Being a single mom can be challenging in so many ways. One area that tends to hit single moms the hardest is finances. As a former single mom, I know how hard it can be to make ends meet, spend time with your kids, practice self-care and invest in your career and future all with one income. However, I don’t believe that single moms are doomed financially. You just have to manage money differently than two-income households. Here are some of my best budgeting tips for single moms.
1. Identify Your Core Expenses
Budgeting as a single mom means you need to get crystal clear on your priorities. No one can afford everything even if they aren’t a single mom. So cover your basic core expenses first like housing, food, transportation, and insurance. Even if money is tight, always prioritize paying for your home and bills. One thing my mom always said that stuck with me is that “People may feed you or give your clothes or a ride, but few will help with your housing.”
I’ve cut my grocery bill down before and lived to tell the tale. I’ve also been to food pantries and clothes closets before but don’t ever regret providing a safe and clean home for my son. When it comes to childcare budgeting tips for single moms, there may be ways to limit these costs as well. Hiring a babysitter or home daycare provider may be cheaper than a private daycare. If you live near friends and family, you can also ask for their help as well.
2. Automate Bill Payments
Single moms and working moms alike want to split their precious time between earning and income and spending quality time with their kids. You don’t want to waste all your spare time and energy worrying about finances and which bills need to be paid. Try to automate your bill payments and finances as much as you can.
Automate savings too. That way, you’re building a cash cushion without even thinking about it. If you have credit cards, set up automatic payments for the minimum payment each month.
3. Compare Insurance Rates
Insurance is important, but you don’t have to pay the highest rates. Shop around every 6 months for your auto insurance rates and compare renter’s and homeowner’s insurance options too. The Zebra is a great tool that helps you compare interest rates to make sure you’re getting the best price.
At the end of the day, most people don’t care which company they are insured with. Rather, they want to have coverage that’s sufficient and affordable for them.
When it comes to health insurance, if you’re unable to find affordable premiums, you may want to consider a health sharing ministry like Liberty Health Share to provide some form of coverage for your family. Healthshare ministries have their pros and cons so be sure to carefully consider whether this option is right for you.
4. Shop For Ingredients vs. Ready-Made Meals
Busy single moms are craving convenience. But sometimes, convenience comes at a cost. We see this often with dining out and picking up quick ready-made meals. They cost more and with prices already rising, this will really add up and leave you strapped for cash.
Instead, sit down and create a meal plan. Then, shop for the ingredients to make that meal vs. pricey (and usually unhealthy) ready-made food items. Don’t have much time to cook? Make it simple. I prepare a lot of 20-minute meals in my household as well as Crock
Pot meals in batches so we have leftovers.
We have tons of soups, stews, taco nights and easy but tasty dinners. Try checking out some YouTube channels for easy recipes or pick up a book from the library that offers a ton of quick meal ideas to try out with your family.
5. Don’t Rely on Credit Cards, Start an Emergency Fund
If money is tighter in your household, it’s not the best idea to use lots of credit cards. Credit cards can be a slippery slope that leads you down a path of overspending and debt. As a single mom, you don’t have other people to combine your income with or work extra hours to pay off large credit card balances.
Still, many people state that they actually use credit cards for emergencies. Given the high-interest rate that most credit cards have, this isn’t the best idea. Instead, create an emergency fund to rely on when you need extra cash unexpectedly. Start setting aside money each time you get paid.
If you’re overwhelmed with the idea of saving thousands of dollars, just start a baby emergency fund. When I was a single mom paying off debt, I managed to budget and cut expenses so I could save a baby emergency fund of $2,000. I was so proud as this provided so much peace of mind and we all have to start somewhere.
6. Limit Subscriptions
Another one of my favorite budgeting tips for single moms is to limit subscriptions unless you really need and use them. Subscriptions can be convenient but it also adds an extra bill you need to pay each month. Limit yourself to a few subscriptions per month to reduce your costs in this area.
Don’t be afraid to cancel streaming services, memberships, and other subscriptions you aren’t really needed or don’t get a lot of value in. In some cases, you’ll spend less money but just paying for the items you need when you need them instead of being locked into a monthly fee.
7. Get Creative With Entertainment and Fun
No matter what your budget looks like, you can still have fun each month without spending a lot of money. Look for free and cheap events in your area. Check with the local park district or even the library to see if there’s something interesting you can attend with your kids. Also, consider signing up for alerts at your favorite museums and zoos to see when they have free admission days. Depending on where you live, there may be attractions that are free all the time.
Another thing I liked to do when I was a single mom on a budget was attend matinee movie showing with my son or check out the local $1 theater. We also loved to get outdoors and ride our bikes as well as take advantage of kids eat free specials at local restaurants.
8. Take Advantage of Tax Breaks
There are quite a few federal and state tax breaks geared toward single moms. Based on your income and how you file, you could qualify for the child tax credit. There’s also an earned income tax credit. Filing as the head of household can often set you up to take advantage of these tax credits but you’ll want to talk to your tax professional to see what might apply to you.
Obtaining tax credits and tax breaks means more money gets put back into your pocket to budget with accordingly.
9. Find Ways to Increase Your Income
It’s important to find ways to increase and diversify your income no matter what your situation looks like. As a single mom, I felt somewhat limited by one income but knew I didn’t have the time or energy to work another job. Instead, I focused on flexible things I could do during my spare time to earn extra cash like freelance writing.
This allowed me to work from home while my son was sleeping or at daycare and still be present with him when I needed to be. Think about your interests and current expertise, then find a flexible way to earn extra money that works for you. Even $100 per week extra could make a huge difference.
9 Budgeting Tips For Single Moms
These 9 budgeting tips for single moms are just the start. As a single mom the sky is the limit in terms of your potential and the financial goals you pursue. For anyone, it’s crucial to start with a solid budget as your core foundation. From there, you can adjust your money habits and tweak your processes as you see fit. Even as a single mom, you can become more financially stable, pay off debt, and pursue your dreams.