there's a lot more to holidays than presents. My mom was a single mom with no support and though some years were lean, we always had each other. I look back with fondness at our fugly Christmas tree and practical gifts.

ETA: I agree with Freecycle and if you can't find a group on their site, look through Yahoo Groups. Many of them started there and stay on Yahoo. I've fond a ton of kid stuff there, because the good things (Little Tykes, etc) lasts.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

-shop the thrift stores
-you can buy some groceries at the Dollar store cheaper than the regular
-buy store brands. They are cheaper.
-toys, board games can be found at the thrift stores
-make cheap meals (spaghetti w/sauce, if you want tacos buy a chub of
the cheapest ground turkey they sell, you can buy flour tortillas at the
Dollar Store, Top Ramen, you can buy a rotisserie chicken at Walmart
for $5 saving the carcasas in the freezer to later make chicken soup.
Buy things that last & can feed you long term: bag of potatoes, bread,
-You can find almost anything at the grocery store cheaper (day old
bread, discounted rolls etc.).
-buy cookies & candy canes at the Dollar Store
-don't mail out cards (save postage). Email Christmas messages.
-watch Holiday shows & cartoons on tv for entertainment
-check out movies from the library for free
-look at your local papers/flyers/mags at the grocery stores to check out
your local holiday happenings that are free (esp for the kids).
May you have a happy holiday season.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Make a monthly budget - detailed, where you write down your take-home income, each of your bills, estimate your grocery bill, give yourself a reasonable allowance, and put the rest in savings. And no matter what, do not spend more than is in your allowance.

For the holidays:If you haven't done all your Christmas shopping yet, get as much as you can at thrift shops. I have small kids, and I love second-hand shops for kids clothing and toys. Craigslist is also good for toys and electronics such as DS games, Wii games, etc.

Do you get any time off over the holiday? If so, use it to make meals and freeze them. This is time, money, and sanity saver for me. When I have meals in the freezer that I can pull out and heat up for dinner, it's fast, it cuts down on the after work stress of making dinner, AND it means I'm less likely to go out to eat which saves me money.

Borrow books and DVDs from the local library instead of buying.

Establish your own free traditions - driving around looking at Christmas lights, going for a walk after Christmas dinner to look at decorations in the daylight, making gingerbread houses (not totally free, but graham crackers, frosting, and candy from the kids stockings is pretty inexpensive).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

If your kids are little, you can buy most of their toys/clothes at thrift stores. They go through toy/clothes stages so quickly when they are little that in hindsight, I realized that I could have bought most of their things used, until they were older.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

You have gotten really good ideas. I have to say, I am a simple person and we live off very little. I NEVER pay full price for anything! I buy all my groceries on sale, I don't bother with coupons because they are too much work and most of the time I forget them at home or in my purse so I just gave up. I shop the store sales and load up on the things we always use when it's on sale. I buy all our clothes at the thrift stores except for underwear and shoes. I buy those new but on sale. My kids see stuff now and even say, oh, it's not on sale. lol We also don't charge ANYTHING, we pay cash. If we don't have the money for it, we don't get it. It takes some practice but gets easier. And at the thrift shop recently I bought a book on being thrifty. lol Good luck!

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answers from Wausau on

You got a lot of good ideas already, but I wanted to add one more that isn't helpful at this moment but will help in the future. A great thing about holidays is that they happen at the same/similar time every year. One thing you can do going forward is to intentionally put aside a little every week/pay period/month all year long, starting now for next year.

I know that can seem like an overwhelming prospect, but if you break it down it doesn't seem so daunting. For example, if you would like to have $300 to use for Christmas, that means $25 per month or $5.75 per week.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Groceries- Watch flyers for sales and stock up. Only buy things when they are on sale. Buy produce only when in season. Use coupons. Find recipes for cheaper cuts of meat (utility turkeys, stewing hens, pork shoulder, ground beef). Bake your own treats instead of buying. Cook from scratch and avoid convenience foods.

Christmas gifts (for your kids)- Make gifts of items that you need to buy anyway ie)clothes, pj's, underwear, socks, school supplies and snack foods. Give gift cards so you can shop for the gifts after the holiday when things are on sale. Opt out of other gift exchanges. Purchase gift wraps and cards after Christmas for next year. Buy decorations used and use an artificial tree you can use year after year.

