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Monday, December 3, 2012

American Girl Doll Alternatives for the Cash Strapped this Christmas

A few years ago my family and I traveled to Chicago and we took my grand daughter to the American Girl store while we were there. The dolls were gorgeous and at the time cost $95. They are now $105. This year at the age of 5 she pointed to one in the American Girl catalog that we get in the mail and told me she would like to have it for Christmas. I just about peed my pants!

She's only 5 and doesn't understand that the doll is expensive. So I took a deep breath and started my research as any Broke Single Mom worth her salt would do. :)

I came across a few articles and posts listing less expensive American Girl alternatives. Some are out of date and others, while still available are at higher price points now since most of these articles were written for christmases past. I decided to write my own to give parents and grand parents a look at what other options are available to them if $105 for a doll is simply out of reach.

Before I go on, I want to state clearly that this post IS NOT about the quality of the different dolls. There were some not so nice comments left on some of the articles I read which basically boiled down to people who are American Girl devotees trying to make parents that just can not afford those dolls, feel as if they should be ashamed for looking at more pocket friendly choices. Though AG dolls may in fact be made of a higher quality, that doesn't mean that if a family is barely getting the light bill paid and food on the table that $105 plus tax will suddenly appear to buy said doll.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rich Single Mother? Biz-spiration (business + inspiration:) for Single Moms Everywhere

Photo Credit: My Growth Plan

A few years ago I wrote a post on my Business Blog about a novel that told the magnificent story of Madam C.J. Walker aka Sarah Breedlove and her inspiring story of being born to slaves, becoming a widowed single mother and washer woman to America's First Female Millionaire. It is based on her real life rise from the ashes of poverty during the 1900's.

Her story is so amazing, a woman orphaned before age 10 and married as a young teen, she struggled a lot more than not. She was a single mother who was widowed by 20. Her tale has always inspired me so much because she didn't make her mark and go from washing other people’s clothes to business woman until she was in her late 30's.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Estimate Your 2012 Tax Refund in less than 5 Minutes...Broke Single Mom Alert!

Photo Credit The Vintage War Bride

Wouldn't it be nice to know how much your Federal income tax refund check might be, right now, or at least very, very soon? If you're anything like me, you count on your income tax refund every year to help pay off some bills, fix your car, upgrade the house or take a vacation. Or maybe you just like seeing your savings account multiply.

If you knew beforehand you could even create a budget and allocate the funds to be spent wisely as opposed to having no real plan and giving into the shopping bug when the money comes in? Hey I've been there, When you have that money and no set plan, pretty shoes and dresses and taking the kids away for a spur of the moment trip, seem like
great ideas.

For the past few years I have been using three different websites to calculate my income tax refunds. And they have given me a very close estimate, I'd say within a few hundred dollars, of what my Federal return actually ends up being. I have used it for family members as well and it has basically been the same across the board. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vacation on Lay-a-way

Photo Credit
I ran across an article on Yahoo Finance about Sears offering vacations, from cruises to Hawaii that can be paid on lay-a-way! Lay-a-way was a huge part of my childhood and young adult hood in New York City. It was how my mom got us Christmas gifts. She would go and pick out a few toys for each of us in October with a small down payment then pay it off little by little and bring them home right before Christmas, well most years.

On the years she was unable to get the gifts out prior to Christmas we would get them for Three Kings day, is that just a Puerto Rican thing?

Anywho, when I had my first child I was young and living paycheck to paycheck and her father had passed away so I had to do it all alone. In September I would "make a lay-a-way" as we said back in the day, lol. I would pick out winter clothes, socks and a coat and pay it off every payday until I could bring it home. Same thing I did in the Spring for the summer. It helped me and a lot of other people clothe their children during time when Plato's Closet didn't exist and the only offerings to be had at the Salvation Army and Good Will were polyester suits from the 70's. Oh, the horror!

When stores started to eliminate lay-a-way in favor of store credit cards I was pissed.

Instead of paying it off slowly and owning it once you were done, now if you qualified and got a store card you were at their mercy in terms of the max amount you could spend. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous interest you had to pay.

Yes, you got to take the stuff home before you paid for it. But as we all know that was the beginning of a lot of peoples shopping addiction and snowballing credit card debt.

