As a single parent, it’s not always easy to make ends meet. So whether you’re newly single or a long-time single parent trying to get a hold of your finances, this article features helpful tips to help you get your finances under control.
First of all, there is no shame in financial struggles. Whether or not you need financial guidance is completely up to you. One-income households, especially, are likely to struggle with money from time to time. When money matters are totally your responsibility, an unexpected bill can throw you off course.
Whether you’re trying to build up a savings pot or make it to the next payday without running out of money, keep reading to find out how you can budget better. With the family’s financial responsibility resting on your shoulders, you’ll need to be financially clued up.
Finance for single parents
Make sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to
The first thing to do is to make sure you get every penny you’re entitled to. Next, check you’re receiving the correct child support payments and any state benefits you might be entitled to.
You might qualify for benefit payments as well as child support payments to increase your single-parent income, even if you work. These additional payments could help you each month, even if you only qualify for the minimum payments.
However, the amount of help available to single parents varies greatly between countries, so you’ll need to figure out what support is available where you live. Many single parents are missing out on financial help because they don’t know what they could be getting. Make sure you’re not one of them.
Budgeting tips for single moms
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #1: Plan your budget
Start by sitting down and working out exactly how much you’ll have to spend and what you’ll need to budget for. Some things will be easier than others; for example, your phone bill might be a fixed cost, but the amount you need for food might vary from month to month.
Having a wonderful life on a tight budget is still possible, but you might need to track your budget, plan ahead and carefully consider any purchases ahead of time.
Your monthly budget needs to be realistic. If you set an unrealistically small budget, you’re bound to overspend on your monthly expenses and feel like a failure. Be honest during the planning stage, so you’ll know what you need to live on. Make a realistic plan of what you will budget each month going forwards, but don’t forget to revisit your monthly budget regularly to ensure you’re sticking to it.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #2: Don’t forget to include the one-offs
You’ll need to buy a few things as ‘one-offs’; these won’t be included in your monthly budget. Purchases such as school uniforms, birthday presents and school travel expenses should all be accounted for in your annual budget.
Don’t forget to include things for yourself, too. Being a single mom doesn’t mean you have to miss out on nights out and having fun. Factor in the cost of a sitter and a night out with friends every so often.
Be sure to set money aside each month to cover these costs, so you don’t end up over budget when they arise. Open a savings account that allows you to save up for these one-off and occasional expenditures and lets you access the funds easily.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #3: Keep track of your spending
It’s easy to blow through your money without noticing, mainly due to online banks, contactless payments and the ability to buy things with just a few clicks. As a result, many of us spend more money than we want to throughout the month.
Establish good money management habits, by keeping track of all your payments, even if it’s small things like a coffee and cake or a bus ticket. This will help you to see where your money is going and help you to reach your financial goals. Check out a few of the top personal finance websites to learn more about managing finances.
Doing this throughout the month will allow you to adjust your budget as you move through the year. If you’re overspending on petrol to get to work, you know you need to increase your fuel budget and cut the money elsewhere. It’s not easy to adjust your single parent budgeting sheets constantly, but it will help you stay on top of your money.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #4: Make sure your spending reflects your priorities
Many of us fritter money away without considering what we’re spending our money on. As a result, it’s easy to get into bad habits that redirect our money from where we want it to go.
For example, if you’re desperate to travel with your kids but think you can’t afford it, it might be worth sitting down and analyzing your buying habits. You might find you can afford more than you think with some clever budgeting.
For example, keep a pack of supermarket ice lollies in the freezer for sunny days rather than buying overpriced ones on a whim. Invest in a reusable coffee cup and take coffees from home rather than buying them from coffee shops. Alone, these changes might only save you a few bucks a week but that can easily add up over a year. Why not set yourself a challenge to save money by making one minor change each month?
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #5: Pay off debt
If you have any debt, paying that off first and foremost is essential to your financial freedom. While that might seem an impossible task as a financial goal, chipping away at it slowly but surely will soon reduce the amount you owe.
If your credit card debt repayments, loans, store card payments and other debts are unmanageable, it might be worth getting help. High-interest rates can cost you a lot of money if you’re not careful.
You might be allowed to consolidate your debts or create a debt management plan, to ensure the debt repayments do not swallow up all of your income. Although being in debt can make you feel helpless, some wiggle room is usually available to help you clear the debt.
As a single mom, you might feel paying off debt is impossible but the sooner you start paying it back, the sooner you will be debt-free. Start this month, even if you can only afford to start small, and take your first steps towards being debt-free.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #6: Be savvy with your money
You need to buy certain things but you can still be savvy in how you go about it. Take grocery shopping, for example. Are you seeking out bargains that could reduce your weekly food bill? Consider your money habits critically.
Do you pay over the odds for convenience and, if so, could you break this habit? For example, you can save money by meal planning for the week and choosing dishes that share ingredients.
Shop for the best deals regarding your phone contract, your energy supplier and when buying things you need.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #7: Educate yourself about money
You studied maths, science and grammar in school, but it’s unlikely anybody ever sat you down and taught you about finance. Unfortunately, this means many of us grew up not understanding how to look after our finances. Without this crucial life skill, it’s easy to fall into debt. Luckily for you, it’s never too late to learn.
There are lots of different schools of thought when it comes to money management. There are many books, audiobooks, podcasts, and even online courses you can do to educate yourself about money matters.
The Barefoot Investor books could be a good way to start. You can buy the book and learn more about money matters here.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #8: Increase your income
Financial security isn’t all about limiting your spending; you can also aim to increase your income. Don’t be afraid to ask for a pay rise; often, women delay asking because they find discussing money awkward.
Some single parents set up a side hustle to earn a little extra money each month. Find ways to monetize your skills. For example, if you are an organizational queen, you could set yourself up as a Virtual Assistant and help other people manage their businesses. If you’re arty, you could make things to sell online. Think outside the box for ways you could diversify your revenue stream.
Single Parents Budgeting Tip #9: Save for the future
Once your debts are paid, it’s time to start saving for the future. You might think you don’t have enough disposable income to save money, but even a small amount each month can add up. Saving money each month will help you to feel more in control of your finances.
Once you pay off a debt, why not pay that monthly amount into savings accounts going forward? That money could act as an emergency fund to cover unexpected bills, or you could put it towards fun days out for you and your children. An emergency fund gives you a little breathing space when it comes to your financial security.