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Frugal Ways to Live for Single Parents

By Kathryn Rateliff Barr ; Updated September 26, 2017
Single parenting can be financially difficult, but frugal tips can reduce your expenses.

A November 2012 article in “The Atlantic” reports that just under half of all single parent households in the United States live in poverty and the U.S. has the highest rate of children living in poverty in first world countries. With this startling statistic, single parents need economic strategies that help them live as frugally as possible. Employment of these strategies might help your family live more comfortably.

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Grocery Shopping

If you buy groceries from the perimeter of the grocery store and prepare your food at home you will save money. Grocery store perimeter food will also feed you and your child more nutritiously. Coupons and stores that match competitors’ prices reduce your food budget. Eating meals out is more expensive than preparing your own. Farmer’s markets often reduce prices near the end of the day, so you can buy what farmers don’t want to take home if you don't grow your own. If you have friends looking to save money on food, form a co-op and buy food in bulk. If your child attends school, purchase discounted school supplies at dollar stores or buy them in bulk with other parents.


Mass retailers or thrift stores sell clothing less expensively than department stores. You could also trade clothing with other families who have students in your child’s school. Outlet stores might offer new stuff at a discount, but it helps to know what full price is so you don’t pay more than you should. Some job programs offer free office clothing, grooming supplies and makeovers for job seekers in need.

Child Care

Some communities offer child care based on your income. If you can’t find or don’t qualify for discounted child care, consider swapping child care with another parent through a child care co-op or hiring a stay-at-home parent to watch your child while you are working. Family members or friends who work from home might provide child care if your child is ill so you don’t miss work.


Counting pennies doesn’t mean your family has to do without entertainment. Libraries have books, movies and kids’ programs that are free or low cost. The front desk staff can tell you about available discount coupons for local attractions such as the zoo, circus, movies and kids’ activities. Your child's school might provide gift certificates for free food, books and entertainment for kids who have perfect attendance or qualify for the honor roll.

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About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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