Enough ranting, here is part of the article and a link to the full story on Yahoo.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vacation Meal Budget and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Retroama

When you are on vacation, eating out can be a large chunk of your budget. If you figure 4 people eating out 3 meals a day for 5-7 days, you can easily spend upwards of $400.

But when you are on a shoestring budget of $500 for your entire trip you may feel as if there is no way to make this work.

Don't fret, it just takes a little research and planning.

What I like to do is deduct all of my fixed expenses from my budget. Those include, transportation, hotel and baggage fees. Then I take the remainder and guesstimate how much I will need for things like souvenirs and outings.

After all of these deductions I can see how much I have to work with for food. Don't panic if your numbers is low. You can do your best to work with it and if it's just not possible you can adjust another area to put more money into the food budget.

Let's use my friend's upcoming 5 night/6 day trip to Williamsburg.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day and the Broke Single Mom

-Just saw that this was never published and was simply in draft mode :) I decided it's my blog so I did try to back date it but wanted to publish whether the back dating takes or not :)-

With Mother's Day upon us I wanted to write a post about inexpensive things to get and give for Mother's Day.

When you are a single mom on a tight budget it can stress you out thinking of your own mother's gift as well as sisters, cousins or best friends.

On the other side of that coin, you may not be able to give each of your kids $20 to go get you a gift. Or is my mom the only one that did that? Nah, she can't possibly be. I mean I did when I was flush with Cash.

Anywho, Mother's Day isn't, or shouldn't be about material gifts. It is about loving and honoring the mothers in our lives that mean so much to us.

If your kids want to gift you something besides what they've made in school you can give them a low cost suggestion list. This way they get to pick and choose and it will be a surprise since you won't know which to expect.

You can find plenty of things online but here are a few:

Coupons, This Coupon entitles you to a: Clean kitchen, foot rub, clean car etc.

Breakfast in bed: Self explanatory

Photo Puzzle: They'll need a large photo, glue and scissors

Movie Night: They can pull out your favorite movie, make some popcorn and curl up on the couch with you. ( I think this is my favorite sicne my teenagers haven;t watched a movie on thecouch with me for a couple of years)

As for gifts that you can give to the other moms in your life without breaking the bank or whipping out that credit card, how about?

 Baked Goods

The tried and true will work here, a plate of chocolate chip cookies or a cake. But you can try something a little different like a Cupcake Bouquet.

So be creative and Happy Momma's Day.

Mother's Day/Free Gift and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Babble

As my Mother's Day present to you, I will gift one of my eBooks (your choice) if you email me at brokesinglemombooks (@) through midnight tomorrow May 13th,2012. Just put Mother's Day in the subject line.

Hello every one! I just wanted to wish you all a fabulous and wondrous Mother's Day tomorrow.

May your children shower you with love and attention and may your man do the same, with diamonds!

And if you don't have a man, then I wish for you to meet Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome :)

(But it is 2012 so make sure to vet him online before that first date)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cheating Boyfriend and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit John Glenn Taylor

I wrote a 3,000 word article (or booklet) on the top 10 signs your boyfriend is cheating on you.  In it I give my story and the story of 2 close friends, I did this to illustrate what ignoring the signs can lead to.

Available at Barnes and Noble or Amazon

Monday, May 7, 2012

Learning a New Language and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Amore Blog

I have a confession to make. I have always wanted to learn how to speak Italian and French. I already speak Spanish, or Spanglish as my mom says, but I always believed that learning these languages would enhance my life somehow, hmmm.

I wanted to learn online and be able to work on it at my own pace because local classes meant having to keep to a schedule set by someone else, and money wise? I found out quickly that learning a new language can get pricey.

Since all of my "extra" cash goes to traveling as much as I possibly can, I knew I wasn't about to drop $179 and up to learn Italian. So I went on the hunt, you know the one, the "there has to be a cheaper way" bargain hunt!

And ta-da, there is, here are two for your consideration.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Making Extra Money and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Crdit Ginger Louise Clothing

I was thinking about how these days almost everyone I know could use some extra cash, especially single mothers. The trick is finding how to make some of that much needed extra income without having to take on a second job and being away from your kids any more than you have to.

There is a great article on Woman's Day and I think #2 and #7 are a good fit (if applicable) for a single Mother.

