If you’ve recently split from a partner, you might be worried about how to survive financially as a single mom. Not only are you dealing with the breakdown of a relationship, but financial pressures can pile up too.
Even if your ex is supportive, it’s still expensive to run two households with little ones to raise. Heartbreaking fact: nearly a third of US single-parent families live in poverty. But it doesn't have to be this way. So, if you’re struggling, we've created some key financial and budget tips for single moms that you can use today.
11 Key tips on how to survive financially as a single mom
Let’s dive right in to learn exactly how you can support your family financially as a single mom.
1. Change your financial mindset
There are plenty of stigmas attached to being a single mom. You may have heard, "Single moms are always poor."
The truth is: it can be tough, especially when your children are small. And it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But you’re also in control of your mindset when approaching your finances.
One of the best financial tips for single mothers is to stop being afraid about money. Instead of focusing on challenges, try to see the opportunities that money can bring you. The more open you are to receiving money into your life, the more likely you will attract a life of abundance.
For example, recognize past mistakes instead of dwelling on them. Choose to learn new ways to handle your finances, take a free course and be better equipped to receive money into your life in the future.
2. Separate your finances from your ex-partner
You may still have a joint account with your ex, and it can make financial sense to keep this open if you’re sharing the cost of raising your children. But starting afresh, it’s important to open your own bank account alongside any joint funds. You might even need to close out a joint account and that's fine too.
Have your salary paid into your personal account and then transfer an agreed amount into your joint account for shared expenses. This will put you firmly in the driving seat of your finances and gives you responsibility for your budget.
3. Take out insurance for your family
Nobody likes to imagine the worst will happen, but it pays to be prepared by taking out insurance to avoid family financial problems. The two main types to focus on are life insurance and health insurance.
This is an affordable way to ensure your family will be protected financially in the event of your death. You can take out life insurance on a term basis where your cover will be in place for a set period, for example, 10-20 years. Alternatively, you can arrange whole life insurance lasting for your lifetime—this is usually more expensive.
Medical cover is essential if you ever need emergency or preventative treatment for yourself or your little ones. But the cost can be astronomic, so how can single moms afford insurance? Some options are:
Employer-sponsored health insurance
Your contribution must not be more than 9.5% of your annual household income.
Family health insurance
You can apply directly for cover through an insurance marketplace.
Medicaid is a government health insurance program that helps low-income families and individuals. The requirements vary from state to state.
Children's Health Insurance Program
Check to see if you qualify for the Children's Health Insurance Program. It is free or low-cost health insurance for single parents.
Short-term health insurance
If you're between employers, you can take out intermediate short-term cover if you face a medical emergency.
Your own parent's health insurance
If you're a younger single mom, you may be on your own parent's health insurance up to the age of 26. Although, your own children won't be covered.
Getting properly insured is one of the most important financial tips for single mothers.
4. Increase your earnings
Wondering how to survive financially as a single mom on a low income? The easiest way to improve your situation is to increase your earnings.
Some people will choose to take on a second job. But this can be challenging when you must balance out the cost of childcare while you’re earning money. Instead, you can:
Ask your employer for a salary increase
If you’re been working for the same employer for a while, why not ask for a raise? Employees with an excellent track record, and proven results in their role, could put forward a strong case to their employer.
And it is the era of The Great Resignation, after all. So, there’s never been a better time to have this discussion with your boss. It’s often more affordable for your employer to pay you more, than hire someone new and train them to be as good as you!
Try to find a job with better pay
But what happens if your boss isn’t interested in rewarding you for your hard work? Why not shop around and see what other jobs are out there? Not only could you find a position with a higher salary, but another company may offer more flexible working or a greater benefits package.
Take on a work-from-home side hustle
Do you feel you have more spare time as a single mom in the evenings? Consider starting an online side gig to tap into your creativity and add an extra income stream to your family finances.
You could sign up with a freelance marketplace like Upwork to try your hand at offering freelance writing or graphic design services.
5. Start debt management to survive financially as a single mom
If you’ve relied on credit cards or loans in the past, it can be expensive to meet the cost of these debt repayments. When you’re learning how to survive financially as a single mom, one of your top priorities should be debt management.
If you’ve borrowed from multiple lenders, you can consolidate this debt into one place, so you’re only paying interest on one overall sum. It's tempting to find a lender offering a 0% balance transfer fee.
But always check the terms and conditions of your agreement. This will make you aware of how long your introductory interest rate lasts, and what it will be following this fixed period.
You can also follow a debt management strategy to help you knock down the amount you owe.
Start by tackling the smallest amount of debt you owe. Once you’ve cleared this debt, you’ll carry the minimum payment amount, plus the amount you have set aside for debt repayments, and start paying off your next biggest debt. Check out our post "How To Use The Debt Snowball Method" and get a free tracker too!
With the debt avalanche method, you’ll start by paying off the debt amount which carries the highest interest rate. Then you’ll move on to the next highest, and so on. In this way, you’re concentrating on repaying your loans without paying any more than you have to.
