Unsplash / Natalya Zaritskaya
Being a working mom can be tough. When you add a job onto your regular daily tasks, your days seem to be filled from sunup to sundown. It can be especially frustrating to find that you are working hard but getting nowhere financially. You want to contribute to the family income, but it does no good if expenses are still outweighing your income. Finding ways to save money, though, can seem like a hassle you just do not have time for. Worry not as it can be much easier than you think.
Get the family involved
First and foremost, get the family involved. Fighting any battle alone is tough, and fighting to save money is no exception. Smart money management is more successful when done as a family. Set a goal or a reward that the whole family can look forward to, like a vacation or a special movie night. Then, hang a goal chart somewhere that everyone can see it. The visual motivation of seeing the chart being filled can be very encouraging.
Learn where your money is going
It should go without saying, but you cannot figure out where you can save if you are not even sure where your money is going. Take out your bank statements and receipts. Categorize your spending, i.e. utilities, gas, personals, cell phone, car payment or insurance, lunches and snacks, daycare, and so on. Input the amount that you spend in each category and watch your graph fill up.
While you can easily list out your expenses, having them divided into a colorful graph is much more eye-opening. For instance, when you input the actual amount you spend on lunches each week, it might be equal to what you spend on a car payment or phone service. Seeing this can be a wake-up call that something needs to change.
Make a menu and cook
How much do you suppose you spend eating out each week? If you made your pie chart in the step above, you probably have a good idea now. Most people are shocked to see the full amount they spend on fast food. In some cases, it is enough to pay a mortgage payment on a nice house. With families rushing from place to place, fast food often seems like the best option.
There is good news: You can cut down the amount you spend on fast food even while working. It starts with a meal plan. Make a weekly or monthly menu for your dinners. Keep the meals simple on workdays, such as soups and casseroles. Once you have planned your menu, you can do your dinner prep before leaving for work. If you enjoy cooking, you might even spend one night every two to four weeks preparing and freezing your upcoming meals. Though you do not have to cook every single day of the week, you can aim to at least cut your fast food spending in half.
Put apps to work for you
There are many apps available that can help you save money, or earn cashback. Apps like Trim actually negotiate your bills for you. Ibotta gets you cashback on items you purchase anyway. Shopkick rewards you for walking into certain stores, scanning specific items, and buying some items. The kicks you earn can be transferred into gift cards to big retailers, helping you with groceries and personal necessities.
Make cash the king of spending
Human beings are psychologically and emotionally attached to our cash. It is tangible; therefore, we are physically handing it over when we buy something. When the money is on a debit card or credit card, we do not feel ourselves being separated from it.
Instead of using your card for all of your spending, withdraw your money from your account. If you pay your bills online, set up auto-pay, and then take the remainder of your money out in cash. This alone will cause you to think about what you are buying before you buy it.
The next step is to use the envelope system. Have an envelope labeled for each category you normally spend money on — excluding bills you have set up for autopay. Every time you get paid put the allocated amount of cash that you have written in your budget into the correct envelope. On grocery day, you take only your grocery envelope with you. Being limited with what you have on hand will prevent you from overspending.
Check your current bills
Have you analyzed your bills lately? Do you understand all the fees you are paying? Did you sign up for a promotion and now your bill has skyrocketed because the promo period is over? Fact: Businesses do not want to lose your business. If you call your provider and explain that you either need to cut your monthly bill or you will have to switch providers, they will do what they can to keep you.
You might also consider cutting some expenses, like cable. More often than not, you are charged for channels you do not even know you have. Most channels now have an app that you can watch their shows on. Additionally, Netflix and Hulu are much lower monthly costs than cable, and Redbox is a very affordable choice for movies.
Saving money does not have to be hard, even for a working mom. It requires an initial time investment to learn where your money is going and how to redirect it. However, once you have a plan and change your habits, it will become a simple and rewarding task.