Budgeting Tips For Single Moms: 18 Surefire Financial Steps

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When money is tight, it can be scary to look at the figures in your bank account. To help you, we have researched practical budgeting tips for single moms. These steps might take a different shape from how you were used to doing things in the past as you may be accustomed to at least two incomes.

There is no margin for error as you have small lives that are heavily dependent on you for their well-being and their future. At this point, it is important to actively manage your bank accounts and budget aggressively as a single mom and prepare for the future in order to enjoy a robust future with your kids. Read on to learn the latest budgeting tips for single moms.

1. Simplify your budget

Start with your income. If your financial worries stress you out, chances are that you’re financially disorganized.

As a single mom, the two most important aspects of your budget are: total budget and total expenditure. Begin planning your budget by adding up your monthly income.

The easiest way to do that, whether you’re working a 9-to-5 job or working multiple jobs, is to check your pay slips.

If you’re earning the same amount biweekly or weekly, you can make that your baseline income.

mother with baby, papers and laptop working at home

Next, include any income you earn from a side-hustle or part-time work. This may be quite irregular and depend on how often you’re doing the part-time or side work.

Next, factor in any child support or alimony payment you’re receiving regularly.

So, whether you have failed to stick to a budget in the past you didn’t have one to begin with, or you haven’t quite reached your savings or investing goals and your debt and credit scores are a mess, a thorough reassessment of your financials can help you a great deal.

Move on to your expenses. You need to find ways to save time and energy by cutting out inefficiencies.

Simple things like figuring out what is the best credit card for you can alter your financial scenario drastically.

Consider using a bill pay app. Take control of all your bills by not ignoring due dates, delayed payments or shrugging or cringing when your friends bring up investing. Plug all your accounts into a third-party app like Tiller.

Tiller’s online budgeting tool helps you to synchronize all your bank, credit card, checking, debt, brokerage, investment, and mortgage accounts to get a snapshot of all your finances.

Tiller shows you how much you splurge on transportation, recreation, and lots more, helping you identify areas where you are spending too much and places where you could cut back.

Cutting expenses using apps like TrueBill monitors spending and helps you cut the dead wood, including that gym membership (which you don’t really need), Hulu, restaurant meals, etc.

The app also helps you compare and negotiate bills on your behalf.

For instance, it can help you save more on your monthly internet bill, while getting you a bigger data plan. These apps help you to cut subscriptions such as:

  • Internet
  • Cable
  • Cell phone service
  • Gym memberships
  • Amazon
  • Spotify
  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Audible
  • Time Warner cable
  • Car insurance and other insurances

Additionally, moms can now use a co-parenting app to track expenses and avoid credit card debt.

With an app like Fayr, even if you and your child’s other parent are not mandated by court to make use of a co-parenting app, you can track your child’s expenses.

woman using mobile smart phone for scan and payment online

Whether they are refunded by you or your ex, co-parenting apps can also help you maintain a co-parenting schedule and share information like contact or medical information.

Fayr is backed by actress, Gwyneth Paltrow, and fees start from $6/month.

Going on a shopping diet makes your purchases more conscious. Try to cut back on:

  • Trips to the mall or Amazon to browse and buy stuff
  • Retail therapy
  • Meals that you cannot afford
  • New, expensive clothes that break your budget
  • Gifts and outings for your kids that are beyond your financial goals

Instead:

  • Eat out of your pantry and freezer
  • Use up all the shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and mascara in your home before buying more
  • Use up all the cleaning supplies and paper products instead of buying more, without thinking at the market

Do these and you will feel more empowered and confident about your money.

When you subtract all of your expenses and extras from your total income, you should have ample leftover money.

This money could be added to your savings or pay off a debt if you’re carrying student loans.

2. Involve your kid in your budgeting process

This is one of the most highly-neglected budgeting tips for single moms.

Some moms don’t involve their kids in financial discussions. In addition to buying finance books for kids to enlighten them about how money works, you should talk to your kids about keeping your budget on track if the topic isn’t too confusing for them to understand.

Mother and daughter putting coins into piggy bank

Talk to your kids about your budgeting process because a good budget starts with family goals. Explain by saying something like: “You can’t go to two dance classes; you can only attend one.”

You can let your teenage kid have a new sweater—only if she can find one on sale.

And when your 11-year-old son swears that they can eat peanut butter and jelly, introduce him to the science of coupon clipping so that he can get what he wants for less.

Children love finding bargains too, and this skill will be boosted if they have been reading personal finance books for kids.

Also, the child will appreciate the limitations that you’re facing in a realistic way, while they get to participate in the budgeting process.

They will appreciate you more and grow up with good values and responsible spending habits.

3. Reduce childcare costs

The average yearly cost of daycare for an infant is between $5,547 and $16,549, depending on your location. This translates to $106 to $318 weekly.

Daycare assistance is available for some single moms who meet certain income requirements. But if you don’t qualify, there may be other ways to cut costs.

You could consider finding a family member who is willing to offer childcare services at a discounted price.

Or, you could set up a childcare swap with another mom whose schedule is opposite to yours. Reducing childcare costs by $50 per month could result in $600 per year back on your budget.

4. Again use apps to improve your savings

Whether you’re shopping for groceries, clothes or anything in between, there is an app that can save you lots of money per year.

Ibotta, for instance, offers rebates on grocery buys so that you don’t have to clip coupons. The average Ibotta user saves $240 per year.

RetailMeNot is also a fantastic place to find promo codes and printable coupons for retailers like Amazon, Macy’s, and Sears. Kidizen is developed for moms who want to buy and sell kid’s clothes.

5. Consider switching your bank account

The average checking account charges $97.80 per year in fees. That may not seem much but it can add up to nearly $1,000 over a decade.

If you haven’t reexamined your banks fees lately, then take a second to do so.

Getting nickeled and dimed counts, so moving your money to an online bank or traditional bank that is fee-friendly is certain to boost your overall savings.

6. Make more money as a single parent

While you can make big budget slashes on food, restaurants, Netflix, and energy in order to help you save, a ‘super-low budget, Ebeneezer Scrooge’ way of thinking is ultimately small thinking.

But if you can channel your energies towards earning more, growing wealth, and thriving, you can be sure to live the quality of life you desire without making any desperate budget cuts.

If you’re a millennial mom, then it should be easy to tap into the many opportunities to earn extra income online.

You can test websites, complete surveys, become a freelance writer or accountant over the internet. Redirecting your energy into the wealth zone will safeguard the future of you and your kid(s).

Mother with a toddler working at the computer

More ideas on making extra income include:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Grant writing
  • Coding/programming
  • Virtual assisting
  • Blogging

7. Set short- and long-term financial planning goals

On average, single moms possess only 4 percent of the wealth of single fathers, according to a New York university study.

The study showed that single moms have $1000 saved compared to the $25,300 that single fathers have.

The report also found that Black and Latino single moms have a median wealth of $0 compared to white single moms who report $6,000.

This disparity can change, but you must set some goals to evade the single mom trap.

Short-term financial planning goals you need to set include:

  • Paying off debt
  • Buying a new car
  • Taking a special vacation
  • Making a major purchase
  • Starting a business
  • Establishing an emergency fund

Planning for short-term goals involves establishing a financial cushion. You don’t want to rely on credit cards for unforeseen expenses.

A cash reserve of six to 12 months set aside for living expenses should be your minimum goal.

Because these goals are short-term, you don’t have the luxury of time planning for them. You need to clearly outline what you intend to accomplish, setting the dollar amount and target date for achieving it.

Time to Set Goals

Next, commit a monthly savings amount that will get you to your goal, assuming a very low rate of return. Track your progress quarterly, and hold yourself accountable for staying on track.

Long-term financial planning goals you need to think of include:

  • Retirement
  • Buying a business
  • College for children

No short- or long-term goal is more important than securing your retirement.

And it is important for single moms to depend solely on their own funds for retirement. Set a clearly-defined goal of when you’d like to retire.

The sooner you start saving towards your retirement, the less it will cost you to attain it.

If you have access to a 401(k) plan at work, maximize its potential if an employer match is available. If you don’t have access to a 401(k), you should maximize your annual contribution to an IRA or Roth IRA.

Successfully balancing these short- and long-term goals is dependent on how important your main short- and long-term goals are respectively—establishing a sufficient cash reserve and getting on track to secure retirement.

All other expenses should be adjusted so that you can comfortably achieve your target(s).

8. Get credit counseling for unsecured debt

If you have a huge amount of unsecured debt like credit cards and are having a difficult time making minimum payments or defaulting payments, then seeking the advice of a reputable non-profit credit counseling agency ranks among the smartest budgeting tips for single moms.

Interest rates are expensive. For every $1,000 of debt you have, you accrue 10% interest. This means you’re doling out an extra $100 per year.

You’d be better off putting that money towards emergency savings, childcare, retirement, or basic living expenses.

Non-profit, credit counseling agencies can collaborate with your creditors to reduce interest rates, waive late payment and over-limit fees, stop collection calls, and consolidate debt into one monthly payment.

9. Embrace frugal living, as it’s one of the classic budgeting tips for single moms.

Trying not to keep up with the Joneses should be your bottom line.

Trying to do so and overspending will be frustrating, disappointing, and ultimately self-defeating. it is not where genuine happiness or financial security lies.

