Most moms (and dads) know that proper budgeting is extremely important, especially when you’re a single parent. While couples always have each other’s backs and can manage financially difficult situations better, single parents must pay attention to how they spend their money.
Unfortunately, most guides to proper budgeting only contain tips like “Stop spending money on fast food” or “Save money by getting rid of cable”. None of them really show you how to create a realistic budget.
Having said that, below you will find a guide that has truly been thought out for single parents. It will show you how to minimize your expenses while ensuring that your children get everything that they need.
When planning a single mom budget it is extremely important to be realistic. This means that you should avoid thinking that you will always be able to hold yourself to the standards of two-parent households. This does not mean that you are not a good parent, but the reality is that a single parent will find it extremely difficult to do things the same way that a couple would.
The fact that single parents may find it extremely hard to sit down and schedule expenses knowing that they are on a tight budget is normal, and realistic. However, this does not mean that it is impossible in any way. Experts recommend that you first pay your rent and utilities, save 10% of the money you earn, and then use what remains in order to handle all the other expenses. This is a great strategy; however, things don’t always go the way we want them to.
Budgeting sometimes becomes difficult when we try to live only on what others say that we should, instead of making our own priorities. If you follow the advice of specialists you may find that once you’ve paid your bills and have saved the 10%, you won’t have enough money to also buy groceries or various small but important items. This, by all intents and purposes, means that the strategy is not working and that you should reconsider the way you organize your expenses.
If you continue to use a faulty budget then you may end up worse than you were when you decided that you need to plan ahead! Instead, try thinking of a strategy that fits your lifestyle and your needs.
Focus on establishing what your priorities are:
As a single mom, think of the first thing that you need to spend money on. You should first buy food for your kids, right? While you may already know that the best course of action is to hunt for sales and cook everything at home, you should be realistic about the fact that you can’t always tell your child that he can’t have something that he wants. Think ahead and try to establish how much money you need to spend on food. Don’t make a budget that only contains the things that you know you should buy. Be realistic and also include what your kids may want. Start your budget by writing down the amount of money that you spend on groceries, on a monthly basis.
Next, you should think about the money that you have to spend on rent and utilities so that you will never be in danger of having to stay with friends or parents. Think about putting your utilities on the “levelized” billing plan, as this will help you know how much you will have to pay each month. Furthermore, this will prevent situations where you will be taken by surprise with a large bill.
The third thing that falls under necessities is clothing. While buying clothes for yourself may not be extremely difficult, things change when you have to buy outfits for your children. You can’t just buy anything that you find on sale. You might have to pay attention to the fabrics that the clothes are made of, and you will also have to take into consideration the fact that kids tend to rip and stain clothes faster than you can say the word “budget”. You may not have to buy clothes every single month; however, when your kids will need a new pair of jeans or a few t-shirts you may want to consider going to a few yard sales. Keep in mind that the clothing sold this way are usually only worn a couple of times.
The last item on this list is transportation. You have to accept the fact that you need quite a bit of money in order to go places. This applies to both those who own a car, as well as to the single moms that use public transportation. Make a list of the places that you have to go to during a month and try to come up with a rough estimate to include it into your budget.
- “Secondary” necessities
This is where you have to think about the things that are somewhere between necessities and creature comforts. A couple of good examples of items that fall into this category are TV and internet. You may think that these are not necessities, however, consider the fact that you need television in order to keep up with happens in the world and to relax after a difficult day. Furthermore, think about the fact that your kids will also enjoy watching their favorite cartoons. The same goes for the internet. Also, consider that your kids will need an internet connection in order to do their homework and to study more effectively.
If you have small children, these can also be powerful allies that will keep them busy while you cook or clean the house.
Add these two to your budget as well, and keep in mind that you don’t need a fast internet connection or a lot of channels. Basic subscriptions will get the job done and will enable you to have all the benefits without having to break the bank.
It’s also a good idea to take advantage of the internet offered by local libraries. If you live close to one, then you can probably get away with not having a connection at home, but TV is a must if you want to be able to do things without constantly worrying or being annoyed by your children.
This is where everything else goes; everything that cannot be considered a necessity and requires money. If you’ve gone through the previous categories and still have money to spend at this point, then you’re doing quite well. What you do now can either make or break your budget. For example, if you have any debts, this is where you should start making plans to pay them. If you are debt free, then you can focus on planning interesting activities for you and your kids. There is no harm in spending some money on tickets to see a new movie or a few toys for your young ones. You need to keep your morale up and this is the only way to do it.
Consider making a list of your debts and organizing them according to their importance. Pay the important/serious ones first, and the put all the money that you have left towards paying the rest of them. If you still have some money left after you’ve finished with this step, then you can consider yourself successful. You’ve made a solid single mom budget! Remember that this doesn’t mean that you should spend the rest of the money on something meaningless. Think of effective ways to use it and you will be fine.
So, at this point, you have gone through all the possible expenses that you have to deal with on a monthly basis:
- Internet and TV subscriptions
- Debts that you may have
If the budget works for the first couple of months then it will work for a whole year. However, this does not mean that you will never have to make modifications to it. If new expenses appear, then you will have to see how they fit in your plan.