Being successful at financial planning and budgeting is challenging for most people regardless of marital status or income. As a single parent, though, the road can be that much tougher. With your child/children's livelihood and future in your hands, there really is no room for error. You have to find an effective way to budget and prepare for the future. Once you achieve this, you will be able to safeguard yourself from financial hardship and have a more enjoyable life and future with your kids.
Creating a budget is one of the first things a single parent should do. With all the financial responsibility falling on you, every dollar needs to be accounted for. This means not just your rent or mortgage payment but any other expenses you expect like gifts for the holidays and birthday presents. By adding every expense you can think of, you can help yourself plan better for them.
When you are a single parent, you don't have a spouse to call when your kids are sick and need to stay home from school or daycare. If you have to miss work every single time, that could be hundreds or even thousands of dollars you are losing out on. One helpful solution is to develop a backup plan for these times. Put together a list of trusted people you can call on when you can't leave work or you are stuck in traffic on the way to daycare. Make sure they are okay with you reaching out to them in a pinch to help you out with childcare or daycare pickups. Try and get as many people on your list as you can so you can rotate through it as needed. Even if you only end up asking for help a few times, you could save yourself a good chunk of change.
This one is essential. You need to make sure you have arrangements in place should something happen to you or you become incapacitated. Here are the three documents you need to have in place:
When it comes to groceries, there is a lot of room to get creative and save money. You can go vegetarian a few times a week and for your meat purchases, buy when there are specials. These meats are usually approaching their expiration date and can be put in the freezer for the coming months. Buying frozen instead of fresh vegetables is another way to save. They last longer and are cheaper.
Couponing is another great way to rack up savings. There are tons of coupon websites as well as coupon apps to help you save money. Put some time aside each week to gather your coupons, your wallet will thank you. Some people have taken a liking to co-oping with other parents where they divide up warehouse purchases into low-cost portions. Planting a garden (if you have the space) is another great way to save big on the cost of fresh produce. Bonus tip: always make a list before heading out to the grocery store to avoid buying extra.
Your day job is great, but every single parent can use some extra income. Depending on your situation, there are a number of ways to generate more cash flow. From babysitting, dog walking to becoming a Uber driver, there are definitely opportunities to make some income on the side. If you don't have family or friends you can trust to watch your kids while you head out, there are plenty of ways to make some extra cash from home. Having various streams of income will help protect you against hardship as well as pay for those inevitable expenses that come with raising children.
Whether it's daycare or after school care, this is a cost that is inevitable and can be very expensive. Unfortunately, when you work during the week, there is not too much you can do to get around it. When it comes to the weekends, though, there are some ways you can save money. Joining an official co-op for childcare can be a nice option for you. A babysitting co-op is basically a group of parents that barter their services. Parents take turns watching each others kids for free. Meetup.com is a great place to search for this.
Government assistance can bring on feelings of shame for some, especially if you are used to labeling yourself as middle class. With that being said, the program was created to help single mothers with small children who were passing through hard times and not chronic poverty. Finding yourself as a single parent certainly qualifies you for help if you need it. Depending on your area, there are different programs available. Healthcare for children, food stamps and even child care assistance are just some of the ways you can benefit. Furthermore, they also offer job training programs as well as job placement assistance.
As a single parent filing taxes, it is important to make use of any tax credits available to you. These income-based tax credits are for each child and may be more beneficial than deductions. Credits reduce how much you owe in taxes while deductions just reduce the amount of your taxable income. Keep in mind, only one parent can claim a child as a dependent on their taxes.
As a single parent, everything falls on your shoulders. For this reason, saving is essential to the financial security of your future and that of your child. Every family needs an emergency fund that is equal to at least six months worth of expenses. In addition to this, you need to save for those unexpected expenses as well. Your child may need braces, want to take up an instrument or need to pay for summer camp, not to mention saving for college.
This is where having a goal-based saving plan can help you get on track with saving. Re-visit the budget you put together and see if it needs any revising. We can usually find areas in which we can be cutting back more. That extra money can go towards savings and will add up over time. Every bit helps.
When it comes to being a single parent, the thought process is to put your children first. This is fine in most cases except when you are talking about the future. Saving money can be very difficult as a single parent and after you have established an emergency fund, you may be wondering where your money should go next. College savings for your kiddos or a retirement savings plan for you. As much as your mama bear instinct will tell you to save for your child's education, your retirement takes priority. The time will come when you no longer want to work or can work, and you are going to need to support yourself. For your children, consider the different ways in which your kids can access assistance for college. This can be grants, student loans and/or scholarships. They can also pick up a job and save that money for college.
As a single parent, being responsible for everything including your finances can be a very heavy burden to carry. With that being said, taking the time to address the points above will ultimately help you have financial peace of mind as well as a stronger financial future for you and your children.