5 SMART PERSONAL FINANCE MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS
For today’s post, I’m sharing a topic that I wrote for Zulily’s Blog that I find important for single moms – “5 Smart Personal Finance Management Tips for Single Parents.”
I’ll never forget my first day as a single mom. I had been married for nearly 20 years, so half of my life was spent sharing finances with a significant other. Like many single parents, I found personal finance to be a real challenge as well. I had to adjust my spending, factor in new expenses (like handling a mortgage as one person), and be intentional with my time.
I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to juggle work and single parenting. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. I had to find a new balance that both kept me employed and allowed me time with my children. Many newly single parents find themselves jumping back into the workforce after years of dedicating their lives to raising children (a huge full-time job itself). Fortunately, I had built a successful career for myself, that allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom. I was, however, terrified of having the entire weight of parenting placed on me alone.
I know I’m not alone in this regard, and I’m confident that these five tips for single parents will help you get your financial power back.
HANDLING PERSONAL FINANCE WHEN YOU’RE PARENTING ALONE
We know how hard a solo parenting journey is, and money management is one of its toughest challenges. Here are five smart financial tips for single parents.
“Decrease spending” sounds like a no-brainer, but many people don’t think hard enough about their spending habits. Ponder the number of automatic charges that come out of your checking account. These might include subscription services, a line for a landline phone you never use, online streaming services or cable TV that you rarely watch, or a random expense that you don’t even remember signing up for. Now’s the time to go through your bank statements and highlight all the fat you need to trim. Figure out what services you don’t need, and then cancel them.
You also need to think about ways you can save money on your grocery shopping, decorate your apartment on a budget, or do your shopping at the right time of the year to score deals. Having a simpler, more streamlined expense sheet also makes life that much easier since there is less to keep track of each month. We single parents need all the simplicity we can get.
When I was sharing finances with my ex-spouse, we rarely sat down to talk about our budget. I feel very differently about budgeting now. I believe everyone in every income bracket should have a clearly defined budget, as an important part of achieving financial security. It’s definitely a must for single parents, especially in those first few months of navigating the waters alone. You should also pay yourself first, by allocating a portion of your paycheck or business income to savings and investments, before spending on other things.
Setting a monthly budget does not need to be a complex process. A simple notepad and pen are all you really need, but creating a spreadsheet in excel or Google docs will have the added bonus of doing the math for you. List your income after taxes (your take-home pay), as well as necessary expenses like mortgage/rent, insurance, utilities, phone, groceries, gasoline, and other miscellaneous debits. If there is money left over after these financial obligations, then check out the next tip on setting goals.
Financial goal-setting can be a great motivator in cutting back on expenses and setting money aside for a big reward.
That reward can be something your family needs, like a new vehicle or home appliance, or something fun like a vacation (a big one or a small one). Get the kids involved, by having them keep a progress chart or put money in a jar. It’s a great way to get the whole family on board to share a goal together. If kids know you’re saving for a vacation, they’re less likely to complain about having dinner at home than out at a restaurant.
It’s important to set long-term goals, like saving for retirement, when you are in a place to comfortably do so. These types of goals can often be set up as auto-drafts with your bank, or, of course, from your paycheck if you’re working for a company that offers a 401k or similar retirement plan. That way you don’t have to think about physically setting money aside or transferring it to a savings account. Again, the simpler the better for a single parent.
AVOID ADDITIONAL DEBT
Most of us have some kind of debt as we enter single parenthood. Those debts often include a mortgage, credit cards, or vehicles. For a time, if making minimum monthly payments is the only thing possible for you, that is fine.
As you get more comfortable budgeting and cutting expenses, chipping away at your previous debt will become more doable. Taking on additional debt, especially if it’s non-essential debt, can create more financial stress that can lead to feelings of helplessness.
“Increase income” may seem like another no-brainer tip, but it’s still important to include here. Many single parents don’t think about ways to increase their incomes. As single parents, we can feel so completely burdened by the weight of being the main financial provider for our children that it’s hard to imagine life any other way. I get it. It’s exhausting, but I also want to offer some words of hope.
Increasing income is not as far-fetched as it may seem. I have found that the more intentional we are with our spending and budgeting, the more other financial opportunities appear in our lives. Whether it’s a job promotion, a new side hustle, creating a new business, or selling your unwanted possessions online, it’s completely within your grasp to make more money. Patience and hard work can pay off in many meaningful ways.
Being a single parent need not be a crutch or setback. We can take control of our finances and create a safe, stress-free life for ourselves and our children. We can also have a little fun along the way as well.
Happy budgeting – you’ve got this!
Founder of Mom Spark – a lifestyle blog for moms.