Surviving Low Income Hell as A Divorced Single Mom

Submitted by Delaine

divorced mom no moneySo I’ve finally reached the point where I’m not totally embarrassed of the fact that I’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! 

Delaine –


Other Articles:

Sexual Adventure: Less Than A Bump & A Grind

Not Looking For Love

Why Say Mean Things?


  1. 2


    Number 8 was a hard one for me also. I had an extra frig in the garage stocked with juice boxes and popsicles. The kids loved playing at our house!

    They didn’t seem to mind at all when I had to start serving kool-aid instead of juice boxes. They rolled with the punches and I got down in the dumps.

    That is the one thing I remember about my boys in the lean years. They adjusted to the lack of money much better than I did.

    We feel a lot of guilt when we can’t give our children all we feel they deserve. I learned not to stress too much because in the end if a kid is loved they will be fine.

    And, things will turn around for you Delaine. Your work ethic and willingness to do whatever you need to do to provide will pay off.

  2. 3

    Delainem says

    Thanks Cathy.

    With school just around the corner, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d accomplished my goal from last spring: to ensure my kids had a wonderful summer, with me as an integral part of it (as always). I really worried it wouldn’t happen… but it did. (smiling)

    My life is still full of variables and unknowns. God knows more fear still lurks. But getting successfully through this summer was the perfect milestone, a landmark that said, “Hey, look over your shoulder Delaine!” And when I did, I couldn’t help but say, “Damn, good job girl!” Not because I did it entirely on my own but because I worked my butt off to spend quality time with my kids and recruit the help and resources I needed.

    With more hard work, a lot of love and maybe a bit of luck, things will turn around really soon.

  3. 4


    Great job Delaine! It is so tough to cut back on things we think our kids need. Key word, is not need, but WE. Kids are so resilient and often times miss a lot less than you feel guilty about not giving. I think divorced parents, at least in my case, tend to over compensate due to the guilt or worry about making sure our kids are happy an not affected by the split in the family. We can’t kiss it and make it all better, but most of the time, they are just fine. Enjoy the rest of the summer and the free at last, free at last, school year :).

  4. 5


    Thanks Barry. I’m just being careful not to say TOO much to the kids about our financial situation cause I’m fearful of instilling negative beliefs around money. How often did you hear, “Well money doesn’t grow on trees?” when you grew up. I don’t want them to feel limited or that they aren’t worthy of having more.

    I actually still have one child at home full-time still this school year, which is why it is all the more important for me to stay home. I’ve already decided that I’d prefer to spend this final year poor but WITH my kids, than gone all day and missing out on this precious time. I’m really looking forward to this quality one-on-one time with my daughter…they’ll all be gone all day in the blink of an eye. I won’t ever get this time back!

  5. 6

    maya says

    I did that too ~ we had a rice diet (no kidding) for three straight months once ~ with mince meat once a week. We learned about how the Chinese eat rice, the Thai people eat rice, Mexican rice, rice pudding for dinner ~ and the kids actually look back at that and smile. So do I.

    I also love turning things off. I saved $50 on my three-monthly bill by turning off unnecessary things every night. I have been busy teaching the little dumplings about saving the Earth and they do REALLY well in Science and other classes.

    Costco is great ~ especially if you recruit a friend to jump in with you. Clothes trading days with friends, bring-a-plate dinners with those friends, picnics in the parks, candlelight in the evenings (work remarkably well in the fall to take the chill out of the air when the heater usually comes on) and hot water bottles for bedtime. (I’m in winter in Australia… I’ve used my heater three times this year), I get the occasional groans but with blankets, candles and sweaters we are toasty and wiser… No more dryers, the sun whitens clothes better anyway and clothes smell so sweet from the sun!

    The bottom line is that it’s so do-able ~ and the kids don’t mind learning good family lessons. I’m sure you do it with real zest ~ keeping the smiles on faces. It’s not only do-able but you continue to keep the same habits when times get better. It’s a great lesson for our kids, living close to the edge financially teaches us so much more about the importance of family…

    love from maya d

  6. 7


    Geez Maya, I actually got choked up reading your comment. Truly – thanks. And I say this after spending a simple, low-budget weekend with my kids where they couldn’t have been happier. My kids have wonderful friends to play with and other fathers in the neighborhood step in to play football and baseball and golf with my boys. I know that great memories are still being made. For me too. I’ve found myself smiling this past weekend more than ever.

  7. 8


    I had to do this a few years ago, and all I can tell you is that you are doing the right thing and that you will eventually come out of it. It breaks my heart the way so many single Moms suffer. I feel for you. I hope things get better soon…

  8. 9

    delainem says

    Thanks Megan. Like you, I have an strong work ethic and spirit that won’t quit – I think that serves us in becoming authors! I’ve learned so much about myself these past six months and though it’s been tough, I know I will wear it well. This too shall pass…and hey – bring on the good karma!


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