Being a single mom is tough. You have to do everything – the cooking, cleaning, routine, discipline, school run, budgeting… and it can all be incredibly overwhelming.
If you are a newly single mom, it can be a bit too much, especially if your ex was always the one who was in charge of the finances, and you don’t have a clue where to start.
But there’s no need to worry – you can afford to pay to keep a roof over your kids heads, and still have enough left over to have fun and work towards your goals. This article will show you how to survive financially as a single mom.
This article will show you How to Survive Financially as a Single Mom
Table of Contents
Single Mom Budget Plan
Budgeting is important for anyone to do, but it’s even more important if you are a single parent.
A budget doesn’t have to be restrictive, but it will help to make sure that your bills can all be paid, you can buy things that you want, and still manage to save some money. As Dave Ramsey says, “A budget is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went”.
Write down all of the income that you have coming in (after tax), any benefits, alimony etc.
Next, you will need to write down all of your expenses. This is where it can get a little bit difficult, as a lot of people aren’t actually sure how much they are paying out each month.
One of the best ways to do this accurately, is to take a look back at your bank statements and online banking.
There are fixed expenses that are the same every month, such as your mortgage or rent, insurance etc. This should be easy to find under the direct debit section of your online banking, or on your bank statements on the same date each month.
The variable expenses are a little bit trickier – because unless you are tracking them, you probably aren’t sure exactly how much you are spending. You can guess, but this can be wildly wrong.
The best way to get an accurate picture of your variable expenses, is to go back through your bank statement and receipts, and add it all up.
Once you’ve got your income and expenses all written down, you can do the simple sum of income – expenses = $?
The trick here, is to get your income as high as possible, and your expenses as low as possible.
Check you have what you are entitled to
You need to make sure, for you and your kids, that you have all of the help that you are entitled to.
No-one is getting a medal for struggling through, when the help is available. When you are in a better financial place, you can pay back any of the help that you were given in whatever form you choose, but the fact of the matter is, the help is there for you to take.
There are a bunch of grants that are available for single moms for example, such as:
- College grants
- Financial Aid
- Housing grants
- Government grants
Make sure that you apply for, and check which grants you are entitled to, and make good use of them if you need them.
How to live off a single income
When you’ve previously had two incomes coming in to the household, it’s only natural to feel a bit apprehensive about being able to afford everything on one income.
The key here is to make sure that your budget is on point, so that everything can be covered easily off your one income, and make sure that your expenses are as low as possible.
That doesn’t mean living off rice and beans (although there’s nothing wrong with that) – but having a higher income than you thought possible, and only paying for things that you truly need or desire.
Pay off Debt
Paying off your debt is the best way to free up money in your budget, and stop paying interest to the credit companies.
It’s not as horrible as it sounds – check out our huge post on how to get out of debt fast.
We paid off a lot of debt, and share all of our tips on how we did this. We paid off:
- $320,000 in mortgage debt
- $40,000 in car loans
- $20,000 in hydro loans
It’s important to know that you are not alone with this, and that the average American has $38,000 worth of personal debt (not including mortgages).
Although many people may choose to not openly talk about their debt, the fact of the matter is – a lot of people have it.
It will do you good to discuss the fact that you are on a debt payment journey, as it will help your friends and family to understand the changes that you will be making, and hopefully gain their support.
The one thing that is sure to derail even the best budget? An unexpected expense.
As much as we hope that they won’t happen, you can pretty much guarantee that they will, but that doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing.
If we plan for those unexpected expenses, and have the money to the side ready to use guilt-free, we won’t need to go into debt to cover it, and the stress that it prevents is priceless.
Some ideas for things that you can plan for include:
- Car repairs
- Medical bill
- Dental emergency
- Gifts (especially if you have kids, who will be invited to lots of parties!)
- Clothes for a new job
- Broken electronics/household items
- Trip to visit a sick relative
- Vet bills
As you can see, these things we can’t plan for in advance – but they are quite common, so it’s worth putting some money to the side for them.
