By Stacey Freeman
For as long as I can remember, I have always worried about money. As a young child, I watched my father lose his livelihood and the downward spiral that followed afterward. Then he died, suffering a massive heart attack at 41 years old right there in our kitchen, I can only presume from the stress of it all. My father left my mother no money, not even a life insurance policy. What he did leave was debt, including a small mortgage and a large stack of bills.
My mother was forced to sell the house I had lived in since birth. She had no choice, needing the proceeds from it to pay back the money she owed, buy a place to live that would cost less to maintain, and raise two young children on her own without having been gainfully employed for over a decade.
Nobody stepped in to save the day. We moved to a smaller house in another state, and my mother returned to work as an administrative assistant, earning a very low pay. Money was always tight, and the worry ever-present that there would not be enough. When the time came, my mother put my brother and me through college – state universities – and, to her credit, each of us graduated without student loans to pay back. Thanks, Mom.
That was more than two decades ago, and even though I went on to marry a successful attorney and live, by most accounts, an upscale lifestyle, I continued to worry about money and whether our different spending patterns and views about money would leave us with enough for retirement, or a rainy day. As luck would have it, in 2012, it began to rain to the tune of a divorce neither one of us, particularly me, was expecting.
As part of my settlement, I received limited duration alimony, which includes child support. I continue to live in our marital home, where expenses are high and often unforeseen. The same applies to caring for one tween and two teens, with college costs looming on the horizon. Not to mention, the added goal of saving for my future and the life I aspire to lead. Because of that, I have to make my money go further than it has ever had to before. Here are a few of the money saving tricks I have picked up over the years.
1. Limit going out to eat
During my marriage, we used to go out to restaurants all the time, as a couple and a family. It did not matter if it was a weekday or a weekend. If the urge hit, we would get up and go. Now divorced and living on a budget, I limit the times we eat out to one time weekly. Depending on the week and how busy it is, I may order food one time as well, but that is not necessarily a given. Even takeout gets expensive. On most nights, I cook. And if my “customers” do not like what is on the menu that evening, they are free not to eat it.
2. Make coffee at home
Gone are my Starbucks runs. At my height, I was spending $4.55 each day for a vanilla latte, and more during pumpkin latte season. But I digress. For Mother’s Day last year, I treated myself to a Keurig coffee maker and some reusable cups. By doing so, not only do I save myself more than $1600 over the course of a year, but I also save myself time – time I can be writing and earning money, instead of standing in a line.
3. Cancel the gym membership
The ink was not even dry on my divorce decree when I canceled my gym membership. For me, all I needed was a pair of sneakers, a few weights, and some pavement. When I find it too cold to be outside, I take to my treadmill, which, like the Keurig, is a gift that keeps on giving. With all of my savings from making my coffee at home, I am considering purchasing a Peloton bike for my house.
4. Buy cheap makeup
Many professional makeup artists will tell you that you do not need to spend a fortune on makeup, at least for certain products such as mascara. I have experimented for years with different eye pencils, concealer, and face cream, only to come to the conclusion that more expensive does not necessarily mean better. So go ahead, play! See what you like and what you do not. By making a few substitutes, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars each year.
5. Stay out of big box stores
Yeah, I know it seems counterintuitive, but buying in bulk does not always mean getting the best value. Also, when I buy too much, I tend to be wasteful. What I do instead is buy what I need at my local supermarket, and when items are on sale stock up then. By only purchasing what I know I will use, I save more money in the long run.
6. Donate or sell your stuff
If you have clothing, bags, shoes, even an engagement ring lying around you are no longer wearing, consider giving these things away or selling them. I recently cleaned out my closet as well as my children’s. I wound up with 10 garbage bags filled with clothing that I will soon be donating to a charitable organization of my choice. In addition to helping those in need, I will also be helping myself by way of a tax deduction come April 2018. As for a few designer bags and pairs of shoes, I sold those to a consignment shop, which added more money to my growing budget.
Bottom line, the best way to find money is to be mindful of the choices you make, even the small ones because once you put them all together, the savings start adding up. Figure out what your priorities are and how to finance them. Chances are, there exist places where you can cut back which, in turn, frees up money to use elsewhere on items you want or, better yet, deposit in an investment account. With just a bit more attention to detail, you can start living the life you want and be in a position to pay for it.
Stacey Freeman is a writer and blogger from the New York City area, a divorced single mom, lifestyle editor at Worthy.com, and the founder and managing director of Write On Track, LLC, a full-service consultancy dedicated to providing high-quality content to individuals and businesses. A respected voice for divorce issues affecting both women and men, Stacey has been published in The Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Town & Country, The Huffington Post, xoJane, Scary Mommy, The Stir, MariaShriver.com, The Good Men Project, and various well-known platforms worldwide. Stacey is frequently called upon for her expertise and insights on the divorce experience and has repeatedly been quoted in The Huffington Post’s divorce vertical. Stacey holds her B.A. in English, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from the University at Albany and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law. Email Stacey today at Stacey.Freeman@WriteOnTrackLLC.com or call 800-203-1946 for a free consultation and proposal. For more information, visit www.WriteOnTrackLLC.com.