#2 Features a woman named Stefanie Stobel who uses and makes an extra $300 a month. And her gig is super simple. She writes names and messages in the sand (she lives in california) and sends a photograph. The customer pays $5 of which she receives $4. If you have an idea for something similarly simple you can list your "gig" within a few minutes.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Road Trips and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Ingles

Used to be back in the olden days (like in the 50's and 60's) that when people said they were going on vacation it almost always meant a road trip. However, lower airline fares and more transportation choices like trains and buses changed all that.

But when the economy tanked in 2008 staycations and road trips became the "it" thing once again.

Most people think of cramped quarters, long drives and cranky kids when they hear the words Road Trip. But with all of the new technology available these days and so many cool places to visit you should be open minded and give the old fashioned road trip a chance :)

When I think of a road trip I think of getting a chance to visit a great new place or revisit an awesome attraction that my kids and I already love. I also think of the fact that it means a super low cost getaway.

On our family road trips we pick a destination within a 10 hour drive (usually less), pack a nice lunch, grab our pillows, a few movies and the laptop. I make sure to have my favorite music and away we go.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Just a Reminder...My Budget Travel Tips book is Free today :)

Photo Credit Retro Modern Housewife

Hey guys, My eBook is completely free today, just click on the cover below. Have a great one!


Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Free Gas and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit EnjoyArt

I happened upon a cool site for single moms' run by Lindsay called Grants for Single Moms. One of her posts touted free gas for your car and the premise is simple, certain companies will pay for your gasoline if you attach their advertising to your car.

One is Free Gas USA and there are of course applications and restrictions but it seems like a good idea especially these days with gas at over $4 a gallon in most places.

But even if you don't qualify or get accepted to any of the programs she has listed on her site, this is something you can do locally. Small businesses have limited funds for promotion and advertising. If you are a people person and aren't shy then you can type up a one sheet offer to hand out to local business.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Ladies Night and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Zazzle

When I was in my 20's and living in New York, then New Jersey, Ladies Night meant getting my hair done, buying a fabulous new pair of shoes at my favorite Nine West store near my job or a new top and hanging out with my girls at the club dancing away til the wee hours of the morning. This could and did set me back an easy $150 and up per outing, but I made a lot more money back then and it was never really an issue.

Now it is, but that doesn't stop us, and it shouldn't stop you either. Since I like to travel I always try to keep my ladies night or movie outings at the lowest cost without affecting the desired final outcome.

So what can you do if you crave a break and want to have a ladies night but don't have a lot of extra money to do so? Be creative and remember that Ladies Night out can be easily done without hitting a club or bar.

While some women use ladies night to meet men, my friends and I use it to decompress and relax. So if that is what you are looking forward to, then read on.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Free Budget Travel e-Book and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Tiny Apartment Blog

Hey guys!

Just a heads up that my book "Budget Travel Tips: Six Mistakes to Avoid When Traveling With Friends and Family" will be free on April 27th from Midnight through Midnight running all of that Friday April 27th on


So feel free to grab a copy!

 Happy Saturday :)

Budgeting Dave Ramsey Style and the Broke Single Mom

Photo Credit Modern Retro Woman

Growing up we were poor. Like sometimes we came home from school and the lights would be shut off poor, white rice and a fried egg for dinner a few nights a week poor and buying our new school year sneakers in bins at the local discount store type of poor.

There was no "budget" unless you consider robbing Peter to pay Paul a sound family money management plan, which I don't. My mom did the best she could after divorcing my abusive father. But even after she remarried we survived paycheck to paycheck.

Now, I am also poor (It's a sad cycle that I am trying to break) and find myself struggling. I do balance my checkbook though and I have also found other ways to supplement my income over the years. So in that respect I am a step ahead.

And then a few years ago I discovered Dave Ramsey and he has been a God send. I will be honest and say that I have yet to implement his full approach to money management, but I will, baby steps ladies geesh. :)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gift Giving and The Broke Single Mom

When my three kids were younger they were invited to a lot of birthday parties. Between friends from school, church, baseball and cheerleading we were at a party almost every weekend.

But it got expensive and quick. Then one day a friend of mine called from Toys R Us and asked if I wanted a toy that was on clearance for my sons. It was a red pliable "monster" that looked similar to Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba.

I asked how much and was shocked when she said $2.50 with an original price of $24.99. I immediately said yes and asked her to get me 5 of them. I should have bought 10.