There are emergency funds, then there are sinking funds. Call them what you like, split them up how you wish, but as long as you are putting money to the side, you will thank yourself in the future.
There are however, some things that you are able to plan for and save up for in advance, because they will always happen. Some examples of these could be:
- Back to school items (e.g. uniform, bags, stationary etc)
Financial tips for single mothers
There are a lot of financial tips out there, and you may worry that they don’t apply to you as you are doing this on your own, but they are just as applicable for you.
Check Your Credit Score
It’s worth checking your credit score regularly, because although you may think everything is ok on there, you could have someone fraudulently taking out debt against your name, or mistakes made by lenders.
You may not pay your credit score much attention, but the people who you want to lend to you certainly will.
The people that will be most concerned about your credit score are those who are going to give you a mortgage, rent their property to you, or even give you a job.
Check your credit score for FREE with Credit Sesame Here
Understand Your Taxes
When you are single, filing taxes is different to how you file them when you are part of a married couple.
We won’t go into it in depth on this article, but some of the things that you need to bear in mind/do your research on are:
- How many dependents you have
- Tax credits
- Head of household status
- Adoption fees
How Can I Be a Better Single Mom?
Please know that you are doing the best that you can. Mom guilt is a real thing, and I don’t know if any parents ever feel like they are doing 100% perfectly, and that’s ok.
Your kids will remember the love that you give them and how you can make them feel better over anyone else. It may be a tough gig, this single parenting, but you get twice as much of the love.
Just the fact that you are reading this article shows that you are a great Mom. You want to know how to help your family be the best it can be, and you can do nothing more than that.
You are enough.
You are doing more than enough for your kids, and they love you.
The best thing that you can do for your kids? Lead by example. Your kids will watch what you are doing (even if you think that they aren’t), and they will copy it.
Show them how to save, the benefits of delayed gratification, and that you have to work for what you want. This will serve them well throughout their whole life.
Get a Support System
This is essential, and you will not regret getting this in place. Parenting in general is hard, but doing it on your own, with no-one to take over from you when it’s getting too much? It’s tough.
There is a saying “It takes a village to raise a child” – and this is so true.
There are times when we all need a hand, whether that be to pick the kids up from school when we are stuck in traffic after work, take the kids out for the day so you can do life admin, have the kids round for dinner so that you can have a nap, and so on.
This can be especially tough if you have children under school age, as there isn’t ever much respite, which is why a support system can be a god-send.
It goes both ways as well – you can help out other moms who are in a similar situation, and this will feel great to do.
This is also important for those more important times – such as job interviews, house viewings, and all of those things that are easier without your kids tagging along.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break – you’re only human, and it doesn’t make you any less of a mom. In fact, time away from each other is healthy, and re-energises you ready to go again.
Get Rules In Place
This will help you out financially, as well as emotionally. It’s very easy to let a lot of stuff go when you are doing everything on your own.
The rules that you set in place are up to you, but it is definitely worth getting certain rules set up for:
- Meal times
- Morning routines (before school)
- Bad behaviour
- Helping out around the house
I’m not suggesting that you become unbearably strict all of a sudden – but more to let your children know what is expected of them, and that they will need to help out – that you’re all a team.
Not only that, but if your kids are organised and happy, and helping out around the house, they will have a much less stressed out mom. It’s a win-win situation!
How Can a Single Mom Save Money?
There are loads of ways that a single mom can save money, but still have fun and get the kids things that they need.
It’s all about being on top of your money, and having enough income coming in to allow you to do so.
If you are worried about this, that’s perfectly natural and understandable, but you need to tell yourself that you are capable of earning more money than you thought you could, and you deserve it.
9-5 job not bringing in enough? Time to ask for a raise, get a better job, get a job on the side. There are lots of different options, and whilst they may take up some more time, it will be worth it in the long run.