6. Understand your taxes as a single mom
Your tax situation is different as a single mom than it would be if you were married. For example, if you earn at least 50% of your household income as a single mom, you can claim Head of Household (HOH) status on your W4.
This will typically give you a lower tax rate and higher standard deduction than if you were filing as a single taxpayer or a married taxpayer filing separately.
As Head of Household, you may also be eligible for a Child and Dependent Care Credit in dependent care expenses. The amount of credit can be higher if you have two or more children or dependents.
7: Set financial goals to survive financially as a single mom
When learning how to survive financially as a single mom, make sure you look to the future. It can be easy to get caught up in making this month’s rent, or meal planning for the week ahead. And while these are critical steps, it’s also important to consider your financial goals.
Know exactly what your goal is and when you want to achieve it by. These can be divided into three categories.
These are goals coming up soon, usually within a year. You might want to set aside money to take a vacation, pay for Christmas, or plan a birthday party for your kids. Check out our list of 24 yearly goals everyone should have for ideas!
Examples of mid-term goals could be paying down your student loan debt, saving up for a downpayment on a house, or increasing your net worth to a set figure. It's important to set mid-term goals because it helps make achieving your long-term goals much easier.
Setting up a college fund is a long-term goal you can make to support your children. You can also set a goal of saving for retirement - start by understanding if your employer offers a 401k plan to take advantage of. Alternatively, you can open an IRA and start contributing each month.
Setting goals is one of the most beneficial financial tips for single mothers that leads to success!
8. Make a single mom budget
We’ve talked a lot about all the different things you should be budgeting for, like insurance, savings contributions, and debt repayments. But how can you keep on top of all these outgoing expenses and make sure you still have enough to live on as a single mom?
The most important step is to build a single mom budget! Here are some great budget tips for single moms:
Calculate your income and expenses
Step one is to get organized. Now is the time to gather all your figures, log into your bank account and see the big picture.
Start by knowing how much money you earn each month, plus whatever your ex contributes financially to raising your kids. This would include any child support payments if you are eligible. You’ll then deduct your regular expenses from this overall number.
Expenses will differ from household to household but may include:
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Utility bills
- Transport (car, including gas and insurance)
- Debt payments
- Broadband and mobile phone
- Clothing and shoes for your children
Once you’ve deducted these outgoing expenses, you’ll know how much you have left to add to your savings or spend on leisure activities like a treat trip to the cinema.
Choose a single mom budget style
Using the baseline figures you've gathered above as your money management foundation, you can then choose a budgeting style to follow:
What's one of the most essential budget tips for single moms? Pick a budgeting method that is not too time-consuming and is easy for you to stick to!
Use apps to help you stick to your budget
It’s easier to keep track of your budget if you use a digital tool or app. You can download various budgeting apps to your desktop or smartphone. These apps can give you an overview of your bank accounts, credit cards, and loan balances - all in one place.
Follow frugal living tips
You can save a ton of money when switching to a more frugal lifestyle. This hinges on making simple switches to cut out wasteful spending from your budget. This might mean taking a family picnic with you to the park instead of grabbing takeout on the way home.
Or it could mean exercising for free at home instead of taking out an expensive gym membership. It's fine to throw a little luxury into your budget, but you'll meet your financial goals faster if you stay frugal most of the time. Learning ways to be frugal is one of the best money-saving budget tips for single moms to use!
9. Find affordable housing
It can be hard to know how to survive financially as a single mom when the cost of accommodation is high in your area. If this is the case for you, consider moving somewhere more affordable. You might even find you can offer your family a better quality of life with more space and save money.
For example, the most expensive cities in the US include New York, San Francisco, Honolulu, Boston, and Washington. If you live in one of these areas, it may be cheaper to work outside in the suburbs. Although if you work in the city, you’ll need to weigh up the increased travel time and costs for your commute.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development also assists landlords in offering affordable rent for single moms and low-income families. You may qualify for a HUD state-sponsored housing program.
10. Get help with childcare
The government provides childcare subsidies to individual states, but the amount of aid available does vary widely. There's also financial support available for military families and those in the Department of Defense.
It's also worth checking with your employer to see if they offer a Dependent Care Account. This is a government-backed subsidy program designed to make tax savings on your childcare expenses.
11. Seek help as a single mom
Seeking help when needed is one of the most crucial financial tips for single mothers to utilize. If you’re struggling to provide your family with the nourishment you all need, support is available.
Check out the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) which can support single moms with children under the age of 5.
This includes if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. You may also be eligible to receive food stamps to support the cost of living.
Leverage these tips for how to survive financially as a single mom
Now you've learned how to survive financially as a single mom, it’s time to set the wheels in motion and take positive action to improve your family finances. Know it IS possible to raise a family by yourself without falling into poverty, but support is available when you need it.
With the right financial direction, you won’t just survive, you’ll provide a comfortable and stable environment for your children to grow and thrive in.