Essential Budgeting Tips for Single Moms

Being a single mom is not easy. You have to balance childcare, taking care of the house, earning an income, and most importantly, looking after yourself.

When there are two adults in a household there are two incomes, but obviously the bills don’t double, so finances are much simpler.

Single parents, however, have to stretch their one income to go much further. Therefore we’ve put together these effective budgeting tips for single moms to help you cut costs in areas that you won’t feel so that you can spend money where it really matters.

Work Out Where the Money Goes

So, how can a single mom afford to live? The first thing that any single mom should do is work out where their money is going right now.

A single mom budgeting her expenses at the kitchen table

Make a list of every bill that you THINK you are paying. Then, check your bank statements and see if there’s anything else going out that you’ve forgotten about.

Are you paying for Spotify even though you never stream music? Did you sign up for an Amazon Prime trial then forget to cancel? Are you accidentally paying subscriptions for apps you may not be using?

It’s those little monthly payments that can quietly drain your bank account every month. Yeap, quietly! Because most of us tend to either forget about them or ignore them.

So again:

Make a list of every outgoing expense you have and divide them into categories that make sense to you. Some things are non-negotiable of course, such as:

– Rent
– Taxes
– Utility bills
– Transport
– Food
– Health insurance
– Other insurances

Some things are discretionary, such as:

– Entertainment
– Clothing
– Gym memberships

You may have other outgoings such as loans and credit card debts that need to be paid off, but that are not ‘priority debts’ in the same way that rent and taxes are.

That’s important!

Once you’ve written out that list, you may find yourself wondering “how can a single mom afford to live”? Well, if you’ve been living the lifestyle of a couple you may need to make some changes.

Firstly, look at any debts that you have. If your ex is willing to take on his share of any debts that you have and transfer them into his name, that will leave you with less debt, and you may be able to renegotiate lower monthly payments, reducing your outgoings that way.

Go Lean Without Making Huge Sacrifices

Your next goal in budgeting as a single mom should be to find ways to cut your outgoings in ways that won’t leave you feeling deprived.

a single mom with two kids grocery shopping and looking at their shopping list

Use price-comparison tools to find savings on your utility bills. If you haven’t switched your phone, electricity or gas provider in the last year or two then you could be paying over the odds. Look at your package. Are you paying for phone and internet, but also paying for a sports or movie TV package that you aren’t using? If so, you could cut that out. Are you overpaying for your phone, when a smaller package with less data or talk time would still work for you? Many people can save hundreds of dollars per year just by switching suppliers.

After looking at potential cost savings on those essentials, get ruthless. Do you need the gym membership you have, or would a different type of membership be cheaper? Is it really worth having both Netflix and Hulu? Are you subscribed to monthly gift boxes that you don’t really use? What about day-to-day spending? If you’re buying a coffee on the way to work every day, could you take a flask instead?

Big Savings in Simple Places

While some people might find that small changes to their spending will get them out of a budgeting hole, sometimes the difficulties are not as simple as ‘well, stop spending money on eating out‘.

The average cost of daycare in the United States can range between $3,500 and $18,500 per year depending on which state you live in. That’s a huge amount of money and many couples do not qualify. Financial aid is available to some people, although the aid is means-tested. If you have not applied for it since becoming a single mom then you may want to discuss your options with your daycare provider.

If you don’t qualify, then looking at other options might help. Could you use daycare on fewer hours, or come to an arrangement with another parent that you are friends with, so you’ll look after their kids on some days and they take yours on others? Even a small reduction in your daycare bill could give you some room back in your budget.

Snowball Your Debts

If you have debts that you are paying interest on, consider making a push to pay those debts off as quickly as you can. Paying off a high-interest debt early may save you money in the long term and give you breathing space. It might not be the most fun way of doing things, but some short-term ‘pain’ could benefit you in the long term by freeing up money for other things.

Save A Little

One trap that a lot of less well-off families fall into is having no savings, and because of the lack of savings thy find themselves struggling whenever there is an emergency. If you can put even a few dollars per week into a savings account that money will mount up over time. Do not touch those savings unless there is an emergency.

a single mom holding here child who is wearing a costume

If a major home appliance breaks down, or your car fails you and you are struggling to get to work, those savings will be there to help you. They give you an option other than borrowing on a high-interest loan or credit card. You may not think that a few dollars will do much, but over the long term, it can make a big difference.

Buy Used

Instead of buying major items new from a big box store, get into the habit of checking freecycle. Do the same for other things such as your clothing, and even books and gadgets. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a new flagship smartphone if a preowned one is half the price and will do the same thing (without locking you into a contract).

It takes a bit of a shift in mindset, but you will find that after a while buying used will become a logical habit. Take a little time to think about any major purchases and whether you really want (or, more correctly, need) to make them. Don’t borrow money for anything unless it is genuinely necessary to allow you to go to work or for your health. Borrowing for a car or some replacement tools is OK. Borrowing for a new TV or sofa is not.

It’s normal for young families to feel the need to slash out and prove their wealth and social success. Most people become more frugal as they get older. As a single parent you might need to start being frugal a little earlier and that is actually a good thing. That’s the whole point of this article! To share frugal living tips for single moms.

It is not worth getting into debt over luxuries. Make a list of the things that you need – food, clothes, a roof over your head, and the basics for your children. Make sure that you have those things, and then focus on paying down any debts and building up some savings.

Once you have a budget, stick to it. The first few weeks are the hardest but eventually, it will become a habit. Once you have a frugal mindset you should find that it’s easier to dismiss those urges for impulse buys and that you don’t miss some of the things you used to waste money on. Who knows, you might even find that making a good flask of filter coffee at home is nicer than the syrup concoction you used to spend $3 per day on!