Expenses-Get rid of expensive luxuries like cell phones, cable tv and magazine subscriptions. Borrow movies and books from the library. Use only cold water for laundry. Use selective flushing. Drive less by consolidating errands or using active transportation. Take advantage of free entertainment. (some of the best concerts you can see are at church's at Christmas). Buy used clothes, tools, household items and furniture at thrift shops or yard sales.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I am in the same situation, and here is what I do: I buy things like a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for dinner, it's about $7 and I stretch it to 2 days (1 leg and quarter for kid on one day, one breast for me, next day, same thing). I then look for veggies or other side dishes that are on sale, usually from the frozen aisle. I can get one of those steam veggie bags for sale for about $1, and that comes out to about $4 a day in dinner. I get apples and cheap snack puddings for dessert, or whatever is on sale in terms of fruits and puddings. By the way, Wal-Mart sells Banquet TV dinners for $1 in the frozen aisle, so that's another option. Sometimes I will get the foot long sub at Subway for $7 and split it with my kid. She thinks of Subway as a treat.

For lunch, I pack myself a peanut butter sandwich. Again, this is very economical because a large jar costs me about $5 and will last me over a month, and the generic store-brand loaf of bread is usually about $2 and lasts me for weeks. I will save a night or 2 a month to splurge and go to a restaurant with the kid, as a treat, and to motivate her to do well in school. Other than that, I am spending very little on a daily basis. I get the regular gas, and in terms of cleaning supplies, I buy those at the dollar store, for a dollar each. This is also a decent place to get some cute kids' gifts. Funny thing: my daughter has liked some of those crystal making kits from the dollar store more than some of the fancy gifts she got from others, because it was something we could work on together. Speaking of fun activities, bike riding through the park, flying a kite on the beach, going to free movie screenings (and there are quite a few in Miami this time of the year!), are all fun, inexpensive, family-oriented ideas. I also check Groupon and LivingSocial for zoo discount vouchers, animal encounter vouchers, and other events and give those as gift to my kid. She loves them! Last year, I got a speed boat ride for 2 for $20 on one of those sites and she still talks about it.

I buy a lot of my clothes on eBay, secondhand, for as much as $5-$8 for a top, jeans I buy from Ross or other discount stores for about $12 and keep those for years, sometimes I buy them at Wal-Mart too. I only shop when I need to (jeans got holes, shoes are too worn out to repair with shoe glue or polish, kid needs a sweater...), and I try to sell a lot of her toys or other things we no longer need/use on eBay or craigslist. Books are also purchased secondhand from, or

I try to find a hair color that makes it easy to go without dyeing often, so I can spread that out to getting a root retouch and a trim once every 4 months, unlike most people who go every 3 weeks to touch up their roots. You can also dye your hair at home and go somewhere like Supercuts to get a trim every now and then. If you just get a trim, no layering or styling, these cuts are about $12. My co-worker goes to the Vidal Sassoon, Paul Mitchell Academy, or beauty schools and gets her hair dyed and cut for a much lower price than most people pay. I do my nails maybe 3 time a year, and the rest of the time, I trim them and polish them at home. Again, these services are sometimes offered very economically on Groupon or LivingSocial, and you can treat them like a splurge for yourself.

In terms of cable TV, I have free cable and I also have Netflix for $8. I don't need the premium channels, pay per view, or some of the fancy TV packages they try to push on me, no DVR either. I am barely home anyway! Honestly, if you get Netflix and you cannot get free cable where you live, Netflix is MORE than enough. They have great movies, documentaries, indie films, foreign films, TV friend got rid of his cable and internet and saves about $70 a month that way. He has data on his cellphone and at work, so he does not feel he needs to get internet at home too.

Lastly, try walking as much as you can. It saves on gas, parking expenses, and gets you healthy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I didn't read all the others, but I can't even begin to tell you all the very nice near new designer labels I have bought at thrift stores for practically nothing...some were only $1 when they have their sales.
I know everyone doesn't like to buy shoes at thrift shops, but the ONLY shoes my dd has worn are the shoes and boots from thrift shops or garage sales...all the new ones sit there because they are uncomfortable.
I buy a lot of kids activities on groupon...we usually invite a friend and most of the coupons are for at least 2 (I have an only child). I have bought my dental exams on groupon for about $35 (includes cleaning and xrays)...since we don't have dental insurance (they usually have sales for $10 off your I wait till they have a sale and there is usually a dental coupon on there.
We don't eat out much, but when we do, I usually only eat half and have the other half the next day (its usually too much food anyway).

1 mom found this helpful
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