Being a single parent means you're solely responsible for your family finances. As the provider, it also means that things can get expensive. That's why it's essential you create a winning single mom budget so that you can keep a tight handle on your money.
When you're shouldering the financial burden alone, it's doubly necessary to properly plan out your finances so you can manage your expenses, take care of your children and still build wealth. A one-income household has its challenges, but it’s still possible to take control of your spending and plan for the future. It all starts with a budget.
Budgeting as a single mom
A budget is a plan for your money. While there are several budgeting methods to choose from, the idea is the same — plan where your money is going.
A winning single mom budget will help you avoid financial stress and have peace of mind instead. After tracking your expenses, you might find that you need to stop shopping to pay for other necessities or look at weekly ads to save money on groceries.
Figuring out how to budget with one income doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can even make it fun by trying a money-savings challenge to go along with your new budget. The key is finding the right budgeting method and ways to simplify your savings.
8 ways to maximize your single mom budget
Here are eight ways to create a single mom budget that'll put you on the road to success.
1. Prioritize your expenses for yourself AND your children
When creating your budget, be sure to include your own expenses and those of your children. This is something many people forget to do. School activities, clothes, trips out, and weekend activities are all things for your kids that should be budgeted for. This way, you know exactly how to plan out your income each month.
For newly single moms, your budget should also take into account expenses that you’ll now be taking on. For example, will you need to pay for child care or health insurance? A sitter once a week? Are you paying insurance premiums? These are all things you will need to consider when budgeting as a single mom.
2. Build up your emergency fund to include your children
But when you have kids, you need to include their basic expenses as part of the amount you save in your emergency account. Keep in mind anything that they may need for school (i.e., tuition, textbooks, etc.) or other commitments. Building an emergency fund is a crucial part of budgeting as a single mom.
3. Find free, fun things to do
Kids' activities and outings can cost a lot of money. From paying entry fees at amusement parks and the zoo to buying foods and drinks, things can get really pricey. So why not take advantage of free activities to do with your kids?
Many museums offer free first Saturdays — you can pack a nice lunch and visit the museum for a completely free day. Your local library may offer free activities or events, too. Go on a picnic, take a hike outdoors or come up with other fun yet free things to do with your kids. If you need more inspiration, Pinterest has tons of ideas!
4. Put money aside to support long-term goals for yourself and your children
Be sure to include a line item in your budget that goes toward savings for your children. For instance, things like back-to-school shopping, future school trips, clubs, activities, etc., can really add up. And of course, don't forget about saving for college! It's all about planning ahead by putting money aside.
Don't forget to save money for your own long-term goals such as retirement, owning a home, starting a business, or traveling. No matter how little you're able to save, make it a goal to save something each month. Even the smallest amounts add up!
5. Automate your finances
The best thing you can do when budgeting as a single mom is to automate your finances. As a mom, you stay super busy, making it easy to pay bills late because you forgot. Automating your finances can simplify your budget and your life because you set up your bills to be paid automatically. This will prevent you from paying bills late and racking up expensive late fees.
Call your providers and set up your bill due dates to the same dates you are paid. This way, you don't risk overdrawing your account. Remember to set up automatic transfers to your savings accounts too. Saving money automatically will bulk up your emergency fund fast.
6. Live a frugal lifestyle
There's no argument that money seems to spend faster than we can earn it, but by learning how to live a frugal lifestyle, you can stretch your single mom budget even further! Things like ditching cable, having coffee at home, and buying in bulk can help you save a bundle of money. Buying clothes secondhand instead of new is a huge savor too, especially when it comes to back-to-school shopping.
There are a ton of crazy ways to save money that can help you live below your means and stick with your monthly budget.
7. Get out of debt
You're probably thinking, "how am I supposed to pay off debt as a single mom!" The truth is you can pay off your debt even if you live on a low income. It's about cutting expenses where you can and applying that money to tackle your debt. This may seem difficult at first, but the faster you get out of debt, the quicker you will obtain financial freedom.
Debt is expensive and can rack up thousands of dollars in interest every year. That's money you could be saving for something much better, like a down payment on a house or a vacation! So, when creating your budget, be sure to include a debt payoff plan, so you stop wasting money on debt.
8. Increase your income
If your budget is super tight even after cutting expenses, then it's time to find ways to increase your income. Increasing your income can take the stress of living paycheck to paycheck off of you because you will be earning much more than you're spending. There are many ways you can increase your income. For starters, if you've been at your job for a while and are performing well, it may be time to ask for a raise. Research what the industry average pay is for your position with your experience to see how much you should ask for.
Another way to increase your income is to start a side hustle. This is perfect for single moms because, with many side hustles, you can create your own schedule and still earn a decent income. Some side hustles, such as virtual assisting, can earn you $10-$60 an hour! Think how much that would help your finances every month.
Get started budgeting as a single mom and save money
Applying these tips can make budgeting as a single mom much easier. They will help you create financial goals, save money, and work towards a debt-free future. Your children will also learn good money habits by your example, which will set them up for financial success!
The good news is you don't have to take this journey alone. Clever Girl Finance is here to support you with our FREE financial courses and worksheets, and you can get weekly motivation with our blog, podcast, and YouTube channel!