Tips for Single Parents to Get Organized and Save Time

Single parents are crunched on all sides. The best advice to save time, and a parent’s sanity, is to get organized. To accomplish this, single moms and dads need a large canvas tote bag and a day planner with a things to do list. Another fabulous idea is to laminate a checklist to peruse before walking out the front door.

Large Canvas Tote Bag or “Errand Tote”

Don’t make a pile on the floor or on the table. Instead, use a large canvas tote bag as a catch all for items which need to be taken out of the house. Keep the errand tote by the front door or garage door. The list is different for everyone, but here are some examples of things to put in the errand tote:

  • Outgoing mail
  • Purchases to be returned to stores
  • Boxes / bags to be returned by UPS or USPS to online stores
  • Google or Mapquest printout maps for running errands

Single Parents Need a Day Planner with Things To Do List

Without a good day planner, single parents can’t do the job of being both mother and father. Some people prefer an online day planner or something like a palm pilot. This type of system allows the schedule to be printed out whenever necessary.

Other single parents prefer to write things on paper. For many people, this helps to etch the message into their memory. However, it’s no good keeping scraps of paper and post-it notes on desks, next to phones, or stuffed into a purses or wallets. It’s just too scattered, and searching for scraps of paper becomes a cause of anxiety.

Check out a Filofax (which can be customized) or similar type of day planner. These books come with different layouts. Some show a day on two pages, a week on two pages, a day per page, and so on. Often, a day on two pages (day at a glance) is the right layout for a parent. The planner should have room for:

  • Things to do list
  • To call list
  • To do at work list
  • Child’s play dates
  • Errand list
  • Parent’s social life

Keep track of joint custody arrangements in the day planner to ease transitions. Good day planners may, also, have a month on two days or “month at a glance” layout. This makes it easy to plan for child-free dates, changes in schedules, etc.

Laminate a Checklist and Hang by the Front Door

A single parent should laminate a checklist of everyday items used by the parent and the children. Hang this by the front door. This checklist could include things such as:

  • Diaper bag
  • Formula
  • Cell phone for older child
  • Child’s homework / books for school
  • Cell phone for parent
  • Briefcase for work
  • Umbrella

A Special Checklist for Children in Joint Custody

Children who live in two homes may have one or two special items which they take back and forth. To save frantic phone calls in the night, have another laminated checklist for joint custody exchanges. List the necessary items such as:

  • Favorite teddy bear or blanket
  • Favorite video game
  • Homework assignments
  • Schedule of child’s upcoming activities for sports, school, friend’s birthdays, etc.
  • Favorite pajamas
  • Favorite doll
  • Special jacket
  • Cell phone programmed with parent’s number

All single parents need help with time management because they are doing the job of both mother and father. Try to keep chaos and stress to a minimum by using an “errand tote”, a great Filofax-style day planner with a things to do list, and a laminated checklist (or two) hanging by the front door.

It’s also helpful to get children involved in organizing their own things.

Single Parents and Cheap Summer Vacations

Single parents probably need luxury summer vacations more than anyone, however, work and finances usually nip that dream in the bud. Well, the ideas listed here are not quite Paris or Florence, but weekend trips, sweet cruise deals, family camping, and group activities (with single parent meet ups) will keep kids from moping around for weeks at a time. Many of these vacation ideas are well within budget and can be put together at the last minute.

Cheap Cruise with Kids

While it’s always possible to get great last-minute plane tickets online, it’s not reasonable to rely upon this method for specific plans. Instead, look for vacations and weekend trips that are within easy driving distance.

Single parents, who live near cruise ports, are in luck. One of the most expensive components of a cruise is airfare, and this can be avoided whenever it’s possible to take a cab (or have a friend drive the gang) to the pier. At this moment, there are Carnival Cruise specials, like:

  • $149 for 3 days (out of San Diego),
  • $159 for 4 days (out of Miami)
  • Alaska cruises around $450 (out of Seattle)

Sign up for newsletters at Carnival, other cruise lines, and vacation websites like Log on to these to ask questions. And, always budget for additional cruise expenses, like surcharges and tips. Check websites for ways to save money, such as, asking kids to drink ice water instead of pop and avoiding expensive excursions which can double the cruise price. Still, cruises are a great bargain because food is included in the prices, and with ever-changing scenery and a swimming pool or two, kids can become quite charming.

Summer Vacation in National Park

Camping is the best deal around. Read about the local state parks and America’s fabulous National Park System. National Parks are a real bargain, and parents have been subsidizing these campsites for years through their tax dollars. With this tight economy, single parents should demand a return on investment, by visiting their own great outdoors. Rent tents and sleeping bags from REI or another vendor.

Single Parent Meetups

It is possible that Meetup kind of website is the best resource for frazzled parents with cabin-fevered kids. Check out one of their single parent groups (which are located from coast-to-coast). Networking with other single moms and dads can bring a surprisingly abundant supply of child-friendly data, because single parents are, by definition, resourceful. Put a bunch of these adults in one room and soon a parent, who knows the ropes, comes up with a plan for something like:

  • A group campout
  • A road trip to some cheap motel with a pool.
  • A zoo, aquarium, or museum sleepover, usually called something like “Sleep with the Fishes” or “Snoozeum”

Anything close to home can be great if there are other kids in the mix. Make friends and get creative at such online platforms and websites.

Single Parents Church Camp

Search Google, Yahoo, or Bing with a string of phrases like: church camps “single parents” Vermont. Atheists may need to sing He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, but the price is right and the people are really nice because they get extra points for saving a soul. Outsiders should refrain from arguments about politics, religion, or sex; but holding hands around a campfire to pray before a tasty dessert of S’mores can bring enlightenment to anyone. No tent is required at most camps.

Farmstay Farm B&Bs

Agritourism is very big in Italy, Spain, and France, where the accommodations are called gites (jeets). Farmstays have been gaining in popularity across North America as inexpensive, educational, and tasty experiences on small, family run farms. Look for an American gite, farm stay, where the children are made into little slaves with chores like:

  • Feeding cows or horses
  • Collecting eggs
  • Harvesting fruit trees or grapevines
  • Petting goats

A farm vacation is an idea that even Walt Disney would have loved.

Stay with Friends for Vacation

Stay with friends or relatives. There are occasions where money and time are so tight that even grandma is a sight for sore eyes. Sometimes, just a small change in latitude and longitude can make single parents feel like they are in another world. But, whenever possible, look for lodgings where there are friendly second-cousins or neighbor kids with tree houses.

Single parents can make or break summer vacations. All they need to do is to see the world through their children’s eyes. And, for cheap, last-minute holidays, go with family camping, day trips, weekend trips, or group activities through churches and single parent meet ups.

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