When you’re a single mom, it can feel like you have to balance the world on your shoulders.
And in a sense, you do – providing for a family, taking care of everyone’s needs, and still finding a life for yourself can put stress on even the best multi-tasker.
But you can make handling your family’s finances easier on yourself if you’re willing to put in a little work upfront. Crafting a monthly budget will help you know what is being spent, what is coming in, and will help you find ways to save money, building a safety net for your family.
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How To Set Up A Family Budget
Do you have a working budget at home? A way to keep your finances clear will help make sure that everyone in your household has what they need, without overspending.
Your first goal with your budget should be to determine how much you spend. Look to your receipts, account statements, and monthly bills to put together a visual representation of your spending patterns. Does clothing account for far more of a monthly cost than your utilities or groceries? Your spending priorities may be out of whack.
In order to make things easier on yourself, use a program like Trim, which will help you keep track of your spending broken down by category, monitor your accounts, and if you want updates on your credit score, try Mint – all for free.
In most cases, household expenses should be apportioned according to your needs, with a typical list looking something like:
- Housing (will typically be your highest cost)
- Food and groceries
- Auto or transportation costs (including insurance)
- Health and other insurance
- Debt repayments
- Child Care
Your specific needs will change which categories are priorities, but overall, you want to have a system that keeps you accountable for every dollar that goes out the door. Instead of thinking of your budget as a one-and-done thing, set aside just one hour each week to handle your finances and survey your savings. Use this time to pay your bills, see what your spending was like, look at account balances, and even to start preparing shopping lists for the week ahead.
How A Budget Can Build Your Savings
Perhaps the biggest benefit of a budget when it comes to single mothers is that you can find extra funds to contribute to savings – and commit to doing so. Once you apportion your budget so that you are able to prioritize the right spending for your family, add a savings category that becomes one of these priorities.
You don’t need to make massive monthly contributions to your savings account, but you do want your deposits to be consistent. Whether it’s $50 or $500 a month, consider your savings a necessity – because those funds are essential.
One of the best ways to save money is to set goals for your savings, as goals will help you stay focused on the future. You may want to consider a 529 college savings plan for kids, or put money away for a down payment on a future home. If you don’t have an existing emergency fund that can help cover three months of expenses should something happen to your income, make that a top savings priority.
How To Avoid Overspending
The truth is, when you are distracted by work and family, you probably don’t put as much time into considering everything you purchase and how you purchase it.
The problem with this mindset is that you are missing out on easy ways to save more money. Make a plan for how you will approach all purchases going forward and you’ll make it a habit to avoid overspending.
Clip coupons: Figure out the sales schedules for the stores you shop at most often, and make your shopping day coincide with these sales. Check out online coupon sites like Coupons.com or just start clipping your own from the newspaper or mailers, and you’ll find that these coupons will even make your shopping list preparation easier.
Find deals: You don’t have to stop enjoying life just because you’re sticking with a budget. Look for activities and experiences that you and your family can enjoy that won’t break the bank by seeking out special deals and promotions on entertainment.
Prioritize essentials: Think back to crafting a budget, and how paying for things like housing and healthcare are more important than others. Would you buy a new pair of shoes before paying for your child’s insurance? Of course not! Take the same attitude whenever you shop and ask yourself if each thing you purchase is something you and your family need, or something that you want.
Start paying in cash: Credit cards offer the convenience of purchasing items on-the-go, but they also make it too easy to spend more than you should. Try sticking with cash for purchases as you won’t increase your debt and you’ll be sure you’ve only spent what was available.
Look for options to share costs: Are you paying out-of-pocket for a nanny every time you go to work? Or find that you have to drop your child off at school too early because you have a long commute? Consider sharing these responsibilities with other parents in your neighborhood. A nanny share can be a great way for several families to spread out costs, and a carpool system in the morning and after school can help all parents balance work hours.
Being a single mother doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life, and sticking to a budget while building your savings will give you and your children a future to look forward to. Get even more money management tips right in your inbox, and sign up for our newsletter now!