Having an emergency fund is a great way to make sure that your mind is at ease, and make sure that you are covered for any unexpected expenses, as we’ve spoken about earlier in this article.
Emergencies are going to happen, and when they do, the last thing you want on your mind is how you are going to pay for it – the peace of mind you will have from your emergency fund will show you why it is all worth it.
Keep your emergency fund in a separate savings account, so that you aren’t tempted to dip in to it.
Do you have an Emergency Binder? Here’s how to make your own emergency binder
How to be a successful single mother
Know that you are doing your very best, and your children will love you no matter how much money is spent on them.
Remember the positives
You probably didn’t intentionally set out to be a single parent – and it may have happened through no fault of your own, so don’t feel bad about it.
The best thing for your children is to be in a safe, loving environment where they are free to be themselves, and grow into the best people that they can be.
Things may not be perfect at first, but you will adjust. There’s plenty of time to start routines, put your rules in place, get everything up together and organised, and it will all become a lot less stressful, I promise.
You may be a single mom, but you get twice as much of the love. You get to set up your own rules, you don’t have to answer to anyone else about your parenting or life when you are in your own home, and it’s all about you and your little ones.
You can take time to focus on yourself, what makes you happy? Make sure that when the kids are in bed you take the time to indulge in a little bit of self-care, whether that be putting your feet up, sticking a face mask on and your favourite film, or taking the time to set up an emergency fund and write out a budget.
Make Money On The Side
Everyone should try and do this, but it’s a brilliant idea if you are a single mom – because you don’t want to rely on one income, in case something happens to that income.
The best thing to try and do, is to use one income (probably your main income) for all of your household bills.
Then use the money that you make from other sources for things such as paying off debt, trips with the kids, holidays – anything that you need or truly want, without having to cut into the budget.
Some ideas for making money on the side could be:
- Answering online surveys. Our favorites include Survey Junkie, Opinion Outpost, Pinecone, and Swagbucks.
- Deliver food (maybe when the kids are at school or with their Dad?). Good companies to work for include UberEats and InstaCart.
- Rent out your stuff with Fat Lama. If you have things hanging around in the shed that you don’t use that someone else could, consider renting it out for a fee.
- Babysit. Ask around your friends and let people know that you are available for babysitting. This is an easy side hustle, that you may even be able to do in your own home.
- Dog walking. Another easy side hustle, that’s also a really fun way of making extra money. Sign up to a site like Rover to find jobs.
- Freelance writer. There are plenty of blogs out there, such as this one, and many employ several freelance writers to help them with managing the load (the amount of work that goes into running a blog is no joke). There are sites that you can sign up to such as Freelancer, or you could reach out to sites in your niche.
- Blogging. We love blogging, as it’s a great way to help people, it’s flexible, and the amount of money that you can earn has no limit. If you are interested in setting up a blog of your own, read our guide on how to set up a blog.
Go On Cheap Days Out
It’s nice to go out for the day with the kids, but that doesn’t mean spending a fortune on doing so.
There are a bunch of things that you can do for free with them, or really cheap. Think back to your childhood – what do you remember loving?
I remember my friends coming over in the summer holidays and playing in the garden. We made our own water slide, my mom would make us snacks and it was hours and hours of fun.
That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy expensive days out, because of course we did! But the things that really stand out to me and warm my heart are just hanging out with my friends and family at home, going to the park, heading to the beach and eating a picnic.
Write out a list of all of the free, or cheap activities that you and the kids could do. Ideas for this are:
- Going to the beach with a picnic and some beach games
- Heading to the local park
- Playdates round friends houses (you can reciprocate!)
- Local museums
- Library trip
- Free in-store activities
- Cheap movie trips (check for deals)
Once you’ve written them all down, make sure that you schedule them in. If you have a diary or calendar, pop the activity in the calendar and write down what you will need to take with you (e.g. snacks, drinks), so that you don’t end up spending any cash.
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