Embrace frugal living concept

Giving gratitude about kids, health, food, and shelter can go a long way towards ensuring that you don’t always need everything you want. So, stick to your monthly budget and economize more by:

  • Growing your own vegetables
  • Making cheaper meals,
  • Saving leftovers for a later meal
  • Scrapping eating out
  • Getting creative with snacks
  • Buying clothing from thrift stores
  • Not washing clothes every time you wear them
  • Cutting your kids’ hair yourself
  • Taking showers at night instead of in the morning
  • Teaching the kids to conserve
  • Stocking up on items that are on sale

Sites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist offer plenty of household and children’s items at bargain rates.

Do some comparison shopping, and don’t forget to ask friends and loved ones for help with finding things or borrowing items from them.

10. Clip coupons

Coupon clipping is perhaps the most widely-sung of the budgeting tips for single moms. It helps a lot to enable you to purchase items at a discounted price and help you save money.

Become an ace coupon clipper by taking advantage of double coupon days. Steer clear of big name brands, and try buying generic brands instead.

If you look closely, generic brands give the same satisfaction at half the price. If you look more closely, most of them have the same ingredients.

11. Conserve energy and reduce utility bills

Keeping thermostats at an even temperature that’s comfortable for everyone is one of the ways of using energy efficiently.

Avoid altering the temperature often, and ensure that all air filters are clean. In addition, turn off unused lights and unplug any gadgets that are not in use.

These measures will result in extra money in savings per year.

Woman programming temperature inside home

Make these 10 changes to help make your home more energy efficient:

  • Consider energy-efficient light bulbs
  • Switch to a programmable thermostat
  • Get fancy, blackout window coverings
  • Unplug appliances
  • Buy smarter electronics
  • Change filters and keep vents clean
  • Look out for options from your power company
  • Invest in water-saving showerheads and faucets
  • Adjust the water heater temperature
  • Use a water-efficient dishwasher

12. Learn about tax credits and take advantage of them

Many moms qualify for income-based tax credits for each child.

These credits may actually prove more valuable than deductions, which only reduce the amount of your taxable income. Credits lessen the dollar amount of taxes you owe.

If you receive alimony from your ex, that is income according to the IRS, and you’ll pay taxes on it. Child support on the other hand is not taxable, and only one parent can claim a child as a dependent on their taxes.

If the other parent pays child support as well, it may be used for discretionary items such as travel, movie and TV subscriptions, birthdays, Christmas gifts, and other non-necessities.

13. Buy an insurance policy

One of the easiest solutions to streamlining the incomes of single mothers trying to make ends meet is to have insurance plans.

There are many insurance policies designed to help single moms:

  • Insurance plans can help you to pay off big debts.
  • They help secure you and your child’s future needs.
  • You can plan your insurance policy in a way that maximizes its benefits.
  • Auto, home, life, and many other insurance policies are available for single moms.
  • Take up different kinds of insurance plans to buy your house, car and create emergency funds.

successful insurance policy deal

14. Keep your finances to yourself

Your finances are nobody’s business but yours alone. For some reason, many people assume that because you’re a singleton, you don’t deserve privacy.

If you feel comfortable sharing your financial information with any person, go for it. But never share your financial situation with anyone unless you’re absolutely comfortable with it.

15. Ask for assistance

Achieving goals takes creativity when you’re struggling and can’t put away a lot of money in your emergency savings.

However, when there are children in the picture, state and federal agencies are available for assistance. Contact the local social service agency in your area, and ask for help.

They can provide guidance and direction for food, medical needs, housing assistance, and legal advice. Local places of worship and nonprofit organizations may offer lots of support.

16. Get your body in shape

One study proved that more exercise results in higher pay because you tend to be more productive after working up a sweat.

Taking up running in the morning may help rev up your financial game and earn extra money.

The habits, commitments, and discipline involved with running marathons are associated with managing your money properly.

mother and baby girl running on beach

17. Learn how to savor

This may not be one of the very typical budgeting tips for single moms you’re accustomed to.

Nonetheless, savoring involves appreciating and being grateful for the things you have now, instead of thinking that your happiness lies by acquiring more things.

Remind yourself how bad things could be.

If you have paid all your debts but are still a dollar or two short in your savings account target for the year, remind yourself about single moms who may not have paid their debts, have no account to start with, and have all manner of creditors hounding them with calls.

Comparing good experiences with unpleasant ones gives us a reference point and makes our current situation feel better.

18. Have faith in yourself and be confident

Faith, strength, confidence, patience, and a lot of hard work will eventually enhance your life. Concentrate on the positive, and surround yourself with forward-thinking, positive, and helpful people to spur you on and help you reach your goals.

Remember that you’re not alone—there are millions of single moms in the country making it happen every single day.

You, too, can become a success story.

RELATED: Single Mom Struggles: 11 Painful Facts And How To Deal With Them

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Written by Christine Carter

Christine knows a thing or two about living on a budget as a stay-at-home-mom! Since she is a finance expert, she knows all the hacks and tips that she is willing to share with all of you amazing moms! So stay tuned!