Are you a single mom who’s struggling to balance your family budget? It’s not uncommon to have money problems when you’re raising children on your own.
But with the right approach and some time, you can get your budget under control and save some money for emergencies.
Here are eight of the smartest ways single moms can manage their budgets.
1) Keep track of your spending
There are many ways to keep track of your spending. Some examples include using a spreadsheet, writing it down in a notebook, or going digital with an app.
When you stay on top of your spending, it will become easier to make sure you’re staying within your budget and saving enough money.
If you don’t want to use any paper or apps, consider using the envelope system. For example, if you know you have $100 to spend this week and $50 is allotted towards groceries, put that cash into an envelope marked Groceries.
It may sound old-fashioned but it’s a good way to avoid impulse buys because once the cash is gone from the envelope there is no more left for other things.
2) Set up a savings plan
If you’re a single mother, it’s important to save for yourself and your kids.
You can set up different savings plans to make sure you’re always prepared.
One way is to create an emergency fund. Savings accounts are typically low-interest rates, so try depositing some of your earnings into a high interest bearing account like a certificate of deposit (CD) or money market account.
It will yield more interest in the long run. The next thing to do is make a budget that allocates the right amount of money each month towards your priorities namely, housing, food, transportation, utilities, child care and entertainment.
To keep from going over on any given category during the course of the month, write down what you spend at the end of every day.
It’s also wise to have an extra cushion in case one particular expense goes over as well as having cash reserves for emergencies.
3) Get rid of debt
Start with your debt and work your way up. Think of your debt as a hierarchy: the higher the interest rate, the more it should be prioritized.
If you have a credit card with an 18% interest rate and an auto loan at 5%, focus on paying down the credit card first to get that figure down to less than 10%.
Once you’ve done that, start tackling your auto loan.
Once you’re done with those two items, move on to student loans and then mortgages.
Credit cards can be tough to tackle because they usually carry high rates, but sometimes focusing on them is worth the payoff.
Make sure you pay at least the minimum amount each month so that your credit score doesn’t take too big of a hit.
4) Make a budget
Budgeting is one of the most important steps when you are on your own.
Doing a budget helps to figure out how much money is coming in and how much money you can afford to spend.
Once you’ve figured this out, it’s easier to set up a plan that works with your income and expenses.
Put everything on paper: Make sure all of your income, expenses, assets, debts and anything else that is part of your financial situation are written down somewhere.
The clearer the picture you have of where things stand financially, the better decisions you’ll be able to make.
5) Stay on top of your bills
Don’t wait until the last minute to pay your bills.
Pay them as they come in and keep track of your balances so you know how much money you have left.
If you do this, it will be easier to make a budget because you’ll have a better idea of how much money is coming in and going out.
Also, don’t forget about extra expenses like holidays or birthdays that might pop up from time to time.
It’s easy to let these expenses get thrown on top of everything else without really thinking about it – but it’s important not to do that if you want to stay on top of things.
6) Invest in yourself
One of the smartest investments a single mother can make is to invest in herself.
This includes getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious diet, and taking care of her mental health.
These things will help you feel better and be able to function at your best.
Some examples include joining a book club or cooking club where you can meet new friends who have similar interests.
If you’re feeling depressed, take some time off from work to do something that makes you happy or productive such as going on vacation or enrolling in a class that excites you.
7) Cut back on expenses
A lot of single moms have to work hard to keep the lights on and food in the fridge.
And many will find that there is never enough money left over after paying all their bills.
This can make it seem like they are living paycheck-to-paycheck, but with a little bit of planning, you can get ahead and live more comfortably.
Here are some tips on how to cut back on expenses without feeling like you’re giving up your life.
✓ Get creative!
One way to save money on groceries is by taking advantage of coupons and weekly deals at grocery stores.
If you plan your meals around what’s currently being discounted, you could save big bucks while still eating healthy foods.
✓ Look into transportation alternatives:
Public transit might not be available where you live or going to school, so think about other options such as carpools or buses.
You’ll save gas, wear and tear on your vehicle, parking costs–and time!
8) Seek out financial assistance
In order to get the most out of your budget, you need to find ways to make your money stretch.
A great place to start is by meeting with a financial planner who can help you balance your income and expenses.
Many cities have free or low-cost programs that offer this type of assistance.
Another option is the Women’s Financial Center at American University.
The center offers workshops on all aspects of personal finance as well as one-on-one counseling services.
Lastly, if you qualify for social security benefits but are not yet receiving them, it may be worth filing an application to see what you are entitled to receive.