Surviving Low Income Hell as A Divorced Single Mom of Three

Posted by Delaine - August 13, 2009 - Career & Money, Financial Help for Parents - 9 Comments

divorced mom no moneyI’ve been living in Low-Income Hell since March; that’s when my ex-husband lost his job and my child AND spousal support went up in smoke – overnight.

It’s been hard.  REALLY hard.  I’ve laid awake many a night stressing over how me and the kids would get by this summer.  From the get-go, it made no sense to me to return to work full-time after eight years of being a stay-at-home mom; any income generated would barely pay for my (devastated) kids to be in full-time day care.  Instead I’ve buckled down, gotten creative, asked for help and stretched my meagre Emergency Fund money a really long way.  And you know what I just realized?  School is just around the corner – and I DID it:  I made sure my kids had a darn good summer despite everything  AND I was there for them every step of the way (patting Self on back). 

I have been humbled tremendously by this experience.  And believe me, I’m still not out of the financial dump yet.  But this experience has made me see how I’ve taken so much for granted.  I’ve discovered joys and blessings and a whole new sense of gratitude for what I DO have.  And in the big picture, I can see how, on a global level, this recession is creating a positive lifestyle change that is much-needed for our environment.

Truly, these past five months have been about SURVIVAL.  I’ve had to extend myself in many new ways while wrestling with my mountain of fears.  Thus, I wanted to share some of ways I’ve skinned back on my expenses and minimized my kids’ suffering  in case any of you are braving Low-Income Hell, like me:

1)      I applied for subsidized programs and activities for the kids.  Please see this article where I outline how to find them in your community so your kids can still do sports.

2)      Use or to make postings on items you need, but can’t afford.  It could be anything from a lawn mower to kids’ sporting equipment.

3)      Sell anything you don’t need on E-bay – jewellery, books, children’s toys, electronics, even maternity bras.  Check them out, you’ll be surprised.

4)      Change grocery stores.  My grocery shopping is now a two-hour venture instead of one, but the savings I receive at Superstore verses Safeway or Coop are immense.

5)      I cancelled ALL ‘extras’ – no more babysitters, no vitamins, no filtered water by the gallon, no taking the kids to the movies or out for dinner, etc.

6)      I asked some still-employed friends for hand-me-down clothes for the kids; they’d have gone to Good Will anyways, which is what I always did back in ‘The Day.’

7)      I gave up all my extras – no more gym membership (walks in the park work just as well), no new clothes, no dinners out (except for tea).  As for my vanity, I gave up hair cuts and replaced full highlights with but six foils across the top.  Talk to your hairdresser – she’ll advise you on ways you can save.

8)      I stopped feeding every kid in the neighbourhood when they played at my house.  This was a big one for me – I’ve always loved how the kids congregate at my house; feeding them was my pleasure.  Sometimes I still whip out the apron and bake something simple cause it’s still cost effective.

9)      Unplugging everything electronic is now simply a natural part of my night time routine.

10)   I changed and reduced my phone plans.

11)   I read blogs like Suddenly Frugal to learn about other great ways to save.

One other important thing:  I’ve explained, and continue to explain, my financial situation to my young kids, aged 8,7,and 5.   I didn’t go into great detail because I didn’t want to frighten them.  But I needed them to understand that changes were underway and that they’d be required to help out.  On their initiative, they then went out and started doing REALLY small jobs for neighbours (ie: collecting their mail) to try and earn money.   Their efforts only lasted a day – but bless their tender young hearts, they tried to give it to me (though of course, I didn’t accept!)

Blessings and abundance to you all.  Let’s hope this ebb ends soon and the flow comes on strong!

(written second year post-divorce)