Live well on less as you juggle kids and career

These are trying financial times for countless working mothers in the US and their families. As of summer 2011, 8 million former US workers are searching for jobs; an astounding 6 million have given up. Corporations have matched earnings reports from 2006, but with 2.5 million fewer workers. Most workers who lost their jobs during this recession have been unemployed for over six months — a majority over 12 months — and are fearful they will never recover economically. And the companies that show the most dramatic increases in profitability also add the fewest workers.

Are you living on less income? Here are five ways to live decently on less income while managing a career and active young kids.

  • Buy in bulk. Every six months, we go to BJ’s and buy bulk items to last us for half a year. The purchase then might be several hundred dollars, but it is worth it over the long haul. We buy necessities like paper towels, toilet paper, dish and laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, deodorant, tissues. Calculate the discounts yourself — it’s often half the savings over the long term. We have a BJ’s membership — my parents swear by Costco’s.   
  • Buy items from discounted places. The Dollar Store or consignment stores are wise options for the thrifty. Do you shop at consignment stores? You can bring in hand-me-downs and exchange them for other needed clothes. Babies and kids outgrow clothes quickly, and this can be a major expense for moms. Consignment shops offer brand name items at a fraction of the original price. My mom has purchased clothes for the girls at a local store. They’ve been gently worn but I have been impressed with the quality.
  • Dine in! My husband Jason is a great cook and likes to take over on our meal preparation. Seriously, he should have been a chef. We rarely dine out in restaurants and have saved a tremendous amount of money over the years by his home cooking. Calculate the amount of money you spend on restaurant dining. If too high, you’ll want to spend more time cooking in your home.   
  • Avoid impulse buys like designer suits. Place high dollar items, also considered “wants,” on a “watch list” for 30 days before purchasing the items. Perhaps a new suit for work or new smartphone can be placed on the watch list. After 30 days, revisit the items; perhaps you have passed on the new item because you spotted a suitable replacement at a consignment store. Or you may realize that your current smartphone is perfectly fine, and you don’t need the latest and greatest gadget.
  • Consider public education. Private schools in your area may be costly. For many families, it is a priority for their children to attend private school. I attended private school growing up; there is a good chance my girls may end up starting kindergarten at a public school in Philadelphia. Have you considered your local public school? There are quality public schools children can be sent to for free; your tax money already goes there.

Erin Flynn Jay is a Philadelphia writer, public relations executive, mom of two toddler girls . This post was adopted from her blog, Mastering the Mommy Track, which is also the name of her new book.

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