Here you go...
How you make the finances work as a single parent? Tips and tricks?
I ain't gonna lie, this has been a tough one for me. Making it all add up at the end of the day. I hate, hate that little lives are tied up AT all with money, but yet that's part of the reality of being a stay at home foster mamma. I do work part time outside of the home as a photographer. It is wonderful to have a creative outlet and a source of extra income on the months when I don't have any placements and money is tight, but it is hard for me to leave the kids to "work", because I see them as my job, my passion and my whole life. Budgeting tightly helps a lot, as well as accepting help when you need it. Basically being okay with life being simple and about the kids.
When you are just starting out in foster care its a good plan to have a little extra money set aside for the first few months of a placement. The "stipend" that you get will likely be paid 1-2 months behind, for example January's stipend is paid out on 15th of February. This is really hard if you are having to pay daycare costs out of pocket or if it is not reimbursed until the stipend date. I have definitely learned to budget over the last few years!
Toys and Entertainment Tips: I went way overboard on getting all of the "stuff", partly out of excitement and partly out of guilt because most of these kids come to you with nothing. I wanted them to have everything :) I quickly
Food Cost Tips: Foster children qualify for WIC, absolutely use it, especially for formula....that stuff is crazy expensive. They also get free lunch at school, use it (make sure you get the lunch calendar so you can pack on special days or if its something they don't like, you don't want them to feel left out if no one else is eating hot lunch that day!). Since the kids have to come with me when I shop I have found a meal plan is a MUST to help the impulse to overbuy! I try and do all the shopping once every two weeks, sometimes even once a month and buy in bulk on items I can store easily. I let the kids tell me a couple of dinners or snacks that they would want for the month and be sure to grab those. I read a bunch of large family blogs to get ideas on cooking larger meals and then freezing portions for later in the month. In the summer we sign up for a CSA so we get local veggies and fruit each week, its like Christmas in a box, and then we plan the meals around that.
Clothing: Another category I totally go overboard on :) I definitely check out thrift stores and used kids clothing stores (check with your agency if this is allowed). Most of the popular stores for kids clothes have frequent mark downs so keep checking if there is something you like, both in store and online. I tend to wait till the end of a season and buy a lot of clothing items when they are way marked down and save them for next year. If a kid goes home then I have a nice collection of things to pick from so I can send them home with a wardrobe that should least for several seasons or I can store them away for future placements. Let your friends and family know you are happy to take any hand me downs that they no longer want.