That weekend I wrapped one up and we took it along as a gift for a boy in my sons class, and he loved it. That night I remembered watching a segment on an old show (can't recall the name right now) where they talked about having a gift closet. They suggested stocking your Gift Closet with solid color gift wrapping paper and blank greeting cards as well as small items that are easy to wrap and gift at the last minute.

I lived in a 3 bedroom apartment at the time with limited closet space. So I created a Gift Box. Every time I found wrapping paper on sale (especially right after Christmas and Easter) I would stock up on any and all solid color rolls for as little as .25¢, I bought tape, colored gel pens and found beautiful and great quality Christmas cards that were blank inside and racked up at $1 a pack. I got lucky because the cards didn't have any of the usual Christmas pictures on the front. They were more neutral, little lambs or a snow filled street, that type of front.

And every time I came across a great deal I bought as much as I could afford. Barbies for $3 yep , gimme 10. Tonka trucks for $4.99, lemme grab 3. Even outerwear like hat and glove sets and fun stuff like flippers and floaties. It all went into my box and under my bed and on the side of my dresser :)
It saved me money and more importantly stress. No more taking an hour or two every week trying to find a gift in my budget, no more arguing about the choices of gifts my kids were making either.
The kids now knew that they could simply pick a gift we already had, grab a card and I would wrap it all up.

What you need:

A closet
A large Box
A shelf
Dollar store contact paper
A Keen eye for bargains

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Amtrak and the Broke Single Mom

If you've ever wanted a good alternative when looking to plan a budget vacation, look no further than Amtrak.

photo credit Gene Gable

I will be the first to tell you that I usually say driving is the cheapest way to get where you're going. But sometimes it just isn't possible. Maybe you live in a city and don't own a car. Or maybe you don't have a license. Perhaps you'd rather not drive a long distance. Whatever the reason just know that flying is not the only way to arrive, especially when you are on a super tight budget.

And while yes there are buses, Greyhound and Megabus are what we use when my sons dance crew goes to NYC for dance battles, for longer rides you might not want to go that route, especially with small children.

When I used Amtrak for our Spring Break trip to Chicago, I got our tickets for less than the price of one airline ticket and surprisingly the price was about the same as the bus.

Perks of traveling on Amtrak:

  • Better prices than air fare (depending on the route)
  • More comfortable than the bus
  • Kids 15 and younger pay half price
  • Three 50 lb bags allowed to be checked in free per ticket holder
  • Two 50 lb bags allowed as carry on free per ticket holder
  • You get to experience train travel (like in the olden days)
  • The kids will love the dining carts
  • The seating is big, roomy, and comfy and comes equipped with outlets to keep your phones and laptops charged

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Plato's Closet and the Broke Single Mom

Three years ago I wrote an article for what is now called Yahoo Voices. It was a review about Plato's Closet.

I wanted to share the wonder that is Plato's with you. They sell "previously loved" name brand and designer clothing, footwear and accessories at anywhere from 20% up to 90% off the retail value.

When my oldest son started going through his Ralph Lauren Polo phase (is it a phase if its been 2 years?) I got super duper lucky at Plato's. At the time golf style RL Polo shirts were retailing at about $65 yet I was able to find 5 shirts in his size. A couple were on the half off rack and the rest were "full price" I ended up paying about $40 for all 5 shirts.

He was happy, my wallet wasn't empty and the bonus was that they stamped my Plato's card 4 times. Once for every $10 I spent. And once that card is full you take it in (at least in my towns Plato's) and receive 20% off you entire order. And guess what? They start you off with a new card on that order. It's a wonderful cycle ladies :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Free Cell Phone and Free Minutes: Assurance Wireless and the Broke Single Mom


My ebook: How to Get a Free Cell Phone & Free Minutes is available on Amazon  and Barnes and Noble. This post highlights three of the providers listed in my e-book.

In this day and age having a cell phone is more of a necessity than a luxury. But that doesn't make it any easier to add yet another bill.

You might need a cell phone for job or apartment searches, because you don't have a home phone (they are expensive) or perhaps to leave with your teen if he or she picks up their siblings from school or child care in case of emergencies.

Well, there's hope, here are a few companies that offer a completely free cell phone including free monthly minutes if you qualify under the Governments Lifeline program and they limit your participation to open Lifeline service/cell phone per household.

Every State has different guidelines for qualifying, but in most states if you receive any type of assistance or live at or near the poverty level you will qualify.