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Money-Saving Lessons from a Single Mom

  • Cortni Marrazzo Contributor
  • 2009 10 Aug
Money-Saving Lessons from a Single Mom

My mom raised me and my siblings as a single mom on one salary without a lot of extra money. She did a great job with what she had and always tried to give us the best she could afford. But the most valuable financial gift she gave me didn’t actually cost her a cent. It was the gift of frugality. 

My mom is definitely someone who knows how to “squeeze water out of a penny,” as the saying goes.  And while I may not have appreciated (or even realized) it as a child, I absolutely realize the significance of that gift now that I’m an adult with a family and a budget of my own. 

Thanks to my mom’s influence, I love saving money. By making the money you already have go further, it’s like earning more money without having to pay taxes on it (since you’ve already paid taxes on what you’ve earned). For instance, if you earn $100, after taxes you’d most likely only get $75-$85 of that money, but if you save $100 on a purchase, you get all $100. 

Even during times in my life when income flows pretty steadily and I see abundance, I still have a notion deep within to save money on whatever I can. This prevents the abundance from being wasted, and puts it to good use by giving, saving, investing for the future, etc. To help you do the same, I want to share some of the frugal principles my mom passed down to me. 

Splurge and Save at the Same Time

As a child, I remember going on a vacation every year, usually to some place fun like Disneyland. Even thought she was only living off one income, my mom figured out a way to make it work.  Our trips usually entailed money-saving techniques like staying at less expensive hotels and packing our own food to eat.  I can’t tell you how many times we’d pass a restaurant while on vacation only to stop on the side of the road to eat our packed sandwiches. We even cooked Top Ramen in our hotel room with a small burner! 

Sometimes I resented it, but if you ask my husband today, he’ll tell you more often than not we pack our own lunches when we go places. Eating can be the most expensive part of a vacation, but it’s often not the thing that creates memories. 

In addition to packing our own food, my mom would always find the best deals.  I had to laugh when my husband and I recently took a vacation to New York City, and I had coupons and discounts lined up for pretty much everything we did.  People were amazed at the great deals we got on plane tickets as well as our hotel room (plus we stayed with friends for some of the trip). 

It may take some prep-work, but taking a nice vacation without breaking the bank is a very enjoyable experience, especially after you get home!

Be Practical

This may be one of my favorite lessons learned from my frugal mom. Sometimes I wish I could buy everything I want, but many of the things I want really aren’t practical.  I’ll never forget the time I saw a “New Kids on the Block” bed set during a phase when I was obsessed with that singing group.  I begged my mom to buy me that bed set, but she told me no because someday I wouldn’t like “New Kids on the Block” anymore, and then it would end up sitting in a closet.

I was appalled at her suggestion that I may not always love “New Kids on the Block” and promised her that day would never come. Well, here I am over 20 years later, and I can tell you I no longer like “New Kids on the Block!” My mom was right (I know she loves those words). 

The bed set purchase wasn’t really practical, and neither was my bright idea to buy a convertible for my first car.  My mom reminded me that we lived in Seattle, and I would likely only be able to put the top down a few times a year. She suggested I get a car with a sunroof instead.  I did just that and was able to open my sunroof many more times that I would have been able to put a convertible top down. 

So many people spend money on things that aren’t practical and aren’t really worth the money they cost.

Don’t Get Wrapped Up in Image

As a teenager, I desperately wanted brand name clothes so I could “fit in.”  Unfortunately brand name clothes came with a brand name price tag, which usually wasn’t in the budget. Going without designer brands made me realize that I could still have fun and have quality friendships without putting on a brand name image. 

Now as an adult, I am not concerned about “Keeping up with the Joneses.”  I’ve learned that life is more important than that, and furthermore, financial freedom is more important than trying to look a certain part. 

The Clearance Rack

For as long as I can remember, as soon as I walk into a clothing store, I skip past most of the merchandise in the front and head straight to the back of the store to hit up the clearance racks.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased a shirt for $3 or a pair of shoes for $5.  I go through clothes pretty quickly because I like to change up my wardrobe quite a bit, so I like that I can get multiple clearance shirts for the price of one regular price shirt.  In fact, I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve paid full price for an article of clothing, and yet I love my clothes and feel they are as stylish as any of the full price items.  I also shop at discount stores where the full prices are very reasonable. In those cases I won’t necessarily stick to the sale and clearance racks.


I must admit -- when I first got married and started grocery shopping for the two of us, I refused to use coupons because they were such a hassle. I figured we had two incomes, so I didn’t really need to coupon clip.  After a while, I realized how silly I was for throwing away money.  We had debt we needed to pay off and a savings account to build up so all the extra money could definitely help!  

I started subscribing to our local Sunday newspaper so I could get all the coupons (which I still do to this day). I also find coupons online for many products. And whenever I shop online, I always search for “coupon code” plus whatever website I’m buying from to try to find an online coupon. Most of the time this quick search saves me more money!  And recently I discovered that most restaurants in my area (including fast food restaurants) offer coupons and discounts via e-mail if you sign up for their e-mail lists.  Many will even offer you a substantial discount on your birthday.   


In addition to clipping coupons from our local Sunday paper, I also look through all the store ads and take note of the best prices for the things we need to buy. I also compare prices online.  My mom would hardly make a purchase without making sure she was getting the best price she could on it. 

Last year, I priced out new stainless steel appliances for our kitchen. I made a spreadsheet of the best prices I found on the items we wanted. When a sale came out one day that beat all of those prices, we were able to buy an entire kitchen of new stainless steel appliances for under $1500.

Don’t Spend Every Last Penny

"In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has." Proverbs 21:20

One lesson I’m glad I learned from my mom is to embrace this simple fact: just because I have money, doesn’t mean I need to spend it. When my husband and I go over our monthly budget, we realize that just because we have extra money after we pay our bills, doesn’t mean we should spend it on frivolous things.  We’ve found that most of our extra money is best used in a savings account, going towards our retirement fund, giving to our church, other ministries and people in need.  If we spent every penny we made on ourselves, our lives wouldn’t have much impact, and we wouldn’t get to be a blessing like God created us to be.  Not to mention that by putting more money into a savings account, we are more prepared for unexpected expenses that come up (which can’t be avoided). 

I would like to encourage the single parents out there, and even those who maybe aren’t single but are on a limited income, that you can instill success principles in your children without spending a ton of money on them.  When you’re children are grown, the things that will stay with them are their character and maturity, not any material object you bought them.  Be diligent to train your children in wisdom when it comes to managing their money, and when they have their own budget to handle someday, they will be thankful. 

"Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6  

August 10, 2009

Cortni Marrazzo currently resides in Spokane, Washington with her husband Jason. She and her husband successfully paid off over $11,000 worth of debt in their first year of marriage and she desires to help others reach their financial potential. Cortni has an Associate’s Degree in Biblical Discipleship from Dominion College and is currently pursuing her passion for writing and running her own home-based business, Essential Excellence. Contact her at or you can view some more of her financial articles and sign up for her money saving newsletter here.