Single parents have a lot of responsibility resting on their shoulders. And as a single parent, this means it’s even more important for you to come up with a monthly budget.
A monthly budget will help you manage your expenses, pay down debt, and continue to save for you and your children’s future. This article will review seven steps you can take to develop a monthly budget as a single parent.
7 Steps to Budget as a Single Parent
Budgeting as a single parent isn’t easy, but it is possible. Use these seven steps to take control of your money and come up with a budget that works for you.
1. Save up an emergency fund
The best way to have peace of mind with your finances is to save up an emergency fund. If you don’t have anything saved, start by saving up a $1,000 emergency fund. From there, you can work to save between three to six months of monthly expenses.
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The most important part of saving an emergency fund is to leave it untouched. Some people want to use their emergency fund to pay off debt, but this isn’t a good plan.
That’s because when an emergency does hit, you won’t have the savings in place to deal with it. So you may end up putting those expenses on a credit card and going right back into debt.
2. Factor in child support
When creating your monthly budget, it’s essential to factor in any child support you receive. You can add this as another income source when setting up your budget.
However, you only want to include child support in your budget if it’s consistent and happens every month. So if you receive child support sporadically, just put it toward your number one financial goal when you receive it.
3. Keep your expenses as low as possible
As a single parent, you can stretch your money further by keeping your expenses low. This is especially important if you find that you’re constantly stretched for cash each month.
Look for ways to save on your money subscription plans first. For instance, you may be able to save money on your phone bill by switching to another provider. Instead of paying for cable, open a Netflix account.
And always be on the lookout for ways to save on your daily expenses. For instance, you can make coffee at home instead of going to Starbucks every week. And activities and outings can cost a lot of money, so look for free things you can do with your kids.
And if you share joint custody with your ex, there may be times when your expenses are lower since your kids aren’t with you. Use these lower budget months to put more money towards your savings or pay down debt.
4. Pay off high-interest credit card debt
Once you have an emergency fund built up, you should start to focus on paying down high-interest credit card debt. Paying off even one credit card can save you thousands of dollars in interest.
If you have multiple credit cards to pay down, focus on paying off one at a time. As you’re paying off one card, you can make minimum payments on the rest. The debt snowball and the debt avalanche are two debt payoff strategies you can try.
5. Budget for longer-term savings goals
In addition to saving an emergency fund and paying down debt, it’s crucial to think about any additional savings goals you have. For instance, you may want to create a sinking fund for things like Christmas, vacations, and birthdays. By saving for these expenses ahead of time, you won’t be tempted to put them on a credit card.
And you also want to plan for long-term financial goals, like your kids’ college and your own retirement. If you’re unsure where to start, you might consider working with a financial planner. That person can help you come up with a realistic plan based on your situation.
6. Focus on your why
Being a single parent isn’t easy, and it can get very lonely at times. It’s hard when you feel like everything is resting on your shoulders, and there’s no one available to help you.
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So if you want to be successful with managing your budget, you need to focus on your why. What is the motivation that’s going to drive you to create and stick with a budget every month?
For instance, do you want to be able to pay for your kids to go to college someday? Or take them on vacation to Disney World? It doesn’t matter what your why is, as long as it motivates you to stick to your financial goals.
7. Let go of mom guilt
And finally, you need to work on letting go of mom guilt whenever it creeps up. Mom guilt is the fear that you’re not a good enough mom and aren’t doing enough for your kids.
To a certain extent, this is a normal feeling all moms experience, but you don’t want it to be the primary emotion you experience. If you’re constantly overwhelmed by feelings of mom guilt, this can lead to negative coping strategies (like overspending) or poor mental health.
Here are a few tips for getting over mom guilt:
- Take care of yourself: Make sure you eat well, give yourself time to rest, and take time for yourself when you need it.
- Accept help when it’s offered: Other people want to help you, and you can’t do it all on your own. If your friends or family offer to chip in and help, let them!
- Don’t compare yourself to others: You never know what’s going on with another person, so don’t waste time comparing yourself to other moms.
The Bottom Line
The final thought I want to leave you with is that you’re 100% capable of managing your budget as a single parent. By focusing on your why and implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can change your financial